re-formatting revive the city’s biggest club?.
Dragonfly has undergone quite a few
changes since we reported on the beauty of its design in our
LOOK section last year. Located in the heart of downtown Harrisburg,
Dragonfly first opened in April 2002 with an all-dance format,
and was a major force in the revitalization of the formerly-deserted
Second Street corridor. As time went on, the club attempted
to capture more market share by incorporating mainstream and
hip-hop formats and failed. By mid 2004, the club numbers
In early 2005, the owner undertook a massive image rebuilding
project, ripping out the prior formats and residents by the
roots. The basement was excavated into a third level, market
research was done, and new formats were added. The now 18,000-square-foot
three-level venue has moved back to its origin by catering
to niche markets - but do the Stalkers think it will work
Back in the day you could find me at Dragonfly every single
night, enjoying the club’s trendy crowds and all-dance
formats. Then they suddenly dropped dance music entirely and
I stopped going. Over the last year it seems like the club
has changed nights and formats a few dozen times, and none
of it seemed to make any difference. Tired of the attitude
problems at some of the other clubs in the area, I decided
to give the Fly one more shot.
We went there Saturday night, camera in tow. With very well-done
subway art covering every inch of wallspace, 1970s black-and-white
TVs showing static and 70s TV cop shows, and vintage (working!)
games like Space Invaders, Dragonfly’s lower level,
The District, is a really gritty, underground environment.
Add the downtempo and ambient music, and the contrast is amazing.
I literally climbed up onto one of the oversized couches,
struck up a few conversations, and told the guys to come back
for me at 2:00 am. I had found my new home!
Dragonfly used to be the club in town, but with so many changes
in such a short period of time, I had my doubts about their
latest format of the week. The last time I was there, The
District had just opened to a very ugly crowd, and I wasn’t
expecting much better this time. We rolled in a little after
11, paid our $7 cover, and headed inside. The ground floor
is a long, narrow, dancehall-like layout with an eight-foot
high DJ booth and raised platforms at one end, a long bar
down the entire side, and a large stage with multi-tiered
VIP seating. Service at the bar was quick, prices were on
the cheap side, and the overall layout was well-done. My biggest
peeve at a club is when I have to cut through a packed dancefloor
just to reach the bar, restrooms, et cetera, but that wasn’t
a problem at all. DJ Herk was spinning hip-hop with a funky
edge, and I’m pretty sure that I heard some Baltimore
house mixed in as the night progressed.
We took a trip down to the basement level to check out The
District, and it was not at all what I expected. It’s
billed as a club within a club, but it was more like a private
room. In fact, the overall vibe I got was that I was at someone’s
house party. The room was packed with a crowd of about 150.
Stalker #1 wound up spending the rest of the night down there,
and I can’t say I blame her. DJ Ill Cosby was laying
down a very chill soundtrack to the night. Harrisburg recently
lost the closest thing we had to an ultra-lounge with the
closing of another venue (which they turned it into a beach
club - thanks guys, real fresh). It looks like The District
is poised to pick up that crowd and run with it.
The second floor was a different story: Mainstream hip-hop
until the last 20 minutes, not my format of choice for clubbing.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t give a mainstream-hip-hop club
a second thought, but resident DJ Smooth did a good job of
keeping the crowd energized. I was blown away when one of
the last songs was Percolator, but the crowd loved it. My
only complaint was that the second floor appeared to be at
capacity, so getting around was tough. But the bartenders
did an excellent job of keeping the drinks flowing, and the
floor has enough recessed nooks that we were able to step
out of the crowd when we wanted to.
I was really sad when Dragonfly got rid of their last remaining
dance night a few months back, when former resident DJ Andy
Vicious left the club. Between that and the abysmal conversion
of downtown’s best martini lounge into a tacky beach
club (1988 called...), it really started to feel like downtown
Harrisburg had become ordinary. Nothing special. Vanilla.
We rolled up to the big white building, paid our cover, and
went into: 21 Martin Professional MX-4s, four MX-10s, four
MAC 300s, three Atomic 3000s, four CX-4s, plus JBL Pro mains
and subs, and QSC amps, all done by ESG of Allentown, Penn.
(I’m the nerd of the group; I notice these things).
It’s too bad the club doesn’t use their power
for good (trance and d‘n’b) instead of evil (anything
else), but that seems to be the trend pretty much everywhere
We lost Stalker #1 to The District downstairs early on, but
that just meant she wouldn’t be mooching drinks off
me all night! Dragonfly has always taken a while to fill up,
probably because it’s ridiculously huge. Their capacity
is around 1,500, making it the biggest club in the city. I
think it’s interesting that when Dragonfly first opened
and played nothing but dance music, they were easily the most
popular club around. When they started to go into a more mainstream
format, their crowds really thinned out. Now that they’re
going back to serving niche markets (every Friday they have
a wildly popular Latino night on the first and second floors,
and live bands in The District), they’re really gaining
ground. What does that tell you?