Not Degenerate Enough

Too much preening, not enough dancing at Moby’s new club night

I don’t harbor the same deep-seated hatred for Moby that much of this city apparently does. The politics, the overexposure, the music, the writing—I get why that’s annoying, of course. But lots of celebrities are annoying. His greatest offense to me is that he’s short. That’s what’s unforgivable. Anyway. So I didn’t walk into Degenerates, the debut of his much-buzzed-about new residency at Hiro Ballroom’s weekly Cheeky Bastard party, last Thursday night with the expectation of not having fun. I’d had some drinks. I was wearing a dress. And even if I’d just come from the National’s show at the grand opening of Terminal 5—the band whose two albums have scored as many breakups in as many years for this Poor Pitiful Pearl—I was totally prepared to stop feeling sorry for myself and dance if I felt called to do so. I really was.

“When I was growing up in Manhattan in the early ’80s, you could go dancing anywhere,” Moby argues on his blog. “Now in 2007 your options for a degenerate night out dancing in Manhattan are more limited. With this in mind, I wanted to start a fun and dirty and eclectic night of dance music called ‘Degenerates.’ Hopefully on the night people will somehow be inspired by the name.”

They weren’t. There were plenty of bodies—tickets, which sold out in advance, were $5 and brought the typical Cheeky Bastard cheap-drink specials. And thick clouds of dry ice hovered over the hits—“We Are All Made of Stars” got a bigger reaction than anything from Play. (The residency is also set to serve as testing ground for material from Moby’s next album, Last Night, due out next spring—supposedly more electronic and, yes, dance-oriented than his previous three.) The crowds occasionally grew animated over at that terrible, misplaced bar under the stairs, but only because the space there from which to order is the size of a walnut. Almost everyone on the floor seemed more concerned with keeping their faces shine-free for the photogs than breaking a sweat doing anything but finding their best sides.

Worst of all, I suspected there weren’t that many people there who were on drugs.

Others disagreed. There was a cute architect from the Midwest flying solo (“I couldn’t get any of my friends to come with me”) who argued that we just couldn’t tell who was on what from our perch on the stairs. A guy on the second floor suggested that attendees were on their “good behavior,” because “isn’t Moby like really into God or something?” Then I met a trio of girls in the bathroom, who were all wearing jeans and black tank tops. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Do you think this is fun? Black Tank 1: [giggles] Yeah, definitely! Me: Do you think it might be even more fun if not for, you know, the national cocaine shortage? Black Tank 2: [giggles] Cocaine? Me: Why are you all dressed alike?
It didn’t matter how many times Moby excitedly pointed at the ceiling, or that he’d brought buds Juan Maclean and Stretch Armstrong along for the ride, or that there was a bevy of girls holding court with the DJs on the narrow stage. The energy just wasn’t there. Maybe it will improve—scheduled to appear at next month’s date (November 15) are Spank Rock’s DJs, along with Tommie Sunshine. On his blog, Moby suggests that you get tickets in advance, “as last night sold out quickly and a few hundred people had to stand around in the rain trying to get in.”

Maybe I hate him after all.

 
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