When you’re stuck on a boat for four hours, there’s not much else to do besides dance and get drunk. Last Sunday, the first Matter/:Form Overboard party of the year was held on the Paddlewheel Queen, which sails to the end of Lower Manhattan and back to East 23rd Street. While the Little Boat That Could wasn’t as packed as it usually is, there were plenty of revelers to enjoy the crisp beats tossed out by Francis Harris and special U.K. guest Richard Grey, who records for prestigious labels Swag and Eukahouse. It must be summer.
Though a few people were all tired out by 10—falling asleep on the benches around the dancefloor!—the rest of us nearly tipped the boat over. Harris had just gotten back from playing to 1000-plus crowds in Macedonia and Kosovo. “They were probably the best gigs I’ve ever played and the most educated house crowds I’ve ever played for,” he said. That’s high praise coming from one of the few American tech-house DJs who have spun at the influential Subterrain, Mr. C, Layo & Bushwacka, and “Evil” Eddie Richards‘s party at London’s the End.
The Matter/:Form boys—who’ve been throwing these boat fests for the last four years—also have Mr. C, Terry Francis, Layo & Bushwacka, Magda, and Richie Hawtin on board.
The formula is such a hit that other promoters are following suit. Viktor and Tronic Treatment are starting their own version, calling it Boat Sessions, also holding it on Sunday nights, and bringing in techno DJs—though it’s not on the same ship. “A city of 8 million should be able to withstand a few more boat parties,” said Viktor. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Don’t call Alan Light crazy for starting a new magazine in a recession. The former editor in chief of Spin, drinking a Hefeweizen at Rhône last Tuesday night, noted that some of the best magazines in recent history began during down times, like, say, Playboy.
It was a birthday party for Sia Michel, Light’s Spin successor, and he talked candidly about his new, as-yet-unnamed music mag. Things are going swimmingly: He’s got the prototype and the business plan finished, and he’s spending the next few months looking for moneymen to invest in the book. “All of the national music magazines—Vibe, Spin, Rolling Stone, The Source, and Blender—are geared to the 18-24 market,” explained Light. “There’s nothing out there for music lovers who are 30-plus.”
Light knows a thing or two about music magazines: He edited Spin for three and a half years, and before that did time at both Vibe and Rolling Stone.
Hiding in the corner of Rhône—which should be called Drone for its drab, gray surroundings and yuppie clientele—were writer-activists Andy Gensler, Adrienne Day, and Eric Demby. The trio—along with fellow writer Piotr Orlov and A&R rep Adam Shore—have formed Legalize Dancing NYC in hopes of turning the cabaret law into a distant memory. The cabaret law, for those of you living under a rock, is an antiquated piece of legislation that requires clubs to have a license for more than three people moving rhythmically.
The group met with some of the city’s political bigwigs last week—including former New York Civil Liberties Union head Norman Siegel, NYU law professor Paul Chevigny, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs Gretchen Dykstra, and District One city councilman Alan Gerson, who serves Lower Manhattan—to discuss various methods of getting the outdated law revised or repealed. (See The Sound of the City for more details.)
Demby, Gensler, and Shore are all longtime residents of the city, and Day and Orlov grew up here. They tired of watching from the sidelines as the Giuliani administration harassed and shut down clubs. “Downtown’s music subculture is one of the reasons we moved here, and we feel that this fun city has kind of disintegrated,” said Demby.
“You can bitch about it to your friends as much as you want, you can sit around at a lounge and complain about the fact that you can’t dance, or you can do something about it. It’s time for action.”