The uncoolest place in the country is suddenly hip. On a recent trip back home to Las Vegas, I was taken aback by all the super-fancy megaclubs invading the strip. “Vegas is the new clubbing mecca of the country,” said DJ Shoe, an old friend who is the resident jock at Little Buddha, an offshoot of the Buddha Bar (which is opening a New York branch in Chelsea in the fall).
We were having our “big night out” in the City of Sin—which consisted of me downing several lemon-drop martinis while bad bang-up house reverberated through the Saloon, a nearly empty restaurant-turned-lounge located “downtown” in Fremont. As leftover candy ravers bopped about, I retorted, “Nah. Vegas will never be cool.” So when I picked up the Sunday Times and saw “New on the Strip: Hipster New York,” written by Julia Chaplin, an acquaintance, I almost went bonkers. “Now the move is toward nightspots with votive candles and apple martinis, straining for the hipster ambience of the meatpacking district,” wrote Chaplin. The very thing Shoe had warned me about was a glittery reality.
While clubs like Curve, Light, ghostbar, Tabu, and V Bar—many of which have New York roots—are swanky, upscale affairs, they often feature terrible music, catering to the still unsophisticated palates of Vegas tourists, who make up the bulk of the crowds. (Since celebrities don’t actually live in Vegas—because it’s not that cool, yet—they must be flown in from L.A. or elsewhere to lend a club a fabulous feel.) Top 40, tired house, and familiar hits invade the sound systems while big spenders in suits surrounded by hired models fork over hundreds for bottle service. It sounds a lot like New York’s snotty lounges, doesn’t it?
The masses are so musically clueless that Shoe found himself apologizing to New Yorkers DB and Scott Hardkiss for the abysmal showing at Curve one night in February. (OK, it was a Monday.) They didn’t care: It was like a paid vacation. But what kind of vacation is that, I ask. Leaving New York to go to Vegas, which now resembles a third-rate New York! Me, I made like Nic Cage and left.
While musicians at the Grammy Awards were gagged from saying anything about the impending war with Iraq, a group of artists refuse to remain mum on the subject. Foremost among them are the Beastie Boys, who released a free MP3 single, “In a World Gone Mad . . . ” (admittedly not their greatest work), on their Web site, Beastieboys.com, last week. The Boys are part of an increasingly large group of rappers, singers, and musicians expressing dissent: The Musicians United to Win Without War coalition also includes Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Russell Simmons, Missy Elliot, and OutKast, among many others. “We felt it would be irresponsible not to address what’s going on in the world,” said Mike D.
The nightclub merry-go-round never stops. Poor Plant Bar got nabbed for cabaret violations a couple weeks ago, leaving dedicated followers of Dan Selzer‘s Monday-night Transmissions party all dressed up with no place to go. Plant’s been padlocked since Friday, March 7, and had a hearing in court on Thursday, March 13. The venue was fined and allowed to reopen as long as it barred dancing. Co-owner Dominique said one of the stipulations was that he would not be allowed to send e-mails or make flyers promoting events at the venue. As a result, he said that Plant would be DJ-free by April, and would likely resemble a smaller version of Max Fish—replete with pool table and jukebox. “The saga of dancing as a crime in New York City continues, and now Plant Bar is being punished for allegedly having dancing in its facility,” said the venue’s lawyer, Norman Siegel, the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This makes absolutely no sense. The struggle to change the cabaret no-dancing laws must continue.”
In the wake of the Rhode Island and Chicago club tragedies, fire marshals have also been crawling the clubs, paying visits to venues around the city in recent weeks. Fire Department spokesman Mike Loughran confirmed they’ve been stepping things up: For the past three weekends, they’ve sent out teams to inspect nightclubs, restaurants, and bars to “make sure they are operating up to par.” Loughran says that, for the most part, the violations haven’t been major, and that offending clubs get a return visit to see if the problem’s been fixed. If it hasn’t been corrected, the club owners get slapped with a summons.
In addition, Loughran says the fire inspectors are distributing a letter to all venue owners, explaining how to avoid the Chicago and R.I. tragedies.
You wouldn’t think bare-bones club Filter 14 and posh Lotus have anything in common except that they are on the same street, but Filter’s owner, Tommy Frayne, recently found out Lotus employees had taken a liking to Filter’s drink tickets. The tickets are imprinted with the mug of a young, scowling Frayne with the words “Leave a Tip.”
The coat-check employees at Lotus taped several of them up on their tip jar to conjure up more cash. Says Frayne, “I e-mailed [Lotus owner] David Rabin and told him I loved it!” Rabin liked the tickets but didn’t want his employees posting them around. “We don’t like our staff ‘suggesting’ that they get tips,” writes Rabin. “Our coat-check girls make plenty (PLENTY) of loot without the Jewish guilt factor.” Hey, David, can I be a coat-check girl at Lotus, too?