When a famed French director asked me for a tour of New York nightlife, I had to break it to him gently: New York’s club scene is in the toilet. The cabaret law—which essentially bans dancing from most spaces in the city—has had a damaging effect on NYC nightlife; the smoking ban has not made things easier for bar owners; and even the raves have disappeared, as the promoters are running scared of the RAVE Act. Sadly, the club scene has become more about bottle service and the Hilton sisters than music and creativity.
That said, there are still a few things left. FILTER 14 (432 West 14th Street, 212-366-5680) is a raw, small dance space in the meatpacking district that hosts techno and house. Next door, the old Cooler space has reopened as RARE (416 West 14th Street, 212-675-2220), which the long-running drum’n’bass weekly Direct Drive calls home.
Right around the corner is APT (419 West 13th Street, 212-414-4245), which is supposed to be modeled after an apartment (and it is, sort of, except it’s like a very rich person’s apartment), has some of the best musical bookings in town (Stacey Pullen, Kompakt’s Michael Mayer and Reinhard Voigt, and Andy Smith recently played there)—which is unfortunate because there is no dancefloor in its small, narrow, but swank basement. Sunday night with Neil Aline is a wild one and goes way late with house music and a gay/mixed crowd.
The recent arrival of the super-clubs may make it easier to go out and spend $1,000 on cover, $100 on a drink, and 10 hours standing in line at the door, coat check, and bathroom, but I am not sure if New York nightlife is better or worse off because of them. AVALON (660 Sixth Avenue, 212-807-7780), né the Limelight is already open, and it’s really a beautiful space, with three levels and a very smart flow for a big club. Thus far they’ve centered on “progressive” house DJs like Steve Lawler and Sandra Collins, but they’ve promised to up the ante and include the likes of actual progressive DJs like Derrick Carter and Laurent Garnier in the coming months.
The brand-new CROBAR (530 West 28th Street, 212-629-9000) has four different rooms, ranging from very small (the size of a studio) to the gargantuan, but not overwhelmingly so, main floor. It also has quirky architectural touches—exposed brick and a weird sound tunnel that uses white noise to block out the bleed from the music coming from two connecting rooms. They kicked off their opening with a relatively forward-thinking festival curated by Larry Tee—with Fannypack and Opti-Grab on the bill.
The old Twilo space, now known as SPIRIT (530 West 27th Street, 212-268-9477), promises to be holistic and healthy, two things I’m not sure clubbing is supposed to be. There’s an organic restaurant that serves live and raw food, from which you can sit and watch as the rest of us dance ourselves senseless; a second floor offers massage and light therapy (and other things you really, really need when clubbing). The main draw, the dancefloor, sits on the first level.
On the smaller side, the CORAL ROOM (512 West 29th Street, 212-244-1965) has a new Sunday party called Stingray with the old East Village gang like Lady Bunny performing and Miss Guy spinning against a backdrop of mermaid boys and girls swimming around in the tank behind the bar. For a rockin’ good time, you can go to PIANOS (158 Ludlow Street, 212-505-3733) on the Lower East Side, which has a medium-sized showroom, a restaurant, and an upstairs lounge. Or head to LIT (93 Second Avenue, 212-777-7987), which has two dank, dark levels. Friday night has Justine D of Motherfucker on the decks, and you can occasionally spot Interpol’s Carlos D. giving the wheels a whirl.
The seediest place in New York is the HOLE (29 Second Avenue, 212-473-9406). It’s a mixed musical bag, everything from hip-hop to house to new wave and rock. It doesn’t matter. We don’t go for the music; we go to get absolutely smashed—especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
On Saturday nights Theo from the Lunachicks and a few of her friends—like Misstress Formika and the girls from Avenue D—host Rated X at OPALINE (85 Avenue A, 212-995-8684), featuring a room where you are only allowed in to dance if you strip down to your underwear. There might be hope for our squeaky-clean city yet.