Sometimes New York nightlife resembles musical chairs, except instead of rotating chairs, we rotate venues. Last week the Cock switched into the Hole; parties are shifting from Avalon, which is closing, to Spirit.
“New” venues are usually long-standing clubs with different names, different ownerships, and different decor.
The recently opened Scenic on Avenue B was Guernica, which was the old Save the Robots. It’s hard to renovate a club’s image, especially if some of the patrons still insist on calling it by its old name. I don’t envy the club owners who face such a challenge. I went on a slow Tuesday night to check out the tidy space, with its wall of nostalgic memorabilia from places like Texas and Nashville, and ate the cheapest burger in existence ($1.50!).
It still felt like Guernica to me, with a slightly different m.o. and a stage downstairs. ROBERT JOHNSON, who booked the Knitting Factory before taking over the same duties for Scenic, has installed some of the city’s favorite local DJs. TOMMIE SUNSHINE‘s got a Monday night party, ALEX ENGLISH plays Tuesdays, and SPENCER PRODUCT‘s Friday night fest is already heating up nicely.
Over on Avenue A, Opaline is turning into a restaurant, which is a shame. It’s rare to have a club on Avenue A with a proper dancefloor. Last week, MISSTRESS FORMIKA and DJ ADAM, the notorious East Village gay glam-rock posse behind the venue’s Friday-night party, Area 10009, sent out a press release practically hyperventilating with excitement. They’re moving to a new club, which is not new at all: The “new Opaline” is really Club Shelter. (Shelter’s the queen of makeovers. Three years ago, they were trying to pitch Shelter as being separate from Speeed, which had a bad reputation among house fans because of the more aggressive hip-hop crowd.)
The new Opaline features “four levels, four full bars, three dancefloors,” and perhaps most importantly “more go-go dancers.” On opening night they gathered the E.V. All-Stars, MISS GUY, SHERRY VINE, AMANDA LEPORE, and CAZWELL, under one spacious roof. None of this can fully make up for the fact that all this space and fabulousness is on West 39th Street. Though the East Enders found their way and the opening night was a smashing success, beforehand I joked with Formika that he better have a Gay Disco Party Shuttle Bus on Avenue A to ferry the kids to a venue as remote as Shelter, which, because it’s above 14th Street and west of Broadway, might as well be somewhere deep in the Nevada desert. The West Side, after all, is a very scary place.
Which might be why I hadn’t been to Love on West 8th Street, the new house spot that everyone’s been talking about but no one seems to know much about. Again, 40 West 8th Street isn’t new at all. According to nysonglines.com, which lovingly records buildings’ histories, the spot used to be a tearoom called Romany Marie’s, run by Marie Marchand, a Village fixture during the bohemian ’30s. As a performance venue, it’s been Latin club Don Julio’s, cabaret Bon Soir (where both BARBRA STREISAND and WOODY ALLEN played pre-fame), and, during the disco era, it was Le Jardin. The owner, STEVEN WEBER, is an ex-Wall Streeter who fell in love with house music after attending Shelter parties (at least he made it all the way over there!). Weber’s so dedicated to keeping it real, he wouldn’t allow any pictures to be taken of the place, which is sort of like an early-’90s Ecstasy playhouse. It’s got a cave-like interior, Day-Glo writing on the walls, and a curvy and cuddly room with little nooks you can climb in. Most importantly, there’s a big dancefloor and an excellent sound system. Ex-Body & Soul DJ JOE CLAUSSELL, who has a Sunday party there called Sacred Rhythms, does the booking. As we were walking around, I realized I had been to Love, once or twice, many years ago, when it was called something else.