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The only lock-in I ever attended was in seventh grade, some youth-group-sponsored affair. We snuck through the narrow hallways after the chaperones had fallen asleep and exhausted hours playing hide and seek, then truth or dare, then, finally, spin the bottle. I didn’t care that the boys were only participating to have a chance to kiss my best friend; I cared that there were only six of us playing, which meant that Justin Morris’s spin would eventually have to land on me. Of course, it never did.
That same idea of the time-honored lock-in was in play Saturday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s first-ever Takeover, a late-night open house meant to introduce the Peter Jay Sharp Building and its wonders (the Howard Gilman Opera House, the Rose Cinemas, BAMcafé, the box office, and the administrative offices) to a new audience. Lisa Mallory, the organization’s vice president of marketing and communications, mentioned that they actually considered a literal version of the lock-in format. “Fun idea, but it just felt too claustrophobic,” Mallory admits. “At least to me.” So you could leave, which is nice. (Also: smoke.) Takeover’s music, dance, burlesque, and film offerings were set in a 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. framework—scheduled, not by coincidence, on the final night of the BAM-commissioned Sufjan Stevens symphony The BQE, which played to sold-out crowds on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. BAM’s ticket database showed that the majority of people who purchased BQE tickets hadn’t shown interest in either their Next Wave Festival or spring season in the last five years; as long as BAM had new kids on their block for the evening, why not keep them there for the night?
“We’ve been thinking about doing this type of event, an open-house-style event, for about two years now—bringing people into the building who haven’t been before, opening up all the public spaces of the building in one night,” says Mallory, one of a core group of eight that’s been involved from the beginning, spanning the areas of logistics, promotion, and curating. (“Our younger staff has also been really enthusiastic; they helped a lot with the campaign and named the event,” she adds.) “It started as a germ of an idea, an unconventional way of bringing art to a younger audience—and I don’t mean art with a capital A, you know. But Brooklyn has a younger demographic than ever before, and that’s our audience, so we wanted to bring them into our space.”
Bring them in they did. An hour and a half after the doors opened, the wide steps of the Peter Jay Sharp Building were clogged with ticket holders waiting to get through one of only two alphabetical lines—maybe sufficient for the 700 tickets bought in advance, but not for the additional 800 supposedly sold during the day on Saturday, according to one of the staffers manning the tables. The lines outside eventually reached around the corner of the massive building; once inside, attendees were met with yet more queues.
To the right of the front doors on the first floor, the mini-film-fest options occupied all four cinemas—Nicholas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy, a dark cult fave; a string of music-related flicks, subtitled “Burning Down the House,” that included Gimme Shelter, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Stop Making Sense, and The Filth and the Fury; the “When Animals Hug!” series, which included The Cat from Outer Space (Dirty on Purpose’s Doug Marvin sang its praises onstage later that night); and a cheeky “Lindsay Lohan mid-career retrospective.” The Opera House, which has its own lounge and is located on the opposite side of the enormous lobby, played host to five bands: Heartless Bastards, Be Your Own Pet, Dirty on Purpose, the Exit, and Antibalas. The DJs—Ubiquita NYC and special guest Vikter Duplaix—were situated up the escalator in the lofty BAMcafé, spinning soul, funk, and reggae under the flickering lights of Leo Villareal’s gorgeous installation, Stars, located in the building façade’s second-story arched windows. Each of the five sections contains a wheel made up of 48 spokes and 2,880 LED lights; in Saturday night’s faux-clubby setting, the wheels kinda played like really sophisticated (and really expensive) disco balls. (The piece was commissioned by BAM to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their Next Wave Festival and will remain up through December 16.)
Unfortunately, most of the bands performed for crowds that were a little bit lost in the beautiful and huge Opera House—the crowds were rarely more than six rows deep. That all changed with the final act of the evening, when people poured down the aisles to get closer to the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. (Personally, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen 12 guys playing instruments and been unable to choose even one that I’d sleep with.) Upstairs, where the DJ collective celebrated its seventh anniversary, it was impossible to walk from one end of the room to the other thanks to the dancing crowd of twentysomething hipsters, thirtysomething hipster-lites, and women in scrunchies. Those who actually watched the movies were annoyed, of course, by the tipsy revelers who traipsed in and out of the theaters with no regard for quiet. Difficult to focus on the father blowing coke in front of his sleeping baby on-screen, sure, but you’re watching a movie. At a party. Why act surprised?
Despite the inherent similarity to the parties thrown by the city’s other cultural institutions, especially MOMA’s PopRally, Mallory says it’s been a non-issue. “You know, it’s funny, because I naturally assumed we would get a lot of those comparisons, but you’re actually the first person who’s said it to me,” says Mallory. “I think the big difference is that MOMA is a visual-arts space, whereas we’re a performing-arts space. Obviously, they’re both parties, but we didn’t take PopRally as a starting point; it was never a map for us.”
She differentiates further: “We’re just taking a larger look at how art’s going to look in 20 years. You know, the traditional way of seeing art—sitting in a formal space—may not still be the norm. The Lindsay Lohan mid-career retrospective, watching burlesque in an opera house—we get to play with the inherent formality. And it’s . . . fun.