The Populist Appeal of Robot Rock


Kate Moss’s questionable taste in men is made irrelevant by her unquestionable contributions to style—at least in the opinion of her adoring public (me). Fine, there was the Pete Doherty debacle, but she’s the reason you wore stovepipes, and the reason you went wide-legged this fall. She also has a baby with Dazed & Confused founder Jefferson Hack, who’s almost as crushworthy as she is. And anyway, who cares, because of those David Yurman ads? They incite philosophical debate regarding the state of my bangs on a monthly basis. I need to have her hair.

Clearly, with her current boyfriend Jamie Hince (from the Kills) DJing the Robot Rock party last Friday at Le Royale (the West Village club’s opening night), I had my fingers crossed for an elbow-brush. Didn’t happen. At least, I don’t think it did.

“She was there,” confirms Nicky Balestrieri, who promotes the party along with partner Patrick Duffy. I squeal. “I missed it, too,” he admits, laughing. “I was drunk onstage dancing with my friends all night.”

That would be the stage upstairs, which looks out onto the dance floor, where disco balls twinkle overhead. Also upstairs, on the opposite side of the steps, is a sleek, black bar set against a backdrop of Warholian wallpaper—with purple paint and patterned carpet (is that a good idea?), the effect is a good deal more posh than the bar’s previous incarnation, Luke & Leroy. The ground floor, by comparison, is all glass and light, with mirrored walls and a curvy, transparent partition that houses the downstairs DJ booth.

Le Royale arrives to that old space by way of DJ/producer Terry Casey, along with David Baxley, who owned the beloved CentroFly and Drinkland. It’s one of the lucky spots in New York that comes with a cabaret license in hand, so Baxley and Casey intend to take full advantage: Music promoters GBH, whose weekly Cheeky Bastard party is one of the best in town, are supposedly booking live acts five nights a week.

But back to Robot Rock, previously held across the street at Movida and now enjoying a permanent Friday-night home at Le Royale. Joining Hince last weekend, Michael Skype (who’s remixed Interpol and Tegan and Sara, among others) spun alongside resident DJs Alex English and Dimitry (High Voltage). With Balestrieri (who managed Crobar for three years) and Duffy (who hosted Fridays at Lotus and still helms Sundays at APT), there’s no shortage of nightlife connections to fill the space.

“We wanted more of a house-rock-feel party,” explains Balestrieri. “Friday night started out small and intimate, which is how Patrick and I like to host, and got louder and drunker as the night went on. We were super-thrilled.”

Also thrilled: the people in the neighborhood who want to hang there without feeling intimidated by the previous, occasionally affected frequenters of MisShapes and Rated X— Luke & Leroy, as you’ll recall, was the space where both parties were once held. “They actually let me upstairs,” says Ron, a guy with whom I was smoking outside, who lived around the corner for two years. “And I also just saw two chicks making out—like, seriously making out—and then, out of nowhere, one of them pulled back and punched the other one out.” His eyes widened. “I looked over to the bouncer, who was like, ‘Oh, shit,’ and he ran over there and pulled them apart. It was amazing. My weekend is set.”

That might have been his highlight, but mine was just generally how much goddamned fun everyone seemed to be having. Nearly equal parts gay and straight, the party upstairs offers plenty of room to dance, but also space to sit if you aren’t feeling it. Le Royale’s very first Yelp review, posted almost immediately after Saturday night, bestowed a backhanded compliment to the downstairs VIP area, “which provided a magnet for the prosperous (older) patrons. This is a nice touch because it prevents interaction and keeps them away from the dance floor on the other level.” (Prevents? Yeah, except … no. You’ll know where to find me next time.) The sound system is excellent—especially when blaring “Since U Been Gone” (Jesus Christ, I love that song)—and the bar service was actually pretty snappy for how many people were there.

“Le Royale’s going to be a great club,” says Balestrieri. “Not some pretentious place that’s all bottle-servicey—just a great neighborhood bar for fun people who like to dance and get sweaty but also just want to hang. And lucky for me, I live on Leroy. So I don’t even have to check a jacket.”

If you’re making your New Year’s plans now, count Motherfucker out. The celebrated tradition of unpredictable dance parties—scheduled eight nights a year for the past six, and always on national holidays for those Manhattan diehards who stay in town—is no longer, according to a Michael T e-mail sent via Shaw Promotion.

“I regret to announce the end to another era in clubland,” the message begins. “Motherfucker is no more.” It goes on to explain that for the last year or so, relations between the four partners (Michael, Johnny T, Georgie Seville, and Justine D) have been strained—a fact documented by director David Casey’s recent film, Motherfucker: The Movie, which was supposed to have debuted at CMJ but was yanked at the last minute. (See “Motherfucker I’d Like to Film,” October 9.) Apparently that tension finally reached its breaking point. “We did not anticipate our exit to be so abrupt,” writes the foursome’s de facto leader. “But alas, life throws curveballs at all of us when least expected.”

There’s a long list of personalities the Motherfucker crew thanks, including musical performers (the Cramps, the New York Dolls, Bloc Party), nightlife icons (Amanda Lepore, Lady Bunny, Willi Ninja), and “family members” (Thomas Onorato, Misstress Formika, Chi Chi Valenti). Lastly, of course, Michael thanks Diana Ross for releasing “the fiercest song ever,” with which he closed every single Motherfucker party.

Asks Michael: “Did MF give you the sweetest ‘Love Hangover’?”