The flyers promised “an all-inclusive party with an eclectic crowd of beautiful boys, gorgeous girls, performance artists, and celebutantes.” The truth of that depends on your definition of “all-inclusive”: A little after 1 a.m., a swarm of hip young things buzzed around Thomas Onorato—who honed his “door bitch” style at the now-defunct MisShapes parties—with no chance of being “included” any time soon. It seems the debut of Family, a new weekly party organized by a slew of popular nightlife names, was a wild success.
“There was a much bigger turnout than we were expecting tonight—we hardly did any promotion!” says Michael “Mistress Formika” Jones, who helms the new soirée. “I come from a rock ‘n’ roll background, and Michael definitely has the experience with crazy-big dance parties, so we had tons of old-school nightlife people show up last night. Alan Cumming came and brought his posse. Everyone was just doing shot after shot.”
He’s referring to Michael T., the former Motherfucker, who, along with three others, was responsible for New York’s wildest holiday parties for nearly seven years. The beloved host recently became events coordinator for 40 C, the East Village bar (with an “ever-so-slight ‘speakeasy’ feel,” he says) where Family took place Saturday night. “This is definitely a new chapter in my long-in-the-tooth nightclub career,” Michael wrote in an e-mail last week.
The concept? “Well, all of us involved have been doing parties for so long, these huge parties,” explains Jones. “And we wanted to do something smaller, something based on all of our friends, and invite the people we’ve worked with all these years to participate. Our family, you know—that’s what we call them: our family. We wanted to be reunited!”
That family includes Cazwell, Amanda Lepore, Justin Bond, Miss Guy, Phillipe Blonde—the list goes on and on. And lest you straights feel left out, Jones wants you there, too. “Yeah, it was probably 60 to 70 percent gay last night, maybe 30 to 40 hetero,” he says. “But I really want it to be a mixed party. They’re much more fun. And New York seems so segregated right now.”
To encourage even more togetherness, the audience chooses a weekly winner en masse during the “Unique Talents” competition. Upon entering, everyone receives a necklace of gold beads—the “Family Jewels,” natch—to bestow upon the night’s best performer. “We’ll have singers, of course, and lip-synchers,” Jones promises. “But we’ll also have contortionists, sword-swallowers, other crazy talents. Whoever has the most beads at the end of the night gets a cash prize.”
After all, Jones says, the family that plays together stays together. “We had a VIP area roped off in the back, and at some point the rope just disappeared,” he continues. “I’m so hung-over.”
“I’m not a ladies’ man,” drones Yoni Wolf on the lead-off track to Alopecia, the excellent new release from his band, Why? Does anyone actually believe this? His practiced lack of affect is betrayed by the wry smile that peeks through in live performance with the delivery of a particularly good lyric—or a satisfactory bang on his drum. He actually looks like he weighs more than a buck ten, and at the band’s Knitting Factory show earlier Saturday night, the frontman shunned skinny jeans in favor of good old-fashioned corduroys. He also penned the line, “You’re the only proper noun I need.” I couldn’t care less that the song is about stalking. I don’t even care that it’s a pretty silly thing to say. I still love it. I cannot be alone on this.
Considering how many audience members knew every word to every song the band offered up, I don’t think I am. Nearly everything Wolf said was received with laughter and applause, including when he admitted that he hadn’t shaved or showered in three weeks. Manic cheers went up. “Why are you cheering? That’s disgusting,” he said, laughing. Or maybe not laughing exactly, but whatever Wolf does that signals his amusement. He’s pretty careful onstage to maintain the flatness with which he dispatches his indie hip-hop tracks, so that you’ll focus instead on his narratives, or his band—an amazing band, which includes brother Josiah, Doug McDiarmid, and touring member Austin Brown.
They appropriately kicked off Holy Saturday’s show with “Good Friday,” setting the night’s sex/death/hangover tone that also permeates Alopecia. That led into “The Vowels Pt. 2″—you know, the catchy one, “cheery-ay, cheery-ee, cheery-eye” and so on. By the third song, Wolf had loosened up; by the fourth, he’d pulled off his sweater, stripped his oxford, and untucked his T-shirt. (More cheers. Lot of them.) Josiah’s sticks—really just extensions of his arms—danced across the drums; McDiarmid traded keyboard for guitar again and again.
Not everything Wolf puts out there is brilliant. His style, paired with his nasal voice, occasionally brings to mind that horrible Dynamite Hack cover of “Boyz-n-the Hood,” which I’m embarrassed to admit that I remember. And the same song can include beautifully chosen thoughts alongside throwaway lyrics, like “My crooked Chinese fingers groped the machinery of your throat” (wonderful!) or “Yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere” (toss it). But there’s an undeniable rapport there between the core three, presumably built from their shared histories in Cincinnati, and it’s fun to watch.
Audience members threw out requests all night, and the band dipped deep into its unpracticed pool for the encore. (Which, by the way, was totally straightforward and exactly how bands should do encores, without all that unnecessary going offstage and such. “We’ve finished the set list. Should we do more?” Yoni asked his brother. “I think we could go two more,” answered Josiah. And so they did. Novel!) “We haven’t played that song in like five years,” McDiarmid said when the first encore song was done, explaining away the slight missteps. After the second, it was officially over. “Thanks, New York,” Wolf said before leaving the stage. “It was a good night.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2008