Last night, DJ Soul’s Wednesday-night bash Big Fun held its venue debut at Union Square Lounge (USL if you’re in the know), tucked under the coffee shop on 16th and University. It’s been a week of firsts there, as the spot held its grand re-opening on Monday under the new direction of Lotus ex-pat Michael Gogel, who hopes to bring out a fresh downtown crowd of artists, music people, socialites, models, and party kids (along with fewer NYU students). They’ve already solicited Todd from Beatrice Inn (also rumored to re-open), super-Frenchie Gloomy Palmz (from Le Sexie), and last night’s lineup of DJ Soul, Stretch Armstrong, and Eli Escobar (Day Two) to DJ the hideaway. It should be noted that we were promised S’mores.
After Tuesday’s night out, it took me a while to drag myself from my toasty apartment, but I had a series of “live from USL” texts to hold me over, courtesy of my friend Phi. In summary:
12:30 a.m. “Just got here. Kinda dead.”
1:01 a.m. “Okay, getting kind of crowded.”
1:40 a.m. “I feel sick and want to go home”
1:42 a.m. “Stretch just got on and now I want to stay. I can smell di green as @stretcharmy be playing di dancehall.”
Oh, look, Stretch Armstrong saves the day. Again. I arrived at 2 a.m. and was led to the basement den: The first thing I noticed was that the room seemed way too brightly lit for a cozy lounge space (to be fair, the party’s previous home was the murky 105 Riv).
Honestly, the lounge looks the same as always: waffle-iron ceilings, stone walls, and big brown couches that dominate the center of the room, with a small DJ booth tucked next to a short bar. The half-empty room was made up of people milling about in an awkward half-in-half-out way, scattered in small clumps of intensely quiet conversation. An extraordinary number of derby hats, thin cotton scarves, and leather bomber jackets were in attendance, but you couldn’t tell whether they were going or coming or just unusually cold with their jackets and hats on, one person standing talking to another sitting, with unattended tables of empty plates and only partially emptied liquor bottles lurking nearby. Absolutely. No. Dancing.
It was all very strange, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, so I found a bar stool, ordered a $9 vodka soda, and struck up a conversation with the man next to me. “I don’t know what a Stretch Armstrong is,” he said in a thick accent. “You see my friend? He goes out with that bartender and we’re waiting for her.” It wasn’t until a text from Phi (2:42 a.m.: “My friends and I tried to get back in but the bouncer said [there are] too many dudes.”) that I realized I was one of three females in the room. The other two were the bartender and the DJ’s wife. I tried and I tried (I love the DJs billed), but that’s when I knew that the night was over, for me at least. While I certainly don’t think that this is the “most mixed [crowd] I’ve seen in any venue in Manhattan–ever”, there’s hope that similar DJ bookings and nightlife events will put USL on the map for the downtown “It” crowd. Hopefully they’ll important some more ladies as well.