Every first Tuesday, the Deadly Dragon Sounds collective takes over the decks at APT for what can only be described as an unusual affair for the area. The Meatpacking District venue has always provided a weekend arena for hip-hop nerds and vinyl-lovers, and it’s easy to see that the DDS crew of Scratch Famous, JD, Queen Majesty, and Mr. K bring a similar vibe to the city’s reggae fans. While this particular group of collectors stay busy in the NYC music scene–managing their retail shop (we hear Sean Paul hangs out there) filled with rare finds and holding down a weekly radio show on EVR–catching one of their group DJ sets is something everyone should do at least once. Sure, you can find them at the trendy VON and grimy Lower East Side hotspot Happy Endings, but we’ll recommend APT every time.
The thing about APT is that it’s styled like a fancy Upper East Side apartment, but carries the feeling of a friend’s beach house. Once your eyes adjust to the dark room, you’ll immediately notice how different the crowd is from the usual suit & hair-gel combo that generally roams the Meatpacking District. We’ll credit this to the inviting atmosphere of the place: The dim lighting (provided by a few low-hanging lamps and votives scattered around the bar) is soaked up by dark, maroonish-brown wallpaper and the mahogany-colored floors and bartop. Armchairs and huge, comfy couches are scattered about just coherently enough to leave the subtle outline of a dance floor; a queen-sized bed surrounded by ottomans is nestled opposite the bar. (There are pillows and a blanket draped over top, but sleeping and/or getting frisky are not encouraged, or allowed.)
Then there’s the “wait-service” area, for those who can’t bear to stand at the bar: an elevated nook that we assume is supposed to represent some sort of dining area, filled with tables for two. The walls are decked with black-and-white photos of old family members and a somewhat unusual glass cutout of a world map (except North and South America are missing). Fear not, smokers–they’ve got a small patio out back in case you need it.
So, while the venue screams “trendy lounge,” the clientele are mostly people you might find at a friend’s house party, with the addition of a DJ (Mr. K at this point) dwarfed by turntables and surrounded by 45s. Mixed in with the dreads, beards, fitted caps, and hoodies are a few adorably dressed women dancing along to Linval Thompson’s “Sukiyama.” (It must be a favorite of Scratch Famous as well–he jumped out of his barstool and tackled a friend when it came on.) Lurking near a crew of casually dressed folks drinking Pilsners are three patrons splitting a $200 bottle of wine; neither party seems offended by the other.
“We come here ’cause [the DJs] know their stuff,” one onlooker said in admiration, sipping on some sort of fruity concoction. He notes the song currently playing. “Like this one–when do you hear this out?” His friend chimes in: “And you’d never hear it in this ‘hood if it weren’t for them. We just take the L straight back to Lorimer–who cares where it’s at?”
That attitude prevailed during the night–people who clearly made a solo-adventure of the evening took to dancing by themselves, while those seated swayed in time. We even noticed the security guard dancing along as he inched his way in from door duties. “We want there to be a deeper appreciation of reggae,” explained the lovely Queen Majesty. “Usually you hear the same dancehall set, and we want people to be able to hear all of it. We’re feeling especially rootsy tonight.” (Ironically, the ever-popular Alton Ellis crooned “I’m still in love with you” overhead.)
The thing to know about this particular party is that it slows down early–that’s to be expected, considering the 9:30 p.m. start. Though the overly generous bartenders will trick you into staying with easy smiles and very, very stiff drinks (the extra-dirty martinis are strongly recommended, even at your typical Manhattan prices), much of the crowd starts to trickle out around 2 a.m. That doesn’t mean the party’s over, though–they don’t stop until the last person leaves and the DJs huddle around the bar for shots with the bartenders. “It’s fun for us, too,” one grinning bartender told us. “We get to come in for work and hang out with our friends and listen to good music. What’s better?”