With so many weekend options, it’s easy to overlook the fact that some of the city’s most beloved DJs play for free on weeknights, in situations offering an intimate vibe and cheaper drinks (sometimes with no cover!) at places that ordinarily boast huge lines and bad attitudes. Even the music itself is often better, with the DJ free to simply entertain close friends instead of the usual weekend rabble. With that in mind, we left our jackets at home and headed to the East Village for a well-deserved Thursday Night Out.
We walked into Von’s Thursday-night FAM party around 11:30. The free, weekly event hosts a rotation of the Rub’s DJ Eleven, DJ Lindsey & DJ Myles, Sureshot, Sammy Bananas, and Morsy, all going down in the bar’s basement-lounge-styled pit. The bar itself is charming, even if the clientele leaves something to be desired: It’s the kind of place someone may think neighborhood bars in New York are like before they actually move here. The two-floor wine/beer bar is dimly lit, with wooden floors, loud chatter, old photos on display in cabinets, and plenty of tables-for-two hidden away in side nooks. Not to mention the easygoing but incredibly efficient bartenders who never seem to need to be reminded of your last name or drink of choice.
Getting downstairs to the DJ party requires some effort, though: Expect to barrel your way through a dense mass of particularly self-absorbed East Villagers and mildly hip after-work ad-industry-type loungers upstairs. A polite (but firm) shove works better than your patient and insistent “Excuse me” routine here. To be fair, the five-inch heels propping up a few of the ladies might have put them out of hearing range.
When we finally made it downstairs, a chorus of “Rock With You” elicited a round of cheers from the already-swarmed dance floor. Behind the turntables, Eleven and L.A.’s Steve1nder played a mix of the good kind of “hits” (Biggie, Vanity 6, the Fugees, etc.) with absolutely no support from Miley Cyrus, Usher, or Drake. (Thank god.) Though the suits remained, a mix of drunken partiers, jovial grad students (their name tags told us med school), awkward fitted-cap-wearing DJ-watchers, and friends of the DJs make the scene downstairs much more diverse (and enjoyable). As one dancer grinded up against his girl (all the while intensely mindful of his new loafers), a plaid-clad man screamed, “I LOVE THIS SONG! What’s the name of this song?!” as Bill Withers crooned “Lovely Day” above, and a steady flow of DJs (we spotted Moma, JayCeeOh, and Skinny Friedman) made their way to the makeshift booth for a friendly handshake. Nearby, a wallflower claimed Eleven as his “Favorite party DJ of all time,” while Eleven’s girlfriend noted that Steve1nder was one of her own favorites. By the bar, drunk middle-aged men ordered rounds of Kamakazi shots. It’s like that.
By 1:30, we had stayed an hour longer than planned, so we headed over to Santos’ Party House for the debut of the venue’s new Thursday-night weekly, Canal Rubber. The two-floor event is half JDH/Dave P’s FIXED (upstairs, $15) and half Eli Escobar (downstairs, free). The venue had sold 600 tickets to the upstairs fete featuring this week’s guest, self-dubbed singer-turned-DJ-turned-“King of Electropop” Calvin Harris. But we made our way downstairs for Eli and DFA duo Holy Ghost. When we walked in, Holy Ghost were playing their usual mix of nu-disco to a scattered dance floor made up mostly of adorably dressed boys who seemed perfectly content to dance alone. The usual plumes of Santos fog hung in the air as people milled about by the bar advertising $5 Santos Ale. Those taking a break from upstairs seemed confused at the lack of screaming bass and resigned themselves to observing from the couches. Another wave of DJs floated through the room–Plant Music’s Wax Romeo, the Finger on the Pulse twins, and Rok One included, the latter declaring that he only dances when Eli DJs.
I did make it upstairs for Calvin Harris, though briefly. The Tiesto-approved DJ was surrounded by fans that looked a lot more like a sea of investment bankers than the glow-stick-bearing rave kids we’re used to at FIXED. The closer to the stage I got, the more I swore I was in an episode of Jersey Shore: dance battles and Pauly types and all. To be fair, Harris wasn’t nearly bad as expected. (“It’s not that hard to mix house music,” one bystander smirked.) He theatrically played a slew of his own songs–remixed, of course–complete with finger guns, crowd conducting, and hair flips. When the familiar chorus of Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition” floated above the now-overzealous bass, whistles, and shrieking girls, it was time to go home.