New York City’s downtown party scene adheres to a finely tuned set of rules. It’s one of those things that everyone understands and no one talks about–a delicate balance of power that’s maintained at every turn. Promoters and club managers take turns sucking up to one other, DJs and their fans fawn over each other, bottle-serviced tables are carefully manned by the appropriate gaggle of giggly girls, and the door girl is only as important as the guest list she’s holding. Ultimately, though, the bouncer has the first and last word on who gets in at all. It’s all pretty exhausting, but we’ll take it. That is, until the name-calling begins.
Our night started at Lower East Side bar Stay’s Wednesday-night weekly party, Stacked. The name implies several things . . . a stacked lineup of DJs, perhaps, or an arsenal of records, or the two floors of music. Tonight’s billing featured Plant Music’s Will Eastman accompanied by KRTS and resident DJs Pretty Girls & Lasers. The first level’s barren, neon-glowing bar, line of intimate tables, and couch-like seating reflected in the mirrored wall implies a certain lounge-like vibe, even when the DJ insists on playing amped-up electro.
The real party took us underground, through a secret entrance that took more time than we’d like to admit to navigate. (That stack of Corona boxes acts as a camouflaged door… you just have to push hard enough). The downstairs cellar was mostly empty–we suspect that some folks before us had tried to work their way in and failed. The basement-like space gave the party a surprisingly comfortable feel, though, despite the lack of bodies in the room. Unfortunately, it was obvious that those in attendance were friends of the DJ–half of the patrons bore a Plant Music sticker (Eastman is on the label), and even fewer danced, though we did spot one man raving, using his BlackBerry in lieu of glowsticks. Armand Van Helden’s “Witch Doctor” sent a jolt of energy through the handful of dancers, though we noticed that for a party hosted by “Pretty Girls & Lasers,” our group accounted for two of the three girls in the room. As Eastman left the turntables, mostly everyone else did, too.
After a quick discussion of where to go next (though the party’s promoter assured us that “there was nothing else happening in the Lower East Side”), we decided on Ella. Up the block and across the street, Ella Wednesdays was an entirely different scene, going strong with Turntable Lab’s Unemployed Lloyd on the decks. The dance floor drew us in immediately, as a group of girls partying to a mix of Outkast, Michael Jackson, and Prince jumped around screaming the lyrics.
The crowd at Ella is somewhat of a grab-bag: Tonight a group of button-down bros surrounded the tables closest to the DJ booth, as those drinking from bottles of beer (as opposed to fifths of Grey Goose) filtered their way back toward the bar. Frankly, it’s a shame there are bottle-service tables at these nights at all, as they take up more of the dance floor than the over-enthusiastic partygoers do. (We spotted one particularly resilient reveler with a cast on one leg, hopping around and set to crash any second.) Unfortunately, around 2 a.m., the music unexpectedly cut out, sending a flurry of people home–by the time Outkast’s “B.O.B.” crackled through the speakers ten minutes later, we were on our way out and to our final destination for the night.
A few blocks later, we found ourselves outside DJ Soul’s Big Fun weekly soiree in the recently revamped CV (the old 105 Riv). Red ropes and particularly stoic bouncers have been par for the course at the lounge, but it’s generally just for show. Tonight’s fete featured Nina Sky on the turntables (celebrity DJs!), so we were surprised to see there wasn’t a line for the party, though we quickly found out why. We barely made it to the door when the incredibly rude doorman told us to leave. Though he never told us why, our short-lived conversation revealed that the bar was not at capacity and he had no desire to see our IDs. While the lounge’s lack of pretension once made 105 Riv one of my favorite bars on the LES, stroking the ego of a particularly asinine bouncer isn’t so much my thing, and when the obnoxious fellow told us to “Beat it, bitch,” we shot the offender a glittery death stare and got the hell out of there, bringing our evening to an unfortunate end. New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.