We very rarely find ourselves leaving the safe confines of downtown Manhattan during a weeknight outing. Anywhere north of 14th Street seems impossibly far and unfortunately stereotyped. But when we heard that DFA — one of our favorite dance labels — was starting a new Wednesday-night party at the Hudson Hotel’s Private Park, we made a face, complained about having to take the the train “all the way up there,” and then rallied.
Walking into the party can be pretty uncomfortable at first. A trip through the hotel lobby (dodging young children and their tourist parents) brings patrons to the walled-in outdoor patio — ahem, “park” — where the darkness is somewhat blinding. Iron-wrought-tables are topped with bottle-service detritus and frou frou cocktails, with cocktail waitresses scurrying about to cater to a very grown-up, after-work clientele. Rows of potted trees line an aisle of tables on one end; a huge vine-wrapped archway looms over girls with very styled hair and very expensive drinks. It’s the kind of thing that will trigger your “fight or flight” reflex — our first instinct was to sit down at the nearest bench and blend in. A few steps inward, though, and we spy Justin Miller behind the DJ booth, tattoo-covered arms, a few partyographers, and a handful of downtown scenesters (Andy Shaw, Plant Music’s manager, Kids With Snakes DJs). We breathe a huge sigh of relief.
The merging of worlds here is no surprise, really. The Hudson — alongside DFA’s resident sweetheart and downtown scene queen, Justine D — have been throwing down all summer, though that’s come to an end. (She’s abandoning her Tuesday nights at the Park to move abroad and fine-tune her baking skills at pastry school. Seriously.) With her gone, the rest of DFA stepped into the DJ booth and pulled longtime promoter Andy Shaw in on hosting duties. Don’t expect a dance floor though: The disco that plays above serves instead as an excellent and lounge-y soundtrack to your three-hour happy hour, with dancing confined to the waitresses walking in time to the beat. If anything, the night becomes more of a casual networking event: strangers sitting down with other strangers and being forced into conversation (we met a very pleasant marketing agent from the Upper East Side), partyographers politely asking for photos, etc. Meanwhile, Shaw roams the room offering free drinks to anyone who smiles in his direction. “I love this,” he beams. “My job is to have fun and drink for free with my friends and introduce cool people to cool things. It doesn’t get better.”
The obvious goal here is to bring the downtown hip uptown, and it seems to be working. “We had a free Blondie afterparty in the hotel’s library last night,” says the Hudson’s Yael Greenberg. “She gave everyone a password to get in. It was “panic” — so ’80s punk!” And while the hotel’s regular patrons may be a little reserved for our tastes, we’ll buy into it, if for Shaw alone. The man is probably the most likable promoter we’ve ever come across — if only for his totally disarming charm and uncanny ability to convince strangers that sitting in a chair and sipping on a vodka-soda is the most fun they’ve ever had. Lord knows how many friends he made in the two hours we were there. As for the Hudson, they plan to push this “hip” thing as hard as they can, even opening a 1,200 capacity club in the basement later this fall. And as long as they keep Andy around, we’ll be there, too.