“It sounds like a tin shed in there,” grouses a well-dressed couple walking briskly away from the Shank at five am this past Sunday. “The speakers are bad. Every room is half empty!”
After months of exile at makeshift locations like Badlands (another Williamsburg warehouse) and South Side dive Rockstar Bar, the Shank–Brooklyn’s favorite afterhours party to shit talk, disavow, and then eventually to end up at–has returned to its original Bayard Street location.
At the door, a severe man scrutinizes IDs. Inside, friends and friends of friends mill around. Not many people are dancing, but some bop appreciatively along to DJ Jonathan Toubin’s soul records, inadvertently spooky when run through the low quality sound system. (Lower quality even, Toubin admits, than the one before.) United by a common carelessness as to what portion of Sunday proper they’ll actually get to enjoy, bright-eyed strangers converse. Loudly. A few make out in corners. The teenage hooligans, ravers, and shamelessly obvious drug dealers blamed for ruining the Shank the first time around are conspicuously absent. It is, quite nicely, as if the clock has been set back to January 2009.
So how did promoters Lou Galluch and Miles Engel get back in here, after being unceremoniously ejected by then-leaseholder Kevin Foong over a year ago? Engel is understandably cautious about what he’ll say on the record. “We’re temporarily here again,” he allows. “We’ll try to make the parties fun again…it’s really just about throwing them for ourselves and our friends. We’re gonna try to stay here as long as we can, but we don’t know how long that will be.” The space no longer houses Kevin Foong’s Bayard Studios, which have moved to DUMBO but kept the same name, or parties other than the usual Engel/Galluch/Toubin collaboration–both of which were previous sources of complication. This has freed up Engel, saddled with many different responsibilities in the past, to focus on working with his partners to throw (and to enjoy) a good party. “It’s not about money at all,” he emphasizes. “If we don’t lose money, we’re stoked.”
Atop the mezzanine, Jonathan Toubin fields obnoxious song requests with grace. “Nobody’s into this,” says one drunken interloper. “You should play some hipster shit, like Crystal Castles.” (“I’ve had a reasonable amount of success in this field before,” the dapper DJ responds patiently.) This is Toubin’s first week back after the Shank’s reincarnation, three weeks prior. What did he think of the crowd? “It’s not bad, it’s just…you’ve seen how it is,” he says. “They’re still finding their stride.”
“One thing that’s good is that everyone here is interesting,” Toubin adds, pointing out various local characters like Susanne No Bra, “the guy from A.R.E. Weapons,” Honor Titus of Cerebral Ballzy (behind the bar), DJ/musician Prince Terrence, and members of Golden Triangle. (You may recognize the latter as the kids who politely reject your old clothes at Beacon’s Closet.) They are, in the most positive sense of the word possible, scenesters.
Perhaps most interesting is an older gentleman in white glasses and skull-print scarf who gives off a distinctly Warholian vibe. His name is Bernd Naber, and he’s an artist who moved here from Germany in the ’70s. “I like the music here,” he says of the Shank. “I like the people.” How does this compare to all yesterday’s parties? “The ’70s and ’80s were the highlight, but there’s always good things in New York,” he affirms. How’d he end up here? “I actually wanted to see a friend around the corner, but he was not there, so I came here,” he reports. “Around the corner it’s a different atmosphere. . . but they closed it down tonight.”
Naber means 99 Richardson Street, a nearby before-and-after-hours space with even more bravado. Assuming it sticks around long enough, the Richardson spot might act as a sort of pressure valve for all the underage drinking, “weird raves,” and flagrant rule-breaking that spelled doom for the Shank the first time–and perhaps distract the cops.
For his part, Lou Galluch hopes parties at this location will at least survive the winter, prime season for the un-air-conditionable cavern. “But I’d be here forever if I could,” he quickly clarifies. “I love this place.”
At 7am, the music is still going. By now, Toubin has been spinning for more than 10 hours, counting earlier gigs at Glasslands and Zebulon. Isn’t he tired? “You know the reason you’re here and the reason I’m here are the same,” he says. “There’s no New York without afterhours. And these kids are the only ones ballsy enough to do it.”