When Flashing Lights began two years ago, we couldn’t help but think it was some sort of inside joke. For a dance party that featured “house, disco, techno, and rave”, the cast of characters (residents Catchdubs, DJ Ayres, and Jubilee) made sense, kind of, but we just couldn’t take them too seriously. It could have been the advertised glowsticks and “rave juice” (Ziplock bags filled with Red Bull, vodka, and, yes, a glowstick). Or maybe it was the thought of hip-hop fiend Ayres playing electro in Williamsburg. Whatever it was, two years and 28 parties later, we’ve been proven wrong. So what really happens when you take this trio and consistently put them to work? As Friday night’s two-year anniversary party at Public Assembly proved, something pretty wonderful.
The dance scene in New York has always been a bit segregated: Most venues find their crowd and stick with it. For pounding electro and the newest blog sensations, we’re forced to be stomped on by overzealous, underage revelers at massive mainstream outlets like Terminal 5 and Webster Hall. For deep, soulful house, we head to the warehouses on the outskirts of Bushwick to hang with the older locals. When we’re looking for techno, we’re directed to clubs with bottle service and tourists. With Flashing Lights, though, the venue doesn’t matter, and sometimes, neither does the headlining act. The party has invaded Public Assembly in Williamsburg, Mehanata (The Bulgarian Bar) on the Lower East Side, Studio B (RIP) in Greenpoint, and dim-sum restaurant 88 Palace in Chinatown. We’ve been to them all, and one thing is certain: Funny “rave”-themed gimmicks aside, this trio of DJs take this party a lot more seriously than we originally expected, and that’s exactly why they’ve lasted this long.
“We wanted to have a party, a home in New York where our friends from out of town could come and play all their crazy dance music.” explains DJ Ayres in Public Assembly’s adjoining alley. Over the past few years, Flashing Lights has done just that, harnessing the trio’s combined tastes, relationships, and general music-nerdery to book greats from all sub-genres of dance. From dancehall-infused Toddla T to drum-n-bass head DJ Dara to experimental hip-hop guru Gaslamp Killer, the goal is to bring an electric group of DJs the hosts actually respect, rather than merely booking trendy blog stars. (Little-known fact: They’re responsible for La Roux’s first New York show at the old Studio B, too.) “A lot of these parties are dedicated to one niche style — we don’t want that.” explains Catchdubs. “That’s one of the reasons we did this to begin with: Our tastes are all-encompassing.”
Back inside, Bassanova (a new project helmed by Jubilee and ex-Thunderheist DJ Grahamzilla) finish their set, and the party rages on with Toronto-based Nacho Lovers on the turntables, overlooking a full dance floor of incredibly normal-looking people. While vestiges of this rave-themed soiree remain (if only via the man whirling glowing ropes of light around himself), tonight’s crowd reflects the diversity of the music. An adorable couple jokingly battles each other on the dance floor, a few streetwear kids sidle up to the bar and do their signature nonchalant head-nod, and my small friend spins in circles to a song she’s never heard before. Fellow musicians and friends of the DJs trickle through in a constant stream (we spot Michna, Nick Hook, Prince Klassen, and Ghostdad in our time there). Until, wait, why is the duo on stage playing “Drop It Like It’s Hot”?
“This is a great example of how music-first this party is,” says Catchdubs excitedly, before cluing me in. (What they had actually played was Justin Martin & Ardalan’s “Mr. Spock” mixed into Les Visiteurs’ “Snoop’s Acid Drop” and back out again.) “Everyone we invite has substance to them. We tell them they don’t have to pander.” And soon, despite that lack of pandering, it’s 4 a.m., and we’re being coaxed out the door.
The next edition of Flashing Lights goes down on Nov 13 at Public Assembly.