Tonight begins the last hurrah for erstwhile Williamsburg club Savalas, whose six year run on Bedford avenue came to an end this week when the venue abruptly announced (on Facebook!) that it’d be closing this weekend. Why they were closing they never quite got around to saying, but there are a couple obvious culprits. The first is the Woods, the popular bar the Savalas team owns nearby–that seems to be their priority, and it effectively competed with Savalas. The second is the “rap sabbatical” the venue put into effect back in September, in a perplexing attempt to rid the club of “drug dealers, meat heads, dare I say *gasp* New Jersey kids.” Never mind that rap was traditionally one of Savalas’s big strengths, as this farewell email from longtime resident Rok One pretty clearly indicates:
A lot of people expected me to get all sappy and teary-eyed about Savalas closing. A few media publications even asked me for a quote, but I declined to comment. I try to avoid using cliche expressions but I will say that “it’s the end of an era”, “change is inevitable”, “nothing lasts forever” and “it is what it is”.
Seriously though, Savalas had an amazing run, far better and longer than most places will ever have, and helped set the tone for what the Williamsburg party scene was to become. When Dave and James first opened it, there were only a handful of places in the region where people could go out dancing: Union Pool, Black Betty (R.I.P), Boogaloo, Stinger Bar (R.I.P.), Bembe, Royal Oak and Enids. Now there are literally hundreds of bars and “clubs” in the area, and if you think that those places aren’t directly harming or stealing business from each other, then GET REAL my dude. The neighborhood has gone from a relatively off the grid starving artist enclave, to a bustling and self-sufficient New York hot-spot, where young urban professionals migrate on the weekend to celebrate. It’s gotten pretty scary, but “it was bound to happen at some point…”
Anyway, from the very beginning, Savalas’s approach was always very DJ-centric. Although the owners and the talent didn’t always “see eye to eye” on musical direction, the quality level was always high. The sheer amount of greatness that has passed through those walls is staggering, from the very first events involving members of The Rub and the infamous “Kill Whitey” party, to the Caps ‘N’ Jones era, from “Shot-Out Saturdays” with The Bangers and the pre-Trouble & Bass “Mad Suspect” parties by Cut NYC, right on through to “Panty Raid” with Cousin Cole, “Real Mature” with yours truly, “Strictly Hits” with DJ Ayres, and “Grim” ft. Kids With Snakes & Gavin Royce – not to mention the longest running Savalas party: “Lost & Found” with Jared from Big City Records, Honey Dripper & Young Chris.
The residents brought in an onslaught of special guest DJs including but certainly NOT LIMITED to DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill, Holy Ghost!, Low Budget, Scottie B, King Tutt, Stretch Armstrong, Eli Escobar, Dave Nada, XXXChange, Devlin & Darko, Cosmo Baker, DJ Eleven, Rob Swift, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Easy Moe Bee, Waajeed, Mike Simonetti, Fixed, Negroclash, Populette, Egg Foo Young / Michna, Nick Catchdubs, Jubilee, Brendan Bringem, Peer Pressure, JHN RDN, Emynd & Bo Blitz, Roxy Cottontail, Prince Klassen, Da Hardy Boyz, Dances WIth White Girls, Franki Chan, Willy Joy, Moma & Stimulus, and Jason Jinx.
Other honorable mentions go out to Akalepse, Josh “Fingerscales” Novicki, Steve “Oneauff” Raney, Vida Ventura, Sammy Bananas, The Woodman, Chris Hires, Benny B, Max Wowch, Jacques Renault, Marcos Udagawa, Bruce Force, Shane Daddy, the late great JOSH LINK, Punk Ass Jason, Lucas Walters, Johnsville, Dimitry, Prince Terrence, Cobra Krames, Fulltime Fun, Dirtyfinger, Ninjasonik, TV On The Radio, Semi-Precious Weapons, club royalty Michael T & Justine D, Deryck Todd, Andy Shaw, Burning Angel, The Love Show, Vice Magazine, and of course Maya Contreras of the Dirty Durty. Also, I cannot forget the amazing bar staff who made everyone feel at home: Jesse Ballgame, Lola Belle, Jason, Courtney, Veronica, Yesica, Natasha, Victoria, May Kwok, Matt Kaye, Matt Relkin, Ben, Lacey and the rest of the crew.
There are too many fun Savalas memories to list. I won’t even get into it. You were either there or you weren’t. I apologize to anyone I may have forgotten to mention – my Alzheimer’s has been really bad lately. I’ll miss having Hughlynn and Damian cheering me on (and/or screaming disapproval into my ears), Nature Boy Jim Kelly & Sanie holding court at the table next to the DJ booth, and Jesse & Lola wilding out to After 7 and Toto on top of the bar. A whole new set of future good times is on the horizon, but this Friday, I ask you all to join us one last time, for old time’s sake. I have recruited an allstar line-up of selectors who helped make the place what it was. Let’s take the “Cheers Of Brooklyn” out with a BANG…
That all-star line-up he’s referring to is the one from the flyer at the top; the party goes down tonight. We will refrain from dancing on the grave of a venue that gave a lot of people a lot of happiness over the past bunch of years. But like DJ Ayres told us back when they banned his (rap-centric) night there, Strictly Hits: “I feel like you should fucking take what you can get in 2010, in terms of getting a crowd in. If you’re making money, what’s the issue?” That’s as true as it ever was in 2011. R.I.P.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 28, 2011