BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Gigi Rowe’s Impassioned Cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’

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A fresh-faced Miami-by-way-of-NJ girl who nevertheless proudly wears her Madonna influence on her sleeve, Gigi Rowe is a dayglo 80s-esque pop princess for a 21st Century in need of a serious dose of fabulousness. Her new EP, Stardust Motel, was released in late October, and the hook-laden synth-pop single “Got That” (shades of The Material Girl’s “Open Your Heart”) has already racked up more than a million plays on YouTube.

But it’s her remake of Bruce Springsteen’s visceral classic “Dancing in the Dark” (which BlackBook premieres here) that really made us sit up and listen.

It’s essentially a powerful, haunting, gospel version of a song that has always begged for such an interpretation. Indeed, here the “dancing” is of a much more languid kind, as she movingly laments, “I ain’t nothing but tired / I’m just tired and bored with myself.” (Perhaps imagine if Bruce’s original had been produced by David Lynch.)

Of course, the hopeful lyric, “You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart,” is truly one for our current times – a call to rise up from our insular little social-media-led worlds and go set the world on fire with action.

“It’s hard to write something about this song because the song says it all,” she philosophically explains. “Honestly, I had no idea what it was about until I sang it; and then realized it’s not about one thing – it’s about everything. Life, the struggle, what it means to be alive and particularly, what it feels like to be an artist. But this is a Bruce Springsteen song, so of course it’s epic. And I probably feel an extra special connection, having been born and raised in New Jersey.”

For our part, we couldn’t be more inspired.

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Interview w/ Jayma Cardoso + Cocktail Recipes from Her New ‘Mailroom’ Bar

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Image by Rob McKinley 

 

Hard to believe now, that not so long ago Montauk was the “quiet” corner of The Hamptons. But when Jayma Cardoso opened The Surf Lodge in 2008, it became the buzzy galvanizing point for the new “beach bohemia,” presenting live performances by everyone from Rufus Wainwright to The Kills to Patti Smith, hosting fashion pop-ups by the likes of Topshop and Rosario Dawson’s Studio 189…and solidifying its zeitgeisty influence with a Surf Lodge Cafe at Art Basel Miami and a Snow Lodge at Sundance.

Yet having also lorded over NYC hotspots like Goldbar and Lavo, Cardoso is now back in Gotham with a fascinating new concept: the nightlife destination as WeWork playground and, naturally for her, artistic incubator. Cleverly, The Mailroom is actually the mailroom for the WeWork and WeLive spaces at 110 Wall Street – and so already a natural meeting point. But the mission is really about bringing together creative thinkers and doers to inspire and cultivate ideas. It’s already hosted DJ talent like Mark Ronson and James Murphy; but there will also be Monday comedy nights, Wednesday band residencies (i.e. locals French Horn Rebellion), as well as book signings, film screenings and fashion events.

As for the more practical details, Mailroom’s low-key-sexy interior, by longtime collaborator Robert McKinley, is something like cool-60s-airport-lounge meets trendy-80s-disco-club. Eats come by way of Todd English alum Sean Olnowich; and signature cocktails are by mixologists from La Esquina, with clever “post-office-chic” names like Handle With Care and Return to Sender. A few drink creations even come in “large format” – so you can enjoy the wonderful feeling of sharing with your party, without all that models-and-bottles awfulness.

We caught up for a chat with Ms. Cardoso, who also gave us the recipes for some of The Mailroom’s most popular cocktails.

 

Image by Rob McKinley

 

Mailroom seems almost more a “community center” than just a nightlife destination?

I agree, there is something about Mailroom being more than a bar or a lounge. It really serves as a gathering place for a lot of like minded people that are interested in exploring new projects, ideas and ways to collaborate. History has a way of repeating itself; in a way, I think of salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, or the 1940s…but, I think people wanted to come together in bigger ways.

How does the WeWork/WeLive connection help to shape the overall vibe of Mailroom?

The atmosphere is really designed around the collaborative nature that WeWork and WeLive is creating for people who are seeking a different approach to work, to how they travel and live.  It’s the same for hospitality…I wanted a place that is a conduit for sharing and creating; this place is designed for where I expect the next big ideas come from. Hence the programming is centered around the arts and giving guests new experiences. This isn’t a club, it’s not meant to be a bar…it’s a place for people to come together in pursuit of their dreams via connecting with others.

Do you think this will be a new trend? Combining nightlife with a cultural and social ideology and “mission” of sorts?

I’m not sure it’s a trend, I think people are always looking for ways to connect…and in a world where we spend so much time in digital and social media spaces, I believe people want more then ever to find others who have the shared idea of doing bigger things by coming together in person.

NYC nightlife has been on virtual autopilot for quite awhile, an endless succession of craft cocktail and craft beer bars. Do you hope to reinvigorate it a bit by building The Mailroom around “ideas?”

I agree. I truly believe in craftsmanship with food, beverages and service; but I’m hoping to make The Mailroom a member of the next evolution, a celebration of all the incredible people who come to New York in pursuit of new ideas, technology, businesses, art, etc. For me, creating a gathering place for visionaries is the next big step.

 

Cocktail Recipes From The Mailroom

The Gimlet 

– 1 oz Absolut Vodka
– .75 oz Lemon Juice
– Splash of Ginger Juice
– Mint Leaf
 

Fired Up Margarita

– 2oz Altos Blanco Tequila
– 1oz Chili Syrup
– 1oz Lime Juice
– .5oz Blood Orange

 

 –

Cold Pressed Negroni

– 1oz Sipsmith Gin
– 1oz Campari
– 1oz Coffee Infused Vermouth

 

Mailroom Mule

– 2oz Absolute Elyx Vodka
– .75oz Lime Juice
– Topped with Homemade Ginger Beer

 

 

Gwen Stefani Opens the New Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai

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None other than Ms. Gwen Stefani took to the stage last night, to open the plush new Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai – the brand’s first in the UAE’s most mediagenic city.

Decked in Gucci, Gwen rocked her set with faves like “Wind it Up,” “Underneath it All,” Holla Back,” and her version of No Doubt’s version of the Talk Talk classic “It’s My Life.” (The private concert was actually for Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest/SPG members, as part of Marriott International’s global concert series with Universal Music Group.) But not one to holla and run, she also joined the hotel’s Cleatus George for some falconry and, um, dinner in the desert, which she fittingly documented on her insanely popular Instagram page.

The Renaissance Downtown Dubai is set to be one of the city’s most stylish new sleeps, with jaw-dropping room views, as well as its Bleu Blanc and BASTA! restaurants – both by chef David Myers – and an outpost of Morimoto on the way.

 

This is Karl Lagerfeld’s Christmas Tree For Claridge’s

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We reported earlier that none other than Karl Lagerfeld would be designing the annual Christmas tree at London’s unceasingly glamorous Claridge’s hotel (where you might rub shoulders with the likes of Cara Delevigne, Bella Hadid, Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, Kate Middleton or Metallica on a given day). His selection followed a prestigious line of fashion titans, that included John Galliano for Dior, Christopher Bailey for Burberry, Albar Elbaz for Lanvin and Dolce & Gabbana.

The tree has now been unveiled, and it’s an absolute stunner. No surprise, Herr Lagerfeld chose to turn the most beloved symbol of the season upside down, with the result resembling an opulent, flamboyant stalactite. It features leather feathers, German-handcrafted snowflakes, an Icelandic sheepskin rug at the bottom, and a dazzling, mirrored-star at the top.

Do take a moment to pop in and see it if you’re in Mayfair during the holiday season – and perhaps stay for a Festive Afternoon Tea in the Thierry Despont designed Foyer.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Sofi Tukker’s Groovalicious Remix of Their Hit Single ‘Best Friend’

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Image by Toma Kostygina

 

It’s been a whirlwind seventeen months for the duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern since, as Sofi Tukker, they released their debut EP Soft Animals in July of 2016 – including a Best Dance Recording Grammy nomination for their single “Drinkee” and placement of a couple of tracks in the high-profile FIFA 17 and FIFA 18 video game releases. The latter features the song “Best Friend,” which is also currently burning up the US Pop and Alternative Charts.

So how are they celebrating the holidays? By doing their own rather fabulous remix of “Best Friend,” of course. BlackBook premieres it here, and it’s a groove monster of a version. The original was slinky and sultry; but here they fatten up the beat, crank up the BPM, and turn it into an all around riotous dance party.

“This remix is a faster and dancier version,” they tell us, “that we made for the dance floor. And the dance floor that we pictured while making it is outside in Brazil during Carnival!”

Sofi Tukker will also be finishing out the year by doing four live dates in December with Odesza, including 12/15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s sure to be one of the parties of the season.

 

First Images: Landmark Takashi Murakami Exhibition Is Coming to Vancouver in 2018

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It makes sense, culturally, that Pop Art’s two most famous progeny were American and Japanese, respectively. But as Keith Haring left this mortal world in 1990, it would be Takashi Murakami alone who would live on and realize the Warhol-like fame that was so much a “strategy” of the original movement (Warhol superstar Ultra Violet told BlackBook in 2011 that Andy’s real goal was “that when he walked down the street, he wanted people to say, ‘Here walks the most famous person down the street.’”)

Murakami is virtually that famous in Japan; but, partly by virtue of his collaborations with Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton (which began in 2002) he has come to enjoy such global recognition as to warrant blockbuster exhibitions of his work around the world (Paris, Bilbao, Doha). And the Vancouver Art Gallery will be the first to grant him that honor in Canada, when a spectacular, landmark survey of his oeuvre, charmingly titled The Octopus Eats its Own Leg, opens there on February 3 of next year.

The retrospective will greatly on focus on Murakami as a painter, and feature rarely seen early works from the 80s; it will also explore the influences of Japanese painting and Buddhist folklore on his work. But most excitingly for true devotees, the show will also flaunt a pair of exclusive multi-panel paintings created just for this exhibition.

The Octopus… will run through May 6, a perfect excuse to make a late-winter, early spring weekend excursion to Vancouver.

Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Absofacto X Herizen Video for ‘Done With Love’

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Image by Taj Shaikh

 

For lovers of linguistics, Absofacto, the nom de guerre of Michigan musician Jonathan Visger, is actually a pretty good one – meaning, “absolutely, in fact.” So, the absolute opposite of “definitely maybe,” in fact.

The singer-songwriter, now based in Los Angeles, is, in fact, stirring up quite a buzz. After a few years of flying under the radar, his 2015 single “Dissolve” went viral, running up several million plays/views on Spotify/YouTube. Now signed to Atlantic, Absofacto has got an excellent new EP A Thousand Peaces, and a visceral, stripped-down acoustic single and video, “Done With Love” (which BlackBook premieres here). Ethereal songstress/actress Herizen Guardiola (Netflix’ The Get Down) joins him, heartrendingly answering his “Should I wait for you to change your mind?” with her “I felt the need to run / And now I’m not so sure.” It’s an affecting meditation on the romantic uncertainty that stalks virtually every relationship at some point or another.

The accompanying video is beautifully, hauntingly shot in the California desert.

“Herizen and I both are the type to lose track of time and arrive late,” he recalls, “so when we pulled up, the sun was about to disappear behind the mountain. We hurried up and got only one quick take before we lost the light. Thankfully, we lucked out and it made the performance feel really in-the-moment and added a layer of awkward charm.”

 

 

The release coincides with our announcement here that Absofacto is hitting the road with Two Feet for a 16-date US winter tour, commencing at LA’s fabled El Rey on January 23, and wrapping up February 25 at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall.

Jan 23 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles
Jan 25 – Soho Music Club – Santa Barbara
Jan 26 – The Catalyst Atrium – Santa Cruz
Jan 27 – Cornerstone – Berkeley
Jan 30 – Neumos – Seattle
Jan 31 – Fortune Sound Club – Vancouver
Feb 01 – Holocene – Portland
Feb 13 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston
Feb 14 – Coda – Philadelphia
Feb 16 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn
Feb 18 – Rock & Roll Hotel – Washington, D.C.
Feb 20 – Terminal West – Atlanta
Feb 21 – Exit-In – Nashville
Feb 23 – The Basement – Columbus, Ohio
Feb 24 – The Hi-Fi – Indianapolis
Feb 25 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago

 

Cheeky Christmas Wish Lists: Bar d’O’s Joey Arias, Sherry Vine and Raven O

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All the hand-wringing about gentrification, and the nostalgia about a more daring time in NYC nightlife doesn’t, of course, really solve anything. What does make a difference is making sure the show goes on, whatever else happens to be going on around us.

So don’t let all the terrible news “drag” your holiday down – instead, plan to glam it up with Joey Arias, Sherry Vine and Raven O at the 13th Annual Bar d’O reunion this December 17 at Indochine. The latter, of course, remains Gotham’s most glamorous restaurant ever – having celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014 with a star-studded bash. So there could be no better place to host NYC’s most glam night out. There will be three fabulous sets of the legendary drag cabaret (10pm, 11pm, midnight) – all sure to be equally sexy, scandalous and utterly spectacular.

But to get properly in the holiday spirit leading up to the big event, we asked all three of its stars to give us their Christmas wish lists for 2017 – and, no surprise, Superman makes the list.

 

Sherry Vine

I  I’ve been trying to find a stocking big enough that Joe Manganiello can fit into!
2  A lifetime supply of Absolute Purple by Il Makiage (they’ve discontinued it!)
3  A bottle of my fave fragrance: Tom Ford’s Black Orchid
4  Did I mention Joe Manganiello in a stocking, under the tree, behind the Menorah? Help a “lady” out!

Joey Arias

1  A check for $5,000,000 – is that asking too much???
2  A gift certificate to Louboutin – unlimited, of course!
3  A prescription for antibiotics against that nasty STD!

Raven O

1  Henry Cavill
2  The body I had 15 years ago
3  The memory I had in my teens

Keen is a Brilliantly Idiosyncratic New Philadelphia Restaurant

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The word “keen” is defined as “finely sharpened” and “characterized by distinctness of perception” – as well as “intense, as feeling or desire.”

So it’s probably no accident that Philadelphia’s most captivating new restaurant is named, well, Keen. It’s initial buzz goes all the way back to spring 2016, when it was announced that yet another eatery would be taking over the space – just off Rittenhouse Square – once occupied by the storied Astral Plane, which closed in 2007 after three decades of its beloved bohemian chic.

The bi-level space is now replete with art curiosities, mystically glowing chandeliers, a glass bar, rustic-but-surreal mirrors and handrails (echoing the shapes of nature, certainly), exposed industrial piping, and – our favorite – a vintage condom machine in the loo…which dispenses the restaurant’s own namesake brand.

 

 

Chef Antonella Biundo (how could she not be cool with that name?) serves up wonderfully clever takes on comfort food: riceballs with root vegetables and celery & sage pesto; “Pig Candy” bacon with maple syrup and a shot of Old Grandad; a spicy chicken sandwich with kale and pickled zucchini; an apple-cider brined pork chop; and (yum) pumpkin trifle with gingersnaps. Pair with seasonal tipples like the Autumn Margarita w/ pear and cinnamon, or the Winter Whirl w/ rye, applejack and maple syrup.

Plan to book a table at Keen and make a weekend of Philly this time of year, as the city has one of the most exquisite holiday markets / skating rinks in the Northeast, all situated around the majestic, 19th Century City Hall. Book into the nearby and distinctly stylish Le Meridien Philadelphia, one of our fave hotels in town.