9/11’s Impact on New York Nightlife

I still am reeling from the events of this day, 11 years ago. I don’t think about parties and nightlife on this day, as I still well up and have visions and memories of things I heard and saw that day. Those will be within me, just below the surface, forever. This morning, when I read the phone calls made by victims in their last moments, I remembered and cried. It’s a little better this year knowing that Osama is being eaten by creatures of the deep blue sea.

Yesterday’s article about Thefuture.fm has me thinking; a couple of weeks ago I speculated that the public would soon require more from DJs and club operators. Creativity, I said, would be a commodity used to separate one place from another. I believe that we are nearing a very forward time in nightlife. Thefuture.fm will allow the general public to explore different DJs and their varied sounds. Bottle service, often painted as both the sinner and savior of nightlife, has defined the last decade or more. It is not a coincidence that these years follow the fall of the towers. After the attack, we tended to travel with and to the familiar. A S.I.N., safety- in-numbers mentality, divided the club scenes – which used to be very mixed – into specialized or specific venues. White people hung with white people, rockers with rockers, gays with gays, house heads with house heads, and so on. The mixing of ideas became less important and the large clubs faded or became one-dimensional. Places like Tunnel or Palladium, where multiple DJs and a wide spectrum of people gathered in multiple rooms large and small, became extinct.

A few weeks back I offered that we are again ready for this kind of place, although it probably will occur in Greenpoint or someplace outside of Manhattan. Thefuture.fm will expose the consumer to all sorts of new music. People may like it and want more and demand more from nightlife. As for now, the scene is narrow: the DJs at the bottle service clubs offer music which caters to the bottle buyer; Top 40 is not only accepted but demanded, and safe and familiar is the norm. Mixed format might be labeled "safe," format in most cases. The DJs involved are often skilled and entirely capable of doing it and doing it well, but they’re programmed to do a job that requires dumbing down their sets. Their rewards include huge paydays, travel, and glamour. Clubs used to lead the way, not follow or even ride the wave.

I found myself on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel Saturday night for a Fashion Week soiree. I started playing some Elbow and R.L. Burnside and The Heavy and Hanni El Khatib… obscure stuff, to most, that usually rocks. I moved to familiar rock anthems with a bang and then into electro-rock and even threw in some L.L. Cool J… because I was there. Someone asked me for Rihanna, but I didn’t come prepared. The crowd, for the most part, was talking and such. The place is a large, sprawling comfortable spot with a super-friendly staff. I was told I was doing well, that what I was playing was right, but I didn’t know. They seemed to want new or unfamiliar, and I wasn’t going to go to Jay Z or Adele anyway. The guy before me offered Michael Jackson and such and scratched and sniffed as if he expected them to dance or care. They didn’t. I’m glad I didn’t follow his uninspiring lead and want another crack at that crowd. It was fun.

Tomorrow night I will DJ at my boy Wass Stevens’ birthday bash at Avenue. Wass and I have been hanging for decades and have shared some moments good and otherwise. He is acting a lot. He was in that Oliver Stone WTC flick. He owns a tattoo joint which I have to stumble into with a bad idea. He still does the door, still separates the men from the boys, still keeps the place filled with talent. I guess I’ll start with “Born To Be Wild” and go on from there.

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