“The Supreme Court has ruled that they can’t have a nativity scene in Washington D.C…that wasn’t for religious reasons…they couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” – Jay Leno.
This will be the last posting until next Monday as the good people at Blackbook break for the holidays. I will be spending mine with many of the people I love, but not all of them. For that I would need a sleigh, some reindeer, and in a few cases, I’d have to sneak in and out undetected. As I shopped for gestures these last few days, I could see the worry on peoples’ faces. The world looks pretty grim and hope is something that seems impotent against the myriad of problems we are facing. Yet, I believe we are blessed, for only in a downturn like this could our nation elect a president who inspires old school ideas like love, decency and fair play. I will say a prayer for him and for all of us on Christmas day. My gut feeling is that it’s going to be all right. So Happy Christmas to all, to all a goodnight and below check out part 2 of my interview with the Santos’ Party House Boys:
What were your careers before you decided to do this club? Andrew you were a musician right? Andrew W.K.: Yea, a performer and entertainer.
And how did you come to the decision that you wanted to have a joint? Andrew: Well, Spencer Sweeney, who’s not here right now, was actually the first guy who ever really invited me to play shows. He saw me play very early on when I first moved to New York. I became friends with him and he had a huge impact on me. Several years ago, watching him DJ and spending time with him in clubs were really the only times I went out. He was always a guide for me when it came to nightlife in New York. So when he told me he was interested in opening a club, I said of course I’ll be involved, just to pay tribute to the full circle of having met him in this nightlife world, and then having it circle all the way back to where we’re now working on a space where we get to make the decisions.
How about you Larry, you came from Pianos right? Larry Golden: I used to work for Liquid Sky; it was my first job. I was Carlos Slinger’s assistant way back when, from there I bartended, and bar-backed my way up and somehow at 23, I became the manager of Fun. So I was the manager there and for a while which was really crazy and I’ve always been in love with it…
You’re a club guy, so it’s an easy transition for you. Larry: Yea, I mean I’ve been doing it for along time, I did Pianos.
Do these guys lean on you for your club experience? Are you the back of the house guy? Larry: I’ve done a lot. I’ve worn a lot of hats.
How do you do that, who’s handling the back of the house, or do you have managers? Larry: We have managers that have taken over that side of the business. So we all just kind of give suggestions at this point.
So let’s talk about the music, because that’s really what you guys are about. A lot of it is social, but your backbone is music. You’ve got a Jim Toth sound system over here. Jim and I go way back, and it’s unbelievable sound. I guess the most famous night you have is Q-Tip on Fridays. Tell me about the rest of the week. When does the club lead the music, and when does music lead the club? Larry: Well I think it comes back to your original question about whether we wanted to sell out to the money side of it, but I don’t think we technically would even know how to do that. It’s just not something that we’re from; we’re not really a part of that money, bottle-model scene so much. The music scene, if anything, we’ve actually had to tone it down. We would like to leave a lot of the stuff that we would be most into, but it’s really about trying to find that line where it does have some mass appeal but at the same time is good. Derek Ferguson: You tap into what’s happening musically within your particular culture and you’re going to have a popular party, so we want the place to represent what’s being played now, and also the things that set precedence for that music. Rich Medina is really good at that and that’s one of the reasons why that party is so successful. He’s playing this tapestry of music that goes back 40 years and linking it to the present. He’s linking it all together, so people will say, okay he’s playing hot music which came out in 1990 and then he’s going to play the hip hop version of that that came out in 2000; he’s bringing these records together. You’ve got to have a house, electronic, dance night, you’ve got to have the hipster rock side, the avant garde stuff and you’ve got to play hip hop in some capacity, because you just don’t have an urban club in my opinion if you don’t represent urban music through hip hop.
How is this recession thing affecting your crowd? Are you seeing the kids having a little bit of trouble paying their way in? Are you adjusting in anyway? Andrew: We haven’t really noticed anything like that…I mean the admission is $5 dollars, its cheap. I think we’ve been really fortunate because since we haven’t been catering or directing ourselves to one particular lifestyle, one particular crowd, one particular income bracket, or one type of person, we benefit from the cross-over.
Derek: If we were doing bottle-service only we’d be feeling it, but we’re not at all.
Larry: I think on the corporate party side, there is a lot of money December would have brought in. It would have been a lot more lucrative in the past years. I remember Fun when the dot COM thing was booming, everybody was making money, and it was insane. People were just throwing tons of money at things.
With this location at 96 Lafayette, you’re pretty close to the Wall Street area where the money used to be at least, and I would’ve thought you would do 25 or 30 days leading up until Christmas. Derek: That would have been sort of the art commerce thing, we would’ve had them come in earlier and get out before. Because it’s going to be a corporate crowd that’s not really going to mesh with our true crowd.
How are you doing with the community? Andrew: We’ve been so fortunate. We found a great location.
But it took you a lot of time to get legal over here? Andrew: We had one faction of opposition from the Tribeca Community Board, which was a little frustrating for us because we’re technically located in China Town, but they were assigned to us.
Larry: There were just worried about it being a typical cub and we were coming at it like we’re actually not a typical club and we care about the community. We care about what we’re doing, we’re offering something to the community and they probably had bad experiences, which a lot of clubs have in the community, but we’ve been fine. I don’t think we’ve had one complaint yet.
Andrew: This specific location is also very dead. It’s not a bustling street, at least not at night. After 5pm this whole area gets quiet, so we’re bringing business into the area. I just saw yesterday — and I was so excited about this — that a hot dog guy set up outside at night.
Derek: That to me, going back to my 20 years going to clubs whether its in London or outside the Tunnel, when you’ve got a guy set up and he’s got his pushcart and you’re smelling that dirty water dog, that’s the smell of success. Larry: And you know what, China Town itself embraced us. We got letters from a lot of business developers. They see what it does for the neighborhood because they’re a lot more realistic about the economics.
Derek: We got 5,000 signatures.
So where does this brand go from here? You have a brand now. A lot of guys brand and they go out to Vegas, this might not be a Vegas kind of thing. Derek: We’re skipping right over Vegas and going to Dubai, Dubai and Shanghai! But seriously…I’d say that the most natural way to use the brand is to expand into a record label and possibly into TV. Because lets just say that there’s a project we’re working on that I think would be exciting and would reflect the musical community of New York in way that hasn’t been done yet.
I look at this New Years’ Eve poster and you’ve got Lissy Trullie, Andrew W.K., the Misshapes, Gang Gang Dance etc. You’re giving way more to your fan base than is really necessary. Derek: That’s the idea here. When you go to a club you’re getting a DJ experience, when you go to a concert place you’re getting that experience — Webster Hall is maybe one of the few other places where you can have a band play and then you can have a party afterward. And that’s our business model, that’s what we want, so our New Year’s party reflects that. You’re going to have banging DJs downstairs the whole night, and you’re going to have great shows upstairs.
Larry: I think it’s the general philosophy and that’s what we’ve done with our great parties, we take chaos and just push it just to the brink where it’s just a little bit too crazy.
How are you marketing it? Do your regulars get first shot at it? Derek: There are people, for example, who follow Gang Gang religiously, so they’re already buying tickets for that.
But that’s a venue kind of attitude. Do you have people who come every night who will get taken care of? Derek: Yea, we’re recognizing our regulars… Larry: But what I really like about it is, people say how do we get in? And I say buy a ticket. That’s the great thing about so many of these events. Maybe there’s going to be some nights when its too packed, or the doors are being handled in a certain way, but a lot of the time you can have that nightlife experience just by buying a ticket. When I was growing up here I never got to get into any place, and just being able to buy a ticket, that was always what I liked.
How much is New Years’ Eve? Derek: Its $50 in advance, $65 at the door and we’re open until 8am. We are an egalitarian-minded place, so unless you’re extremely intoxicated or we’re at capacity, you’re pretty much getting in if you’re happy to pay. So when we talk about this place being “cool” — and I’m a little uncomfortable with that term – it’s just real, it’s just good music. Larry: That was the idea, if you stick with music as the focal point, music will change, crowds will change, but it’s not like you’re selling a scene. It’s not the hot spot for a certain crowd for a little while — as long as there are great bands and music here it’s good.