Downtown NYC Festival Adds New Acts

With just under a month to go till the Downtown NYC Festival kicks off on May 10, two-day passes are already sold out, but $75 one-day tickets are still on sale. The event spans great venues including Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Angel Orensanz, Pianos, Cake Shop, Tammany Hall, Element, Capitale, and Rockwood Music Hall—and features some of the hottest emerging bands.

New additions include Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) and hipster-fried R&B pioneer Autre Ne Veut, as well as Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, who is likely worth seeing for the name alone. They will join such performers as Purity Ring, Earl Sweatshirt, d’Eon, Sky Ferreira, Ducktails, Beach Fossils, and the endlessly funky Teengirl Fantasy.

The festival will be hitting some other cities with modified lineups, but you know they won’t be as good. Though who knows? Some magnificent crooner might come aboard in the Vegas leg of the tour.

Parties for Haiti

Clubland is answering the call and raising beaucoup bucks for those in dire need in Haiti. You can’t go anywhere without running into an event to raise funds. This catastrophe is not last week’s news. People are still dying and conditions are unimaginable. Almost every promoter or owner I’ve run into is planning something to help. I am looking to get something started, but everyone I turn to is wonderfully involved in something already, so I’ll just lay it out there for you.

In a few locations around town (5 East 16th street, 124 West 24th Street ), a couple in LA and at a larger facility in Scranton, Pennsylvania is an antiques, restoration and recovery company called Olde Good Things. They call themselves architecturologists. If an old train station or convention center comes down, they salvage the hardware– door knobs, hinges, lighting fixtures, furniture, doors and everything else, including the stuff that is nailed down. They are a great source for moldings, marble and iron gates. The designers around town use them as a source for these things and more. Go visit them you will spend a day rummaging through fascinating things. I use them. Serge Becker, Eric Goode do too—I mean everybody in design are regulars. It’s a semi-well kept secret source. Chances are if you see an old door handle at the entrance to a joint it came from them.

For many years, much of the profit Olde Good Things generates has gone to support two orphanages in Haiti. It seems to me they will be getting very busy, very soon. I think this is a good place to park some loot if you think you want to help victims of the earthquake, but are wary of the bureaucracy of charities. Buy something for the house or ask them how you can help. In over a decade dealing with these folks I have been awed by their dedication to helping the lost children of Haiti and feel they are a most worthy cause. Here is their latest blog entry:

Many Olde Good Things customers are already familiar with our work in the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Olde Good Things, a business entity, is owned and mainly operated by members of our church (see http://www.cbuhaiti.org). We’re running two orphanages with over 200 children and 60 Haitian workers and have been distributing food and supplies to thousands of needy people for over 30 years. Since this catastrophic earthquake we’ve received many emails and phone calls from customers stating their concerns and support for our people both American and Haitian working there. We want you all to know that everyone is well and accounted for and our houses only received very minor damage, truly God’s mercy towards us. In the days to come, we don’t know what will happen. Supplies and water are scarce and there will be many, many more children desperately needing help and a home. For these we plan to do all we can to help. We are among the very fortunate – so many to say the least, are far less fortunate. Tonight there are three major fundraising events that I think you should consider.

First Naeem Delbridge and Scott Buccheit have told me about a soiree at 1Oak. You are asked to join Gabriel Byrne, Terry George, Estelle, Emma Snowdon-Jones, Scott Buccheit, Nigel Barker, Amy Sacco, Anne Vincent, Ranjana Khan, Gillian Hearst, Phillip Bloch, Danielle Thur, Scott Sartiano, Bettina Prentice, Richie Akiva, Ronnie Madra, Jeffrey Jah, Thom Felicia and friends at the Rebuild Haiti relief fundraiser to benefit Concern Worldwide and The Edeyo Foundation. 9p,-11pm. $40 donation at the door. Celebrity DJ Evalicious. This is a buzz event and I will be in attendance.

Also tonight, my good friend Rachel Goldstein tells me about an event at Element from 7pm to 11. There will be special guests and a silent auction for the cause. On hand will be Kevin Powell, DJ Spooky, Laura Dawn, Annabella Sciorra, Marc Ecko, Marisa King-Redwood and April R. Silver. This HELP HAITI”event will split proceeds between two very worthy and reputable causes: Doctors Without Borders & The Lambi Fund of Haiti.

Last but not least, my favorite far away but not so far place, Brooklyn Bowl, will feature ?uestlove and Q-Tip DJing and Haitian themed dishes from Blue Ribbon this evening. Money will go to the Red Cross Haiti fund and Yele Haiti .

These are fabulous events and there are many, many more at venues across town. Nightlife and the people of New York are really pitching in and it’s encouraging to see what we can do if motivated.

Top 10 Friday Night Dance Parties

Guys may come from Mars, and women from Venus, but Friday night dance parties are universal lingo. From glittering warehouses to stealth doors at intimate lounges, these slick floors ache for some unbridled dancing debauchery.

Butter (NYC) – Friday night party Whipped is so fresh, most can’t believe it’s Butter. Resident hipster DJs Matt&Maia draw out big name fashion folks like Alexander Wang and the Ronsons and buddy up with special guest DJs like Interpol’s Paul Banks. Mixed clientele harbor a serious need to put on their dancing Miu Mius. ● Cielo (NYC) – New York’s dance addiction reigns supreme. Deep Space house heads maintain the sunken dance floor, which still attracts the pretty people looking to move something.

Avalon (LA) – Headliners and hipsters live harmoniously in this Hollywood dance palace. The multilevel playground draws fist pumpers, dance floor grinders, and A-listers. Timberlake, Timbaland … it doesn’t matter when you’re dancing ’til the sun comes up. ● Circle Bar (LA) – This toe-tapping Friday night hotspot is an LA singles favorite. A dark, circular pick-up spot, delicious for loud beats, dance floor writhing, riffs, and of course bringing someone home. ● Element (LA) – Bottle service and stellar sound system round out this public warehouse club with a private party rep. Handsome variety of the young n’ dumb prevail when it’s not a celeb-fest: Albas, Johanssons, Bartons, plus the men that worship them. ● Space (Miami) – Space often lures in big-time DJs like Danny Tenaglia, Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, and Nic Fanculli and is definitely not for dilettantes who prefer “lounges” and, um, “conversation.” Since Saturday’s party usually translates to a Monday hangover, it’s only natural this dance haven started a Friday night after hours. Not for the faint of heart, or feet. ● 1Oak (NYC) – Certainly “one of a kind,” Friday night starts off with a lot of stargazing and label watching. When the PYTs finally down enough Veuve, the dance floor goes off, becoming one glittering mass of movers and shakers. ●Bardot (LA) – The LA dance party scene is not complete without a collection of oh-so-elite patrons and at least one stealth door. Surprise guest musical performances and Audrey Hepburn look-alikes make this secret dance den a prime after hours joint. DJ Sweet P hosts the late night Friday, where the packed dance floor goes until 7am. ● LIV (Miami) -Drinks are impossibly strong, outfits are impossibly tight and tiny; impossible not to have a good, wild time. Friday night plays host to some heavy hitting DJs, and special performances by the likes of Kid Cudi — making it easier to party like a rock star. ● Tenjune (NYC) – While Tuesday night is the “hot” night to rubberneck, Friday attracts straight up dancers. Bottle models and dangerously cute co-eds are TJ’s coup; oblivious to anything but vodka tonics and thumping tunes. If you aren’t moving, grab a girl and grind lest you be pushed up against a wall. Posted in Nightlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DJ Rekha: Bhangra, Bollywood, and Brown

Bhangra, Bollywood & Brown isn’t a law firm. These are some of the key elements needed to understand one of the truly great and unique DJs this town. DJ Rekha Malhotra and S.O.B.’s are some of the best kept secrets in nightlife. Rekha’s basement bhangra party has been going strong for over a decade, and Larry Gold’s venue for almost three decades. They must be doing something right. It’s so strange that nightclubs like S.O.B.’s— and even joints like the Blue Note—aren’t noted when nightlife is talked about. Yet, these places have consistently provided great music and have been professionally run forever. Everybody’s always clamoring for a change. You really don’t have to go listen to jazz, although it has its moments, but bowling, bucking broncos and roof decks wear thin after awhile. Check out DJ Rekha. She’ll serve up some familiar, and mix in some strange, but it will all be good.

You’re wearing a Brown University t-shirt. Yeah it is, but I’m wearing it because I’m brown.

You’re a DJ who plays a really unique set.… My ideal set is what I call something from my bag of tricks. You know, I’m type cast and known for bhangra music which is a music that originally comes from India/Pakistan. It’s mostly been produced over the last twenty years in the UK. Now in the States, me and some of my other friends make original stuff…I do a party that I’ve been doing for twelve years at S.O.B.’s the first Thursday of the month called Basement Bhangra. But I also grew up in NYC, saw hip hop evolve. Got my dose of new wave from WLIR in Long island. So it all goes into the mix. Love hip hop, love Bollywood. So I play all of them.

Does house go in there? House does go in there. When I started DJ’ing, I bought a lot of house records.

I remember you were a house DJ, with a little twist. This twist is what we’re here for. What set you apart from the pack is that you’re proud to be Indian American. Absolutely.

Thus the Brown tee. Instead of just playing what everybody else is playing, you’re playing a music that has these ethnic influences mixed in. It’s a really interesting set, and you’ve done parties for me in the past. I think you’re a great DJ. Thank you. Your check’s in the mail.

So tell me the problems of sticking to your guns and being true to your school. Do some people want to change you? I think at this point, I don’t have that problem anymore. People know what they’re getting into. I think as a DJ, I can work in any situation and I’m mostly hired for what I know. I think early on, when I started out, definitely. There were definite problems and issues. Owners not realizing, sort of over-policing music policy. And it came from mainstream club owners, as well as people within my community that wanted to regulate music. The reason I started Basement Bhangra was because I had Indian promoters telling me not to play too much hip hop, which is just as problematic as a mainstream club owner telling me not to play that tribal shit, which I’ve gotten both sides.

Explain describing banghra as tribal… Anything Indian, or anything that they don’t know, that’s not familiar. So it comes from both sides. So even within my Indian community, I have people saying don’t play too much bhangra or Indian stuff ’cause that’ll attract cab drivers. So there’s a class issue with music. Clubs, there’s just a hot bed of politics and everything, and I think it all works itself out at the door and the dance floor. And the reason I started Basement was: it was a great opportunity to play mostly two forms of music that I really like that weren’t hot at that time. In 1997, when we started basement, we did not hear hip hop on mainstream radio. It was isolated to the cool black stations. It wasn’t on Z100 yet. And so that was the idea behind the party. So in terms of barriers to entry and all that, knock on formica, I think now the gates are okay. People know what I’m there for, and I don’t really have that. I think you definitely as a DJ tweak your set to your audience. Give them something they can relate to. Bring them on your side, play them something they know. You gotta bring them in. You gotta look at your crowd all the time. You can’t just take for granted what you know.

That’s exactly what I used to tell my DJs. As a club operator, I’ve never told a DJ not to play music or play a type of music. I hire a DJ, I generally know who I’m hiring, I let them do their thing. If I’m sitting there looking over their shoulders, they’re not going to be able to play. And I’ve never understood guys who did this. I’ve seen owners go into DJ booths, and I think it’s absolutely the worst thing in the world to do. Don’t hire them. If you can’t trust them, then they shouldn’t be in your booth.

Let’s talk about S.O.B.’s. Larry Gold has owned S.O.B.’s for, I don’t know how many…a hundred years. Almost near 30. 27 or 28 years.

When I talk about the great clubs, and I just did an article about the great clubs of new york, I forgot SOBS. And it was a mistake, because SOBs was one of the great clubs. It’s okay.

Just like Don Hills, underneath the radar, and some of these old school clubs that are still there, S.O.B.’s is there 30 years, it’s underneath the radar, and proud of it. It continues to push the envelope and play world beat music. And really cutting edge hip hop and neo soul. The soul village parties have been going on for a long time with different acts. They just did a show with drake. They have a series with Hot 97. They’re constantly breaking artists. That stuff also doesn’t get written about. They are known as a Brazilian club, which was the original intention. But it’s a really diverse musical power.

And Larry’s one of these guys, when you talk about the legends of nightclub…Larry’s old school and he happens to be one of the nice guys in the business. And he knows his music inside out.

You’ve been with him 12 years. In 12 years you go through lots of different changes in a party. Tell me the difference between a 1997 Basement Bhangra and today’s. ’97, it was a secret. It was small. It was mostly a lot of my friends who were artists, a lot more queer folks. People who were in the city.

When you say queer, do you mean gay? Yeah, gay. Gay and just activists, artists. I knew everyone personally in some way. And then over time, word got out to the larger community. And now we get people from all over. We get people that go to school, anywhere within a few hours away that drive down that are on bhangra teams. Bhangra itself has transformed in 12 years. And we get people who come in from out of town, who arrange their business trips around the party, and stuff like that. So that’s the difference. The original was definitely my inner circle of people, and people that I knew because I came out of an activist community. I use to do a lot of community work. And that was that community of people. And now you’ve got club kids, bankers, everything. And we also have, because of the rise of Indian culture in large, we have people who are curious about Indian culture that have seen the movies or are familiar with the sound that are also coming through that we didn’t have before.

I want to talk about the movie Slumdog?

Slumdog. Sure. Aziz Ansari, he’s on Parks and Recreation, he’s a comic, went to NYU. He says the funniest thing about Slumdog. He says, because he’s also South Asian, people come up to him and thank him for Slumdog, and he says: it’s great, ’cause he had absolutely nothing to do with the movie, and he wonders how white people feel everyday because they do so much shit.

Well, because of it, we’re suddenly aware of the slums of India and the problems they face. Have you seen an effect on you, or a need for your type of music, or more of a boost in Indian culture, as the result of an Academy Award for Best Picture? I mean, I feel like because I’m in it, I’ve seen this rise in Indian culture happen for the last ten years in so many ways. And this is definitely a watershed moment because this movie did win a bunch of academy awards. And it really shined a light on A.R. Rahman, the guy who produced the music. I mean sure, I definitely see a difference. But I feel like it’s part of a larger cultural movement that’s been happening, which even allows for it to happen, which allows for it to get places. And I think it’s because somebody like Danny Boyle made it, it doesn’t hurt. Even though they cast unknown actors, the director’s a known quantity, the music producer is a known quantity. Getting MIA in the soundtrack helps. The difference is I grew up in Long Island, and go to the mall. And I grew up where I had my second job ever. I’m at Abercrombie and Fitch, and I hear one of the songs from the movie, and I’m like this is so weird. I never thought in my lifetime I’d see that. I mean there have been other moments, and the thing about when you’re an outside community that sort of gets more involved in the American mainstream culture, it’s never one thing, it’s many things. There were moments that happened. In 2003, when the Jay-Z and Punjabi MC track broke on the radio…

An incredible track. …we thought, what the hell? The first time I heard it on Hot 97, I had a lump in my throat. I never thought I’d hear that. I mean, I’m the one that works in this thing and being on the front line and whatever, it’s so hard to break through, that moment was pretty significant to me. It was on mainstream radio, attached to a mainstream rapper, and it broke through. And even now, most hip hop DJs if you ask them, they have it in their bag. And we go out to a party and we get drunk, and we wanna hear a bhangra record, we’re like: “yo, can you play that song?”

Going back to that watershed moment, the music was universally accepted. It was just beautiful, great fun. Did it help you as a DJ who plays this fringe type music, did it make the audience more receptive or more broad? Where they become more familiar to them, or they would listen a little bit more to that part of your set? I ran that record. That record in particular I started playing in ’98 when it came out. I placed it in a Indian movie. An indie movie these guys… there’s a movie called AMERICAN DESI, which also had Kal Penn in it, ironically, who’s a second generation Indian actor who’s now working for Obama. It makes the conversation easier with people who are not familiar with the music. So, did it help me? It did help that I happened to be friends with Punjabi MC and brought him to NY brought him to New York years before the record came out.

So when are your parties? First Thursday of every month. And I do another party called Bollywood Disco.

Where’s Bollywood Disco? At the vault downstairs at Element. It’s more chill. Fourth Friday of every month.

Los Angeles: Top 5 Places to Show Off Your Moves

imageNow is the time on Sprockets when we dance.

1. Element (Hollywood) – Dress fly and Hollywood-esque, and prepare to wear out your feet: you’ll be waiting in line first. 2. Boulevard3 (Hollywood) – A huge dance space and an outdoor space to cool off make up for the ridiculous drink prices. 3. Temporary Spaces (Hollywood) – The theme changes on different nights, but the people are always fun and packing the dance floor.

4. Charlie O’s (Downtown) – Is it performance art, a mind game, or just the most chaotic club in LA? You decide. 5. Bar 107 (Downtown) – The bar is busy, but the dance floor in back is where the real action is, with a DJ hiding behind the naked lady painting.

New York: Top 5 Spots to Shake Something

imageYou’re old enough to dance the night away.

1. Baraza (East Village) – Dark and sexy and chockfull of Latin beats, sweet caipirinhas, and sticky sweat. 2. S.O.B.’s (Soho) – Latin beats and jazz, not to mention samba, hip-hop, reggae, freestyle, funk, and flamenco. Oh yeah, and basement bhangra. 3. Element (Lower East Side) – Former bank and Jasper Johns studio sheds strip club incarnation to host the glittery club kittens.

4. Love (Greenwich Village) – All you need. Small, dark, and handsome. 5. Mansion (Chelsea) – Elaborate Deco decking, candles, and crystal balls welcome back old Crobar hands.

Openings: Element Hotel, Lexington

imageIf you will excuse your author his incredulity, the very idea of massive corporations as the saviors of our precious existence is the stuff of, well, Orwell and Ballard. But then, cynicism is the stuff of Republicans, so we’ll settle on a happy (and healthy) medium. Did we mention that Starwood Hotels has just launched (this July) the nation’s first LEED-certified hotel chain in the posh Boston suburb of Lexington? The Element is not a simply nod to green consciousness, but a total and all encompassing eco experience, from the recycling bins to the water-efficient faucets to the energy efficient appliances.

The aesthetic, naturally, is all post-college Scandinavian Zen, with light-filled rooms, bright, open public spaces (including a snack and breakfast lounge), as well as pool and fitness areas — all to help you maintain that, um, unique chakra balance. A sense of community is cultivated with a free weekly barbecue in the garden, which I can only guess will resemble a Radiohead fanclub meeting. Neato.