Fashion Week Brings Alacran Mezcal, a Willyburg band, and the Cocktail Bodega

With every Tom, Dick, and Harry meeting up with every Betty, Veronica, and Sally to attend Fashion Week events in every club, bar, lounge, restaurant, or alley – the city is in a frenzy. Cabs are impossible to get, and fashion victims seeking out lattes have overrun my favorite coffee shops. I tried watching the Democratic convention for escapist purposes, as I decided long ago who I was voting for. My friend DJ Cassidy is DJing it. Now that’s a big gig. I saw him just a minute ago at Noah Tepperberg’s birthday bash and noticed that somehow his head can still fit into his trademark, seasonal boater (that’s a hat). The Democratic convention is some gig. I can’t complain, as my agency 4AM has me all over the place spewing out my brand of rock and roll. Tomorrow I will DJ at Empire Hotel Rooftop and next week at door-God/actor Wass Steven’s birthday at Avenue, and lots more. It’s so much fun.

They had me out at The Montauk Beach House for the Labor Day Weekend Monday pool party. I played classic surf music and end-of-summer fare while my friends sunbathed by the glorious pool. TMBH is wonderful. We stayed over and the rooms were luscious. I want back.

I attended the super hush-hush private performance by Gary Clark Jr. at The Electric Room. Nur Khan always delivers superb surprises for Fashion Week. Gary is a big deal and Nur was gushing all about him. I love The Electric Room and will attend again real soon for the super, hush-hush performance by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club which is coming up but I can’t tell you about. The Electric Room holds a couple hundred people, and seeing this kind of talent in such an intimate setting is amazing.

Obligations took me far away from the opening of Lil Charlie’s, the sweet spot underneath Ken & Cook. Artan and Karim gave me the $2-dollar tour last week and I was so impressed. They made the place more comfortable than its Travertine incarnation. It looks great and seems to be larger somehow than before. Little Charlie’s Clam Bar was for years the home of the locals of Little Italy. The gentrified neighborhood has lost its charms and has been replaced with high-end boutiques, salons, and restaurants. The use of the name in this context raised my eyebrow, but there isn’t anybody around anymore to understand why. So be it. I think the place is going to be a big hit and I’m going back next week.

I also missed the opening/friends and family of Cocktail Bodega on the corner of Stanton and Chrystie. This opening needs a lot of ink and I’m running out of room today, so I will revisit. I’ll just say it adds considerable light and charm to what was a very dark corner. That little area is becoming hot with The Box sill going strong, and Bantam and other venues developing their brands; I think we all will be spending more time nearby.

I will be at the Alacran Mezcal launch party at the Hotel Americano tonight. Alacran is all over Fashion Week and behind the events at The Out. In a very short time, Arty Dozortov and his team has established the Alacran brand. As avid readers know, I don’t drink…well, I do drink about twice a year, whenever I have sex, and nowadays I’ve forsaken the jamo for Alacran. It’s delicious.

Sunday I will check out Chris Anthony’s shindig at The Grand Victory. Chris was prominent in the nightlife world before he grew up. He has formed a small record label, Jump Ramp Records, and his first project is The Boogie Rock Boy’s, a Willyburg rock/blues/funk act. He has just wrapped their debut LP, a three-track album coming out in vinyl and digital, and this Sunday, in  live audio. The album release will be celebrated along with a couple of other noted local sounds…Delano Groove, Jawaad and Kiva, and DJ Prince Polo.  There’s going to be a BBQ and I’m going to be there. 

DJ Manero on His Art Project at the New Museum and How He Got His Name

We are always defending the ‘city that never sleeps.” The people who keep it awake, and the bedroom-community types who want it to turn in early and watch Leno, are always at odds. Nightlife supports hundreds of thousands of people, many of which are using their night careers to chase other dreams. There are the classic waitron types trying to be actors and the bartenders who paint up a storm when not swinging liquor. Roman Grandinetti, also known as DJ Manero, has deep club history and is now using all his skills to curate an art project described as Sound Graffiti.

"…the creator of CNNCTD+, Roman Grandinetti. In one month’s time he put together 100 influencers to create playbuttons for the New Museum store on May 1st, created a scavenger hunt series of SOUND GRAFFITI outlets around the city including the heart of the Fashion District and a wall on Kemare with Jason Woodside. This team has created a lot of content over the last month with connections to over 100 influencers including Pharrell Williams, Maria Cornejo, Cindy Sherman, Santigold and other icons like George Lois and other cool fun NY hits like Katz’s Deli and The Meatball Shop.”

On Tuesday, a private party at the New Museum will preview the public opening on the following day. They say the "goal of CNNCTD+100 is to showcase a cross-section of New York City culture that highlights the multidisciplinary connections of contemporary culture. Music inspires fashion, street art inspires fine art, youth inspires establishment."

It will be "Roman Grandinetti (a.k.a DJ Manero) and his team selected 100 heroes and creative leaders from various disciplines to participate in the project.

Participants: Mario Sorrenti, Maria Cornejo, Nanette Lepore, Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Pitt, Cindy Sherman, Pharrell Williams, Scott Campbell, Santigold and iconic NYC personalities and companies including Katz’s Deli, FourSquare, and Ricky Powell…. The complete list of participants won’t be revealed until the night of the event but includes dozens of big names and surprises…The public can buy tickets @ the new museum store online to come see  the show as well. There’s only 100 spots open to the public as well."

I caught up with Roman and asked him all about it:

What will people be seeing/hearing?
I think what people will see in the show is a wide range of talent and the vastness of our creative vision – we have chefs, models, DJs, producers, curators, photographers, fashion designers, creative geniuses, and we hand- selected a few people who we think are next.

Tell me about yourself. Include your journey through clubland.
I’m 25 years old and I’m a Brooklyn-born Italian. I started out promoting and selling tickets at around 13 for every teen night. Later, when I turned 18, I worked for Rob T and later Uriel – who I believe introduced us for the first time years ago. He let me pretty much run my own nights and put me at the door. My family decided it was not a good idea for me to go to school in Brooklyn anymore -and I got into High School of Art & Design. Going there changed my life. It opened my eyes to not only a whole new world, but it introduced me to a whole another world. I stopped promoting, got into the whole downtown thing – graffiti and sneakers.

I was one of the first employees at A Bathing Ape. I met every rapper you could imagine in the place. While I was there I started a sneaker event called Soledout NYC. I put three of them together from what I learned from promoting. The events did around 2,500 guests per event. The money gave me leverage to fully stop  promoting and kinda enjoy nightlife for myself. I started going to PM, Butter, Cain, Lotus all of them while being underage – haha. At that time I started to look into the DJ stuff but didn’t take the leap yet. At A Bathing Ape, Steve Rifkind walked in and changed everything. I started interning at Universal music, servicing records to DJs – which really got my gears turning to become a DJ. I was hired a month later. I worked in the marketing department with Akon, Wu-Tang, Asher Roth and had an opportunity to work with Marc Ecko and Swizz Beatz.

While I was there, Steve was a huge supporter of mine and helped me out a lot. I published my first magazine’ it was this 6×8 FREE pocket-sized magazine, dubbed connected – it had Swizz Beatz, 50 Cent, Pharoahe Monch, and Mark Ronson on the cover. I soon left Universal and worked on connected, which is now "cnnctd+”. I became very close to DJ Vitale and Sal Morale, who opened the door to the DJ world to me. They introduced me to the model promoting world. Vitale and Tommy Virtue taught me pretty much everything I know and made sure I knew what I was doing before I even played in a club. I worked with childhood friend Gezim for booking help and Uriel gave me the name "Manero” because everyone used to call me “Young Travolta” since I looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Also, I grew up in Bensonhurst/Bay Ridge and walked the same blocks he did in the movie.

So your DJ career took off…
DJing became my main source of income. Vitale continued to push me to get better at DJing. I truly feel he’s one of the most talented DJs in this city, and I would spend hours watching him and Sal. I’d listen to all of DJ Riz’s mixtapes, trying to develop my own style, which Vitale and another big help in my career (Mel Debarge) told me would come in time. I had the opportunity to play every venue in the city, was handed money to play a record, and played for countless celebs. Some of the celebs I was allowed to talk about and some I was never allowed to.

I tried the traveling thing and, for a short period of time, really was a career DJ. I was traveling weekly and ending up in rooms I would NEVER step foot in and it kinda made me see a clear vision of what I want to do and what the life of a traveling DJ is. So I started to save a bit, get a bit more into music production, and really focused on creating a career. I fine-tuned the gigs, did what is a right fit for me as a DJ / trying to mold myself. I bought an office/studio space in Chinatown. I started out just doing remixes and slowly looked for some interesting work to work on during the day to stay creative. Got cnnctd+ rolling again and my girl’s father introduced me to the owners of playbutton to maybe help out with some marketing stuff.

Since the day we met, I have done a collaboration with HBO and How to Make it in America, created one of the first interactive street murals on Kenmare between Bowery and Elizabeth (across from the recently-opened Ken & Cook), and now I’m producing a show of 100 influencers at the New Museum on May 1st. Thus far, I have Cindy Sherman, owners of The Meatball Shop, Mark Borthwick, The Fader, Mario Sorenti, Illesteva, Andre Sariva, Katz Deli, and Scott Campbell – all showcasing works alongside myself. My girlfriend Bibi Cornejo who is a major help and supporter of cnnctd and Sal Morale.

What’s the New Museum event going to be like?
The point of the show is built off of what NYC nightlife used to be – a collective group of influential people all in the same room at the same time, all looking for an interesting time/conversation. Hopefully everyone leaves inspired, creates an idea for something new, and everyone gets to meet some interesting people

NY’s Top Properties For Sale: Former Lucky Cheng’s & District 36

There’s lots going on behind the scenes as various parties "negotiate" for the old Lucky Cheng’s space; a deal is a deal only when it is a deal. At District 36, closed for a few months, other various parties are trying to obtain what probably is the best room that’s come available in quite a while. Owner/operator Damien Distasio told me that “it will take a real player with real money and a real vision to make the deal.” The bottom line is that District 36 is a recent multimillion dollar build-out, with all newish fixtures. Plumbing and electrical and permitting are all intact. A "real player" can do a relatively inexpensive redux and have a brand new space on the cheap. All the heavy lifting has already been done. The District 36 folks are aware of this and are looking to get paid. Interested parties hope the price will come down as creditors, including the landlord, gripe. But spaces this size in neighborhoods where neighbors are rare don’t come along often. Someone’s going to snatch it up. My sources tell me Mike Satsky has looked, and other players have as well. I was told the operators at the shuttered Mars 2112 were interested, but Damien says that’s news to him. I know of one other serious group, but they are bargain hunting content to wait for their price.

Over at Ken & Cook/ Lil Charlie’s, Karim Amatullah, who is a man who can always talk the talk, told me he is going to walk the walk. He’s out, and here’s what he had to say: "Let’s just say it wasn’t the right fit."

On the must to-do list is tonight’s birthday bash for the ever lovely Justine Delaney at the Electric Room. It’s part of her weekly Tuesday night affair there where, with partner Nick Mark, she spins under her DJ moniker Justine D. Justine is a winner.  She has always been a bellweather of what’s hip, and I won’t miss her celebration.  She taught me everything I know about being a DJ, but obviously she didn’t teach me everything she knows.  A big happy birthday shout-out to Justine.

New York Opening: Lil Charlie’s

Ken & Cook doubles down on its Travertine upgrade with a go at the basement. Formerly XIX, the new downstairs lounge is named Lil Charlie’s in honor of the clam bar that held down this corner from 1926 until aught-seven.

The interior represents the opposite end of the design spectrum from red tablecloths and chianti candleholders. Seventies-era glam rock provides inspiration for an elegant, intimate space. There’s plenty of brass, from the DJ booth and the bar to the shimmering chain ceilings. Copper mirror walls and recessed lighting keep things warm. A stray palm tree or two provide a hint of SoBe, a notion backed by the cocktail menu’s smart twists on mojitos and margaritas. Bites come from chef Richard Diamonte, who also mans the kitchen upstairs. As at Ken & Cook, he’s partnered with Artan Gjoni, of subMercer fame, and a fellow vet of Jean-Georges’ Mercer Kitchen. Wide black leather banquettes are just the thing for kicking back with a smooth pour. The overall effect is a lot more comfy than the last incarnation here, should you feel like sticking around a while.

Industry Insiders: Ken & Cook’s Richard Diamonte & Artan Gjoni

Both veterans of Jean Georges’ Mercer Kitchen, chef Richard Diamonte and managing partner Artan Gjoni merge talents at their new Nolita brasserie Ken & Cook, where Wagyu burgers and oysters rein amid the tin ceiling-exposed brick surroundings.

“We’ve created a restaurant that is casual, yet serious at the same time,” Diamonte says. “Coming from a fine dining background, we wanted to maintain our standards but mold them into a more accessible setting.” The accessibility of the atmosphere extends to the cuisine, which Diamonte describes as honest, fresh, uncomplicated, and accommodating.

Both men agree on their favorite menu item: the squid in a yogurt-chili-mint sauce. And with years of experience working and cooking in New York’s finest restaurants, they insist the greatest ingredient is quality. “Quality of your ingredients, quality of your food, and quality of management,” Diamonte says. “I believe you need all three to be successful.”

New York Openings: Pok Pok NY, Parish Hall, Ken & Cook

Pok Pok NY (Cobble Hill) – Portlandia export with drinkable vinegars, killer Thai wings.

Parish Hall (Williamsburg) – Egg peeps dedicate a whitewashed hall to Northeastern cuisine.

Ken & Cook (Nolita) – Breezy "industrial brasserie" rocking creative pastas, super-fresh raw bar.