The Legendary Debbie Harry Will Host Dropout’s Fashion Week Party

A smart, sharp, beautiful, successful friend asked me where she could entertain her out-of-towners. Not knowing anything about these tourists I sent her a list of the A-List places. This list included joints as diverse as The Darby, Avenue, Provocateur, Electric Room, Le Bain, Le Baron, and W.i.P. There are of course many other choices and places closer to the edge but as I said they are strangers in a strange land and these felt safe to recommend. After describing each place in a couple of sentences they opted for W.i.P. W.i.P. is satisfying the needs of a downtown art/fashion/mixed crowd that had been forsaken for so long. Their Tuesday night soiree’ Dropout continues to service the Post Jackie 60 scene. Tomorrow night in honor of Fashion Week they are offering up the amazing Debbie Harry. I caught up with Dropout honcho and man-about-town Lyle Derek and asked him all about it.

What does it mean to you/Dropout to have Debbie host this Fashion Week party?
Debbie is in a class all on her own by her doing this show for us. It confirms yet again how cool she is. Debbie is giving back to New York nightlife culture. With some of these pop stars that pretend to care about the NY scene and the underdogs, Debbie put her money where her mouth is and she doesn’t have to keep proving anything to anyone. We all know some of these girls can sell out the Garden, but what is really cool and a real feat in my book is doing small club gigs and keeping NY alive and exciting. Since we announced Debbie’s show we have gotten hundreds of emails from people saying how much this means to them to get a chance to see one of their heroes in an intimate setting like this. She is the real deal – not only one of the best pop song writers, but one of the sweetest people in show business.

Debbie is a rock icon/star. How do you interact with her? How hard is it to be a friend without the cloud of celebrity?
Debbie and I met when I was in film school, while I was producing the documentary about the legendary ’90s nightclub SqueezeBox, and we have remained friends. She makes me feel totally comfortable because she is so human and so real. Her beauty is the only thing [that’s] a little spooky. I mean that face! She is even more stunning in the flesh!

How did the Dropout concept begin?
Dropout was an idea that my pal from Texas – filmmaker Jonathan Caouette – and famed Dutch actor Noah Valentyn had. We wanted a new party that celebrated live performance and what New York City was when we started it almost a couple years ago. We did it at Don Hill’s, and there was nothing like that going on. Noah Valentyn came up with the name and we all created a night from the heart. Jonathan’s new movie took him to France and then sadly Don passed away and Don’s closed. We were shocked when we discovered our little art party had captured the imagination of the city and of the club worlds as we got calls from six club owners to move it to a new venue.

How did end up at W.i.P.?
We held off for a bit as most club owners do not support parties like these and don’t see the big picture of what this could grow into. The only owners in town in my book that get that are Barry M. and Noah Tepperberg, but none of Noah’s clubs have stages and we couldn’t do the party without a stage. Barry wanted the party and said he would put a stage for our nights and we started back up at W.i.P a few months ago and it was the best move we made. It was our first time working with Barry, and he cares about NY nightlife the way we do, and after our first meeting we were sold. His new venue W.i.P. was one of the best; Noah Valentyn and I discovered and it being new and fresh and letting us have a stage was the right fit. Stu [Braunstein] was also someone we worked with in the past and he gives W.i.P. a sick gallery of artwork and that helped make Dropout the perfect venue, ’cause Don Hill’s was a hard place to replace with its stage and feel. Barry also gives us the resources to bring on our hosts from Don Hill’s: the cool Darian Darling, Kiss, and Tommy Hottpants, and some new ones like recent PS1 curator Tim Goossens, upcoming designer John Renaud, and cutting edge art producer Michelle Tillou. And one of the best club DJs in New York ever: Miss Guy! Guy is one of our close friends and gave us the idea for a mannequin DJ back at Don Hills when we started because we couldn’t afford a real DJ! It was our way of downsizing. So having Guy on board to DJ was key and all that helped the night in blowing up. New York is very excited about this party cause we are giving artists an outlet they didn’t have otherwise ,and there is a real scene and community happening like many folks haven’t seen in a decade. We get calls from bands everyday – well known and new young artists that want the chance to play in front of an audience that celebrates new music and risk-takers. Artists feel safe coming to play Dropout and that why it works so well.

Dropout is really growing and has already garnished a great reputation. There is a lot going on these days – mostly good in nightlife. Have we turned a corner? Is nightlife back?
I think we have for sure turned a corner for the better and this show with Debbie Harry on Tuesday, which will also feature guest DJ Nick Zinner and a debut music video for the Miss Guy album, out next month. It will go down in the books as a night that helped spark a true happening – the kind you only have in New York City!

Kelly Bruce’s Birthday Bash at Stash, My Birthday Next Tuesday at Avenue

A freak injury involving a work boot, an immovable object, and an unfortunate little toe has made this a slow news day. I blew off yesterday with pain pills and bandages, just mobilizing enough to DJ last night. I had a tumbly, tossy night of  medicated dreams and am coming at this late in the day. Normally, I’m up at 7am, but the painkillers convinced me my pillow was where my fortunes lie. Of course, they lied and my editor is going to hurt another toe or something.

I plan on limping over to Stash tonight for Kelly Bruce’s Massively Epic Birthday Bash. Kelly left Blackbook just a few days ago and I have been inconsolable since. Stash just got a fab mention in New York Magazine’s Design Hunting section …much thanks to Wendy Goodman. I will then pop into The Darby for a peek; they finally got their marquee up. It looks fabulous and makes the place look even more elegant. I’m a proud papa. Then it’s Provocatuer to be amazed. It never ceases to amaze me.

Nightlife is getting bigger and better, except sometimes when it gets smaller and chicer. Fashion week looms and everyone is getting ready to slam into the new season. Club operators are getting ready to unveil or, at least, have polished the silverware and brought out the good china. New spots like Le Baron will help define the night. XL will be a game-changer as well. Christina Visca is having a good old- fashioned grand opening tea. Be there this Sunday for the boys and girls who need a place of there own. It starts at 5pm and ends at 10pm so there are no "tomorrow’s a work day" excuses.

Of no significance at all is my birthday bash at Avenue this coming Tuesday. I will be older than the wind but still young at heart. I’ll DJ for a half an hour with pals DJ Sinatra and Todd Smolar. I will pop a couple bottles of Beau Joie Champagne and promise myself that this year I will offer no more teenage excuses. The people at Avenue, Lavo, Marquee, and  the great team at Tao Strategic Group are family to me and I am honored they are offering me a party. It’s what they do best. Shout out/ Happy Birthday to the Group’s Judy Tepperberg.

The Day After Birthday Bash: Feeling Like a Million Yen

My birthday bash at Avenue last night proved to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I am limp and drained and wonderful. I feel like a million yen.  Avenue asked me to throw my party there and I couldn’t say no. The good people at Avenue/ Tao Strategic Group have been work associates, friends, and family from the good old days when I was that maniacal Steve Lewis guy. They put up with me then and celebrated me yesterday… in style.

Wass Stevens in a leg and foot cast, making it look sharp, greeted my mixed bag of guests and let most of them in. We chatted at the front door, where he counted his blessings, which included surviving his terrible motorcycle accident, good doctors, and the love of a great woman, Lydia Rivera. Lydia slept on the hard hospital benches, waiting to be there when he woke up. They have been dating for a while now and I am so happy. I have known Lydia for years and she is simply wonderful. Guys like Wass need women who will be there when it counts. Lydia is a keeper.
 
Inside, I was greeted by a giant silver mylar "STEVE" balloon which made me laugh and smile and swell. The Avenue staff all were expecting me and all took the time to say hey, tell me they were there for me and mine. A flashing Mr. Lewis sign designated my tables. Their tech person had everything I needed for my DJ set. In short: it was perfect.
 
Every operator talks service and organization, but few come close. Sometimes they are organized but miss the most basic necessity for success. For me, that is the family or team spirit that is instilled in the entire organization. Noah Tepperberg sat next to me, introduced me to his fabulous friends, and told me that the staff was excited that I was having my party there; it showed. Andrew Goldberg was the point man. I asked him to sum up his approach to throwing a good party. He said, "We focus on passion, enthusiasm, and we strive to have the team concept which we hope will translate into a great guest experience."
 
The cake was amazing. They sent over some Artichoke Pizza (Noah is a partner). They delivered bottles with a fun, not forced demeanor. The honchos in the organization took the time to send me an email or text congratulating me and thanking me for doing my party there. My DJ set was 30 minutes of raw, hard rock. The equipment, booth, tech support and sound in general were perfect. Club God Danny A introduced me to Stella Keitel and told me about his new movie project. Promoters seeded tables near mine, to mingle some beautifuls in with my crew. They all paid respects. I felt…respected. This is the art and science of nightlife at its best. I chatted up Lulu Johnson about her new line and her famous mom who I have always loved. Dean Winters, now known to the world as "that Mayhem guy" came by and hugged and chatted and promised to meet up for dinner soon. Blasts from my distant past chatted up new friends. I went home all warm and fuzzy.
 
For one week in a row, Le Baron is the greatest club in New York, the world, the galaxy. I know they  will thrive and lead us to a better place and mindset. These guys are pros. The New York nightlife bubble keeps expanding with fabulous places opening up in every corner, catering to all sorts and situations. Players from everywhere and lifestyle are plotting for a bigger piece of this Big Apple pie. I go out almost every night and I observe a great deal of mediocrity making great deals of money. I think everybody in the game right now is doing well. This may change. As real players open up more and more new spots, the phonies will be left more alone. I walk into places and the staff is miserable, being treated like slaves by owners or operators who think thats how things work. It may work for a minute or two longer, but those that run a place like it’s an army will soon lose to those that run things like its a family.

Legendary Billy’s Antiques Closing This Weekend, Paris Fashion Week Begins

I’m so confused about the weather, and nowadays I’m at least six degrees of separation from Al Gore and have no chance of getting the truth, inconvenient or not. The sun is high in the sky but the temperature remains low, and I want the winter that really never was to turn into a spring of boundless possibilities. I don’t know what to wear and everyone I know is in Paris for Fashion Week, trying to find out for themselves. I guess it’s the worst time to go to Le Bain or Le Baron with all those Frenchies having gone home for the spectacle – or maybe not. Le Baron has The Virgins tonight and that might be fun.

These Fashion Weeks in those fashionable cities abroad take all the broads (er, models) for work and/or play and all the playboy types and such that follow them. It really strains the bottom line of joints that depend on the jet-set crowd for bottle bucks. It does mark the end of the winter doldrums and the spring will bring all the snowbirds back from their warm retreats. I am restless for the new season. Yesterday I spied crocus and other tough little buds rearing their little heads…ready, like me, for action.
 
Every spring needs a cleaning, but I’m sad to report that dear friend Billy LeRoy is cleaning up and out of his tent that has been the home of Billy’s Antiques on Houston Street for 30 years. There will be a couple of days of events to mark the end of an era of a place that often looked like a comedy of errors, but more than often  was a place that dreams were made of. Over a couple or few decades, I have purchased tables and chairs, kitchen sinks, and mirrors for clubs I have been designing. It was at Billy’s that I bought that life-size Muhammad Ali bronze statue that stands in front of Snap Sports Bar. I would poke around Billy’s on most warm afternoons, chatting with friends that popped by for a chat. Regulars like Clayton Patterson, Paul SevignyArthur Weinstein, and Anthony Haden-Guest would converse and bask in the unreal realness of it all. The place always seemed "semi-legal" – and that described many of the regulars anyway. If you needed a trunk or a stool, Billy would have a nice one. If you needed to know what was happening with a neighborhood storefront or missing friend, Billy had the scoop. The neighborhood has changed and Billy’s old clientele looking for a moderately-used end table or obscure oil painting for their tenement apartment have been replaced with yuppie scum buying their furniture brand new at Raymour & Flanigan. Many of the old characters have faded into the past and, with the closing of Billy’s, Nolita loses much of its character. This Friday, March 9th at 7pm until Saturday, March 10th at 7pm, the Billy’s crew will say farewell.
 
Lorraine Leckie, always the class of the place, will perform. There will be "eulogies, art, poetry, and film" and many other performances. It might go late. On Saturday afternoon, they’ll take down the tent. "In a gothic burial ceremony, the flesh and bones of Billy’s will be placed in a coffin that will remain on display until demolition day. In the week leading up to the event, our landlord, Tony Goldman, will invite renowned artist and visual poet RETNA to paint the legendary Bowery and Houston mural. In the absence of the tent, a tradition of thoughtful creativity will endure."

BlackBook Tracks #12: Acts To See at Fashion’s Night Out NYC

It’s Fashion’s Night Out, which for some people, might be the best day of the year (just call it Treat Yo Self 2012). Special deals, limited edition gear, and complimentary drinks and snacks abound. If you’re in NYC, here are some options for music to see around town.

Theophilus London – “Last Name London”

Check out the ever-stylish rapper/Cole Haan collaborator at the Gramercy Park Hotel.

 

Azealia Banks – “1991”

If you weren’t lucky enough to catch her at Spin’s Fashion Week party last night, Yung Rapunxel will be appearing at the MAC store in Soho, presumably to support their new lipstick collaboration.

 

Icona Pop – “Sun Goes Down”

Rising Swedish duo Icona Pop will be bringing their non-stop energy to no less than four appearances tonight. They’ll be DJing at Helmut Lang in Soho, AllSaints in the Meatpacking District, and Mister H at the Mondrian Soho, as well as fitting in a live performance for Urban Outfitters.

 

Poolside – “Only Everything”

Dreams take flight in the new video for Poolside’s single “Only Everything,” their latest slice of chilled-out disco. Catch up on BlackBook’s Q&A with the LA-based duo and check them out tonight at 8 at Moods of Norway in Soho.

 

St. Vincent – “Champagne Year”

Sweet-voiced songwriter St. Vincent always has great style, so it’s no surprise that Rag & Bone are bringing her to their party. Here’s her song “Champagne Year” for a champagne night.

 

Frankie Rose – “Know Me”

The veteran member of Vivian Girls/Dum Dum Girls will take her darker solo project to Theory in the Meatpacking District.

 

Chairlift – “I Belong In Your Arms” (Japanese Version)

Synth-pop darlings Chairlift will be performing at Prada’s party in Soho. This is also sure to be a popular one.

 

Haim – “Forever”

LA rockers Haim have been working their way up for years, and they’re now undeniably buzzworthy. They’ll be playing at Topshop tonight.

 

Wild Belle – “Keep You”

Sibling duo Wild Belle will be bringing their dark pop sound to Mulberry in Soho. If you don’t get to see them tonight, you can always try to see their session at Le Baron next week.

 

POP ETC – “Live It Up”

The reinvented Morning Benders will be lending their weirdo R&B vibes to Morgane Le Fay’s event in Soho.

Is Paloma Faith the UK’s Answer to Lady Gaga?

Paloma Faith played Le Baron last night. She’s an English chanteuse—chant-OOZE, the intern who studied French corrects me—who is being positioned as the new Lady Gaga. Yesterday afternoon, since I don’t do anything after 7:30pm, I went to see Ms. Faith perform at the Soho House. There were a bunch of music editors there and we were served chicken and salmon beforehand. Then we were led into a screening room and shown the music video below on a big screen: 

The video is pretty bombastic. It also makes absolutely no sense. Though I liked the song, and continue to like it, the video disinclined me to Ms. Faith. Or maybe more accurately, it made me resent whosoever decided to position her as the next Lady Gaga. After the video, Ms. Faith emerged out of a side door. She was wearing an amazing up-do and a cable knit gown. She had two back-up singers including one called Baby Sol who was amazing looking and sounding. There was a pianist. Without speaking, Ms. Faith launched into her song  "30 Minute Love Affair." 

I still didn’t love her at this point though my positiion was slowly melting. After the song—which she later explained was about the time she fell in love with a busker when she was 14—she began to talk. She has a very strong and not at all posh English accent. She also has a dorky laugh. It’s a loud guffaw and it’s  totally adorable. When she let out the laugh, which was clearly happening because she was nervous to be shown off to a room of music editors, it made me really really like her. Regardless of the trappings and her positioning, Ms. Faith is a sweet girl with a tremendous voice. I think it is misstep to gird her in the trappings of an outré performance artist since it places this overly weighty mantle on her that I don’t think she can, or should have to, bear. It also sets her up in opposition to Ms. Germanotta which is a strategic error. (Granted, who knows when Gaga will ever release new music.)

Ms. Faith played a few songs, including "Picking Up The Pieces," which she explained she sang because she wanted to prove she could actually sing it (she could). Oh, before I forget! Watch this: 

Anyway, back to the important stuff. Her album, Fall to Grace, is huge in the UK and will be released sometime in the States by Epic, who just signed her. That is, according to her, "up to us." Us in this case being the assembled music editors. She sang a few more of her songs. Among them the most musically strong would be a track called "Just Be," though she adorably and incoherently explained it as a song about being in a long term relationship. "I’ve never been in one," she said, "but I imagine this is what it’s like."  Then she laughed and it was great.

After her set, she stood in the front of the room "in case we wanted to talk to her." I couldn’t think of anything to say so I didn’t really. I also have no idea whether she’ll be "huge" or if this is something I’ll tell my kids about and they’ll think I was cool. Chances are, regardless, they’ll never think I"m very cool.  Musically, Ms. Faith has the talent to make it big here. Though her material, at times, fails her and the marketing approach around her—high fashion, weird, lots of allusions—does not serve her, she’s the real deal. She’s not Adele. She’s not Gaga. She’s just herself.  So instead of watching the video or buying the hype, listen to the album with your eyes closed. And if you ever get a chance to hear her laugh, go unto her and hear it. 

Is Tropical Rock Le Baron Encore! Session

London band Is Tropical is the latest act to take the stage at New York’s Le Baron for Encore! Sessions. In this video from the exclusive Chinatown club, watch the trio play "Lies," "Orange," and "Seasick Mutiny" from their debut album Native To. Signed to Parisian taste-making label Kitsuné, Is Tropical deliver sun-drenched electro-rock ready for rooftop parties, real or imaginary.

Simon Milner (vocals/guitar/synths), Gary Barber (guitars/synths/vocals), and Dom Apa (drums) also sit down to talk London hangout spots, getting into the dance scene, and dream festival line-ups.

Native Tois out now on Kitsuné/Cooperative. Is Tropical perform tonight with Crystal Fighters at the Echoplex in Los Angeles.

EXCLUSIVE: New Songs By The Virgins

New York’s The Virgins haven’t released an album since their 2008 self-titled debut, but the group is starting to kick around new tracks in advance of a new record rumored to be coming out this year.

On March 5, the group debuted “Flowers,” “Blue Rose Tattoo” and “Slave To You,” three as-yet unrecorded songs, at The Encore! Sessions at Le Baron, the Parisian import nightclub in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Presented by < FORWAR:D > and Absolut, the evening was captured on video and we’re giving you a first look at the new songs.

The band themselves were thrilled to try out new songs before they had the chance to lay them down in the studio. “It’s cool recording a live show especially when you haven’t made a record of the songs—so thanks to Encore Sessions for having us,” the group said to BlackBook in an exclusive statement

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Watch Theophilus London Live at Le Baron

Back in February, the French nightclub kingpin André Saraiva opened an outpost of his Parisian hotspot Le Baron in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Predictably, celebrity revelers showed up in droves to populate the club and no less than New York’s own after-dark impresario Serge Becker told the New York Times that Le Baron had his stamp of approval, saying, “You just can’t buy your way into the place. It’s about if you’re cool or not.”

As of today, it’s more about whether or not you’re friends with Le Baron on Facebook.

The nightclub, in conjunction with Absolut vodka, has launched the Encore! Live Series, which brings live music to the club and then broadcasts the performances via the series’ YouTube Channel and Facebook page

The first performance in the series was released today and features the song stylings of New York’s own hip-hop hunk du jour, Theophilus London, who just so happened to have performed last night at a sold-out album release party for Santigold

Check out the video below and stay tuned for upcoming performances—it’s a hell of a lot easier than making it past the club’s velvet ropes.