This week was a return to the normal insanity of my routine. I went out to play, took meetings, and continued to get back on track after a holiday season that seems like months ago mentally, but only yesterday physically. My DJ gig at the opening of the Outlaw Group Art Show at White Box Gallery got severly raided by NYPD who must of thought there were real outlaws in there instead of the art and downtown-chic set. I was entertaining them with old and new-school swill while they were enjoying the visuals, when the boys in blue took exception to the good time. They did have some reasons to be un-cheerful as it was a little crowded and there were hundreds of people clamoring to get inside, but they seemed a little heavy-handed. Well, the art is still up, and there’s all sorts of new things going on over there everyday so check it out.
Around 9:30 p., on Friday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a modest line trickles into the fluorescent-lit entrance to see Ra Ra Riot. It’s a rather cute crowd of post-grads in bouclé jackets and tidy jeans—a far cry from the swarm of neon tank tops, striped button-ups, and gelled hair we passed at the neighboring Sea Thai Bistro just moments before. The block is alive, livelier, even, than the last show I had caught on the block a mere 4 months ago. And it’s not just the block; the whole drag is more diverse and overrun than what I had gotten used to. Punky girls still pout on street corners, and half of the neighborhood still looks as if they’re lost members of Belle & Sebastian, but for the most part, Williamsburg doesn’t discriminate. Before my partner in crime and I made it over to North 6th Street, we were lured away from an overly-crowded sidewalk by signs advertising frozen margs in Vera Cruz, a Mexican spot on Bedford. A few older, pot-bellied men sat at the bar alongside what seemed to be a sorority date function. When the food is good and the drinks are cold, the crowds don’t care who they’re sitting next to.
After fish tacos and fundito, we warmed up in the bar at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I usually get pretty annoyed when the bar is in a separate space as the show and I’m stuck making trips to the trough, so we talked the bartender into giving us Big Gulp-sized Jack and Cokes, with a price tag of just $16 a piece. By now the bar area was starting to look like the end of a successful college basement party, with boys and girls chatting in dark corners, and couples playing grab-ass as they sloppily bound up the stairs to the stage area. It’s obvious that Ra Ra Riot’s college following (the band formed while in school at Syracuse) followed them to New York this week. They had kicked off a four-night New York City run on Tuesday night, and were finishing it off at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight, to a crowd of both dedicated, and newly found fans.
Their set, which included offerings from both The Rhumb Line, and their newest album, The Orchard, had the polish of a seasoned pop-band. The lead singer, Wes Miles, has a natural stage presence. His vocals sound even better live than on tape. But beyond the mechanics of what made the show a good one — perfect pitch, entertaining banter, interesting instrument changes — what makes RRR a powerful live band is this inexplicable enthusiasm they exude. Sure, there were a lot of Syracuse alums in the crowd, but I can’t help but feel that every show I’ve seen them play feels a bit like a homecoming show. They’re free and relaxed, they experiment and get lost in the music by accident, a quality that was especially apparent during “Ghost Under Rocks,” after which Miles giddily commented on how great of a time he was having.
After the show, and the big gulps, we slipped into Cyn Lounge to unwind with a few $3 PBRs, but the mopey crowd’s low energy level didn’t mesh with our post-show glow.
Also on Friday: Further uptown at the Chatwal hotel, Vikram Chatwal and Jeffrey Jah hosted an “Impromptu Gathering” and rounded up pals like Lukas Haas, Josh Groban, Maxwell, and Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, with Paul Sevigny playing DJ.
Saturday Saturday was a night of surprises, thanks to two pop-up parties. Over at Cedar Lake Studios on W 26th Street, Details magazine hosted their hotly anticipated DETAILS @ Midnight, an event that gained popularity because no one knew what it was all about. The invite that was sent out had no incentive to attend, other than an air of mystery: the party location was not to be released until the night before, and the special surprise performer was to be kept a secret. Enough to make tongues wag, as you can imagine. In any case, it was Kid Cudi that did the surprising, and the rapper—who once played a BlackBook party for a sack of fast food burgers—ran through a selection of new tracks off his upcoming album.
While I’ve yet to catch wind of a secret, last minute pop-up party, here’s what looks good tonight.
Monday Parties to Crash ● It’s Liiiiiiiza! Liza Minelli plays Nur Khan’s Rose Bar Sessions, 6PM. ● Party at Libation for the First Annual Bloggers Soiree to Benefit Restore NYC at 7PM. 300+ leading bloggers in the area will be blogging about their “Brick by Brick” campaign, which aims to raise $50,000 to build a safe house for sex trafficked victims in the city. Ticketed Events ● Exploring the Arts 2010 Gala kicks off at Cipriani Wall Street at 6:30PM, with Tony Bennett performing, as well as Natalie Cole. Parties for the People ● M.I.A. plays Terminal 5 with Rye Rye (duh) at 7PM for $35. ● Regina Spektor plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 7PM for $35, with proceeds going to the Daniel Cho Benefit. ● For those who like cerebral parties, VLAK launches with a proper shin-dig at the St. Marks Poetry Project at 8PM. VLAK is an international curatorial project with a broad focus on contemporary poetics, art, film, philosophy, music, design, science, politics, performance, ecology, and new media. Bottoms up! ● Opening night gala of Metropolitan Opera’s “Das Rheingold” at Lincoln Center at 6:45PM. There’s also a free telecast into Times Square with seating for 2,000 (rain or shine). Hotspots ● The East Village’s White Noise is one of those awesome bars that closes its doors at 2AM, but if you’re already safely inside, you can party all night (well, until 4AM), which carries the connotation that anything goes. Pierre Stone and Ben Brunnemer DJ the Monday night “Fever” party: “that ol rock and roll and good people, no disco shit.” ● One of our all time favorites, Franco V, DJs along with Eli Dias at the Mondays @ Kenmare party.
So, the World Cup has started with a whimper—kickoff teams Mexico and South Africa tied—but that won’t deter fanatics of the Beautiful Game (a rare, international breed) from overloading on soccer in the coming weeks. Neither will the 6-hour time difference between here and Johannesburg. What’s to let a few hours (or your employment status) stop you from watching Côte d’Ivoire v Portugal! Germany v. Serbia! Here, we salute the bars that make it all possible. The following NYC watering holes will be open at ungodly hours (7:30am games, people!) for the next two weeks.
1. Amity Hall – This NYU favorite will be offering $25 bucket specials for native brews of the countries playing in each game.
2. Felix – Mesh with real die-hard European and South American fans, and get used to the slew of hot Brazilian girls and guys decked out in Capri pants and Pumas.
3. Nevada Smiths – Their slogan is “Where Football is religion,” and they are serious. There is almost always a line out the door and around the block for bigger games. Go early.
4. The Hill – This Murray Hill staple is usually kicking frat stars off their doormat at 7:30am. World Cup soccer allows them to open for business and invite ‘em back in. Also offering $3 Yingling and Bud Light specials.
5. Brinkleys – Opening at 7am to the public (even if you didn’t go to boarding school) and offering half-priced drinks to anyone that brings a passport from the same nation as a team playing. Also, come to meet your preppy friends for daily beer specials, $4 wells at happy hour, and $5 frozen cocktails.
6. Brass Monkey – Revving up the competition with a projector screen, a World Cup block party, and plenty of outdoor space for people who only like ‘American Football’.
7. Libation – Hosting 3 levels of futbol-crazed drunks in the Lower East Side and supplementing this fun with $3 Carlsberg specials.
8. Fiddlesticks – The best thing about this bar: they serve food. Good food. Start the day off right with a real meal and wash it down right with a brew.
What LES establishment is taking over the old Hope Lounge? It’s rumored that the new Williamsburg spot will sell food and charge a cover, so it could only be from the loins of a select few LES establishments. The management and venue name has yet to be announced, but I’d say Eater guessed right by calling out Libation, the Midtown-esque club and resto on Ludlow. I received a friend suggestion on Facebook today from Stephen C. Maly, a partner at Libation. He suggested I add someone named “Good Co.” Nope, not a website, or an organic movement or Gwyneth’s new GOOP– it’s a new bar under construction at the address of 10 Hope St. Yep, the old Hope Lounge locale. Here are some sneaky peeks of the early stages of Good Co. after the jump.
At the beginning of the aughts, scenesters were already chattering that the Lower East Side was dead. After decades of hosting immigrant cultures and earning a reputation as the neighborhood most likely to relieve you of your wallet, Max Fish be damned, its moment as an urban frontier for artists and cool kids, off the radar of tourists and the tragically unhip, ended quickly. It rapidly swarmed with high-end boutiques and expensive lounges and out of town guests directed there by a knowing concierge, while staples like Luna Lounge, Tonic and Collective Unconscious were forced out of the ‘hood they helped create.
Because the new offerings were targeted to a bland, wealthy audience dependent on the ‘00s boom economy, and unlikely to move into apartments the size of tenements, whatever the counter-tops were made of, it was predicted that customer traffic would eventually trickle down and high-rents would topple the new neighborhood order. Blogs like Eater pulled no punches when reporting on venues like The Blue Seats, whose initial customer “deal” was to offer NFL game-day seat reservations for $50 a piece – excluding the cost of drinks. (Despite being “Deathwatched,” Blue Seats is still open for business.) Back in 2006, I had an assignment to write a piece about the rumored closing of Ludlow Street’s split-level club Libation and what that meant for the neighborhood. It, too, is still open.
In fact, despite the financial and real estate markets having soured, business is still booming on the LES. Clothing boutiques abound in even greater numbers than they did five years ago. The pricey and unremarkable restaurant at the Hotel On Rivington, now called Levant East, seems to be humming along after several misfires. The weekend lines outside the overpriced, widely-reviled, tightly-packed rock club Fat Baby are long, and brimming with a bridge and tunnel crowd. There’s no shortage of acclaimed restaurants or $6 draft beers within arm’s reach of the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington. It’s hard to get weekend seating at beer havens Spitzer’s Corner or the Marshall Stack and just about impossible to spend less than $20 on two beers and an appetizer in either venue.
And, there’s so much more to come. At least two dozen nightlife venues have opened, or are about to open, in the hood this year, despite the recession. Apparently, flavorless gentrification can go on and on and on, a lesson we should have learned from the Meat Packing District.
The LES’s new hangouts include, The Doghouse, a cavernous dive bar that serves free hot dogs; Meatball Shop, self-explanatory; T-Poutine, dishing up the newly trendy Canadian confection involving fries, gravy and cheesecurds; Los Feliz, a three-story upscale taco and tequila bar; Thompson LES, a trendy hotel with a poolside lounge and a zero-star restaurant (hello, alumni sorority mixer!); Bia Garden, a mostly-hidden Vietnamese beer garden; an upcoming piano bar AND an upcoming karaoke lounge; and yet another unnamed, unlisted speakeasy far from the subway. I don’t intend to label any of these concepts as dreadful (Los Feliz and Bia Lounge seem to be well-regarded), but none of them seem particularly inventive, with their well-studied, one concept hook. Would you brag about any of those things to your out-of-town friends to justify your four-figure rent?
Of course, if you’re forced to hang on the LES, which inevitably, you will be, many of the spots that opened in the aughts, and especially the later aughts, aren’t so bad. If you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well enjoy a Banh Mi and a good cocktail. So if you do find yourself wandering south of Houston, east of Bowery, here’s a game plan that works. The LES is dead, long live the LES.
Eat lunch at An Choi. The entire menu is superb, and it’s a particularly suitable place to grab a lunchtime banh mi and beer — and if daytime drinking is not your thing, the Roasting Plant serves exceptional coffee mere steps away. Grab first date drinks at Allen & Delancey, which still runs an impressive bar even if the kitchen is infamously volatile. Get your snack fix at Mikey’s Burger, imminently opening in the old Rush Hour space, where Michael Huynh promises to offer clever Asian spinoffs of the American classic. Browse leather jackets at Orchard Street on Sundays, when pedestrians reclaim the street from vehicles and the storefront’s move their racks to road’s center. Drink one of the last cheap PBRs around at Welcome To The Johnsons, which hasn’t changed since you were last there in 2004. Find one of the first respectable LES sushi restaurants at Uo (mostly unmarked, above longtime resident 151 Bar). Eat fresh liquid-nitrogen-made ice cream — indeed, they make it right in front of you with KitchenAid Artisan mixers — at Lulu And Mooky’s. Get your dance party fix at 200 Orchard, once the hottest new neighborhood nightclub in 2007, for just over a month until it had licensing issues — it recently reopened, finally. You know exactly what you’re getting at Stuffed Artisan Cannolis (as a self-respecting Italian I can tell you that the regular cannolis are good, but the cannolis with unusual fillings, PB&J, pumpkin spice, are better). Finally, if you are nightlife royalty and you must do one thing that is late-night, exclusive, luxurious and satisfying, stop at The Eldridge. You will find a buzzworthy hotspot that delivers the goods — if you can get past the doorman
● After several DUIs and a most infamous head-butting assault, Kiefer Sutherland is still bar-hopping; he was seen out with his daughter Sarah Jude at LES bar Libation. No injuries were reported. [P6] ● Ben Affleck likes to joke that his kids are so cute, he wonders if they’re his — much to wife Jennifer Garner’s chagrin. [AllNewsWeb] ● If Robert Pattinson’s American accent sounds familiar, it’s because the British actor borrows from his favorite actors like James Dean and Jack Nicholson. [MyParkMag]
● Spencer Pratt has declined an invitation to fight Jason Wahler by saying that if he fought every “homophobic racist loser,” he would have no time to be “he most famous person in the world.” [OKMag] ● Brooke Shields regrets losing her virginity at 22, saying: “I had the public and this pressure, and I wish I had just gotten it over with in the beginning.” [US] ● Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are setting down roots in Melbourne so Katie can shoot her new film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. [News]