The Brants Experience A Cavernous Yawp

“It’s a mind-journey on a neuron-bus, and we’re tunneling right into the gushy swamp of your psyche!” howled Prebius Cocklore, center, self-proclaimed Lord of the Incontinent Tumult. The occasion is the opening night of A Cavernous Yawp, the new Punchdrunk-produced piece of interactive theater loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycle. “TBH feeling totes out of my element,” Harry texted shortly after arriving (Yawp participants are not allowed to speak or “gesture in an evocative manner” during the evening-length production). “Just got brought into basement on an elevator sculpted to look like massive pair of descending testicles WTF.”

The production unfurled in the cavernous, recently redeveloped building formerly occupied by leather-daddy emporium/slam-poetry cafe The Silent Duck. V.I.P. participants were treated to a variety of clandestine, choreographed experiences, including a petroleum jelly Slip-and-Slide and the Slapping Chamber, an enigmatic audience favorite. “My favorite scene was definitely the Sad & Fecal Bath Of Henry’s Cousin,” Harry offered. “It was so raw, so real, and the Bjork soundtrack just really completed it.”

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“When I was maybe 7 or 8, Patriarch Peter I held a private party at our Aspen glasshouse,” Peter II said after the performance. “The kids snuck out to watch. You know the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan? Imagine that, but replace all the bullets with like, spurts of bodily fluids. And then add some midgets on unicycles and a dozen ski instructors rotating on a Lazy Susan. What I mean is that Yawp really brought me back to that pivotal childhood experience, except in this case all the waiters were trying to fuck me.”

Exclusive: Sink Into ‘Play It As It Lays,’ the New Album From a place both wonderful and strange

The pleasure of music lies in its ability to give as an immersive experience, to engulf our bodies entirely in sound, and allow us to luxuriate in the grand feeling of it all. Our emotional reactors prick themselves up, we close our eyes, and allow ourselves to be transported into another world, a world of our own—one that can act as a cloak to the outside world and protect our solipsistic bubble for the most fulfilling listening experience. And for Russ Marshalek, his latest musical endeavor a place both wonderful and strange takes his dark and cinematically-minded sonic affinities to new depths.

As the follow-up to his last musical project Silent Drape Runners—a Twin Peaks-inspired band whose live performances garnered much acclaim—a place both wonderful and strange again plays off that haunting and heartbreaking Lynchian world of psychological darkness to envelop your senses. Produced entirely by Marshalek—save  two tracks which were mastered by Long Island-based rapper/producer Lyle Horowitz of Blahzè Misfits—the new album Play It As It Lays also features longtime friend, collaborator, and vocalist GHOST COP (Lucy Swope), who co-wrote the first single.

Speaking to Play It As It Lays, Marshalek expressed that the album is, “ultimately about suffocation, drowning, and release, and an attempt to push myself away from the simpler production techniques I used in my old band.” With chilly electro beats that sink into your bones, make your skin tingle, and haunt your dreams, it’s the perfect cold weather album to enjoy in the dark—whether you’re curled up under the covers with a whiskey or wander down vacant streets in the moonlight.

And today, just before the album release show at Sleep No More this evening, we have the exclusive stream of the album for you to enjoy. Black the lights, take a listen, and fall into a place both wonderful and strange.

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The next release will be an EP titled New Jack Witch—featuring all new Jack Swing songs with a retro-futuristic concept, inspired by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and Michael Jackson’s Scream.

A Lesson in Wedding Planning, Courtesy of the Campari Party at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

When people tell me they’re getting married, I have only one piece of advice to offer, a simple rule that will ensure the event is memorable for all the right reasons: No booze before the I do’s. By which I mean, don’t have an open bar until the vows are over. Passed hors d’oeuvres, soft drinks, sure. But give your guests cocktails and they’ll be talking through the vows, laughing and yammering on as you profess your love to your future spouse. You will hear them, and you will hate them for the rest of your life. I’ve seen it happen. "Do you take this woman … HYAW! HYAW! HYAW! … To have and to hold … OH MY GAWD LOOK AT THE FLOWERS … In sickness and in … LOOK WHO SYLVIA CAME WITH … until death do you … DID YOU GET A GOOD PARKING SPOT?" It’s terrible. Everything else about a wedding will fall into place if you keep the bar closed until you’re officially married. Anybody who didn’t already know  was given a taste of what happens when you ignore this rule last night at Manhattan’s Gallow Green, where Italian aperitif maker Campari hosted a faux-wedding between historical figures Davide Campari and Lina Cavalieri as part of the ongoing Manhattan Cocktail Classic.

If it weren’t for the mega-watt PA system at Gallow Green–a super-cool spot designed like an old railway station normally used for the red hot Sleep No More–I wouldn’t have heard a thing officiant (and noted bartender and author) Gaz Regan said. But this was an extreme case. The room was packed thanks to that Googa Mooga-killing rain shower, which forced the event from the roof to an indoor space below it, and the cocktails were flowing like mad from the start.

And these were serious cocktails prepared by serious bartenders. There was Theo Lieberman of Milk & Honey, Lauren Schell of Little Branch and Middle Branch, and Leo Robitschek of the NoMad, among others. I made a point to sample almost all of them, my favorite being Schell’s Parrot’s Grog (a labor-intensive drink involving Campari, rum, and some other stuff) before wandering over to the stage as the bride was being escorted to the altar.

It was quite a theatrical event, and even though I had to strain to hear the vows over the chirping women and bellowing men at the various bars, it felt like a real wedding. The story, which may or may not be apocryphal, goes that Davide, Campari-creator Gaspare Campari’s youngest son, fell in love with opera diva Lina Cavalieri and followed her across Europe to profess his feelings.

I was wondering if the two were metaphors, Davide represending Campari, of course, and Lina representing the other ingredients in a negroni, gin and sweet vermouth. Or if Campari and soda with lime could stand in for the ultimate three-way. But in this case, the backstory was clear enough. Good old fashioned Italian love. 

And I do love that Campari. Always have. It’s the classic Italian liqueur whose bright red color belies its bitterness (and has always had gorgeous advertisements). There’s something enticing about that bite, a refreshment beyond anything a sweet drink could offer. Campari and soda with lime is the perfect cocktail for a beachside bar or sidewalk cafe, preferable somewhere in Europe, with matching Campari umbrellas.

What I didn’t know is just how mixable Campari is in other cocktails. It adds some spine to cocktails that would never stand straight without it, even those that embody the trend of lighter, dryer drinks that’s supposedly going on now. It gives cocktails maturity, refinement, and class without being overbearing about it. 

And so I sipped my Parrot’s Grog and felt happy for the gorgeous young couple as they said their I do’s, seemingly oblivious to the unceasing din in the room, which was only partially softened by an irritated chorus of SHHHHHHHHHH’s. Drunk people won’t shut up for anything. Good thing this event was all in fun. And it was fun: great drinks from notable bartenders, cool music from DJ Kiss, a fascinating space, and a smattering of celebrities (I’m told Chrissy Teigen was there). 

I left before the mad rush to the terrifying, dark, creaky elevators, savoring the wonderfully bitter flavor of the Campari during my subway ride back to Brooklyn. Did the assembled crowd take away the same wedding-planning lesson that I did? I doubt it. The SHHHHHHHH! contingent already knew it, and the squawkers didn’t notice a thing.

Well, if you’ve got to serve something before your big moment, Campari’s a good choice, light enough for people to keep their wits about them, dry enough to sip slowly without guzzling. So, when’s the next fake wedding? I’ll be there. 

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Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listing for Gallow Green; Offical Campari site; Official Manhattan Cocktail Classic site; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter

I Saw ‘Sleep No More’ Again Last Night But Didn’t See Any Naked People

I went to Sleep No More last night for the second time. If you aren’t aware of the immersive, interactive theater experience, don’t feel bad: plenty of people I’ve talked to in the last few months seem to be unaware of the production, despite the show’s popularity in New York since it opened in March 2011. Taking elements from Macbeth, Rebecca, Hitchcock, and Kubrick (just to name a few), the show is up to three hours of wandering around in the darkened multi-level McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, where bloodied actors run, dance, and fight accompanied to a blaring, dramatic score. And sometimes they get naked, too! But I wouldn’t know anything about that, because despite my best efforts, I seem to have missed out on all the fun parts.

Here’s what I saw last night: a pregnant woman being thrown against a wall by an angry man in a tuxedo, a hot guy lip-syncing to a cover of Peggy Lee’s "Is That All There Is," Macbeth and Lady Macbeth fighting in loud gibberish in a room full of empty drawers, the aforementioned pregnant woman taking off and on her housecoat (a scene I saw twice—the sequence of events happens multiple times so that the audience members can see the multiple storylines—because I happened to be exploring the woman’s bedroom right before she and a crowd of my fellow masked theatergoers trapped me in the corner of the room during the second instance of the scene), and a severe looking maid forcing the pregnant woman with a glass of cloudy water. Oh, and some ballroom dancing. That was kinda fun! 

Afterward, I asked my friends who came with me (from whom I was immediately separated, as the show encourages solo experiences rather than tagging along with loved ones through the dark) what they saw. My boyfriend saw the famous orgy scene not once but twice, while our other friend complained that he mostly saw a bunch of dudes sitting around and playing cards or doing paperwork. (There are, I must admit, some really dull moments, and because you can’t check your cell phone for the time, the three hours start to feel like five.) While I missed two women breast-feeding a goat or the full-frontal male nudity, I did happen to see a nip-slip when a woman in a low-cut dress started writhing on a dilapidated bar while another woman in a red dress tossed water on her. (No one told me that there were some Flashdance references there.)

So it’s an unpopular opinion, I think, but I must admit that my second time at Sleep No More was kind of a bust, and while the production as a whole is pretty fucking amazing considering the design and choreography, the chances that you have any personal experiences with the actors (or see any dicks) are slim and random, leaving it feeling rather like a pretentious haunted house without the frights. I know plenty of people who have gone back multiple times, but the current price of admission ($95, which is up twenty bucks from when I saw it last year) leave me feeling like it’s probably not worth a third visit. But I still recommend it for the experience. And hey, Scores and The Eagle (depending on your gender preference) are a block away if you’re unsatisfied with the nudity at Sleep No More.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Happy Halloween. Now Eat and Drink Up!

No matter if you are a zombie, a binder full of women, some Marvel superhero, or a sexy what-have-you, there is no excuse not to enjoy eating and partaking in a tipple or eight during this spirit-filled holiday. We have already told you were to party, and Steve Lewis has intel on how he will spend his Halloween; now, here are some special snacks and drinks full of gore(geous) boo(ze).

First up, Richard Sandoval celebrates the dead with an all-night Halloween happy hour at his restaurant Zengo, which includes $8 cocktails, $5 small plates, and on the 31st if you wear a costume, you get a complimentary Witch’s Eye Cocktail. His midtown restaurant Pampano also gets down with the spirits, and from October 26 until November 1, you can try his Day of the Dead specials like the Chicken Tamale, Croquetas de Camote, and raise your own demons with the Flor de Muertos Margarita. Plus, on Halloween, they have $6 margaritas, wine, and mojiotos from 5pm to close. 

There is no time like the present to attend Sleep No More, the eerie, spirit-filled, interactive-play by Punchdrunk. What makes this Sleep No More performance even more enticing is the Carnival des Corbeaux, where they have added a circus bent to the festivities. Plus, starting tonight until the 31st, they have a “Yelloween” after party featuring Veuve Clicquot, an ancient and honorable champagne to go with what one day may be a classic performance. 

Starting Saturday, if you howl like a wolf at Edi & the Wolf, they will reward you with the bright red Wolf’s Blood cocktail, which is made with rye whiskey, Italian vermouth, blood orange liqueur and bitters. You can also enjoy “Tequilaween,” at Barrio 47. Here, feast on blood sausage, cow heart skewers, and sip their special Bloody Punch. DJs spin this Friday, Saturday and on the 31st. On Halloween alone, you can head to Beaumarchais for their epic party celebrating their namesake, author Pierre Beaumarchais, who wrote The Barber of Seville. Hence, they have The Demon Barber of Meatpacking feast featuring Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies and bloody drinks. 

Scared? You should be. If you managed to do all of this you will surly be one of the zombies stumbling to work on November 1, the Day of the Dead. Not that that should stop you.

Sleep No More Moves Up to the Roof With Gallow Green

By now, if you haven’t heard of Sleep No More, a macabre, interactive version of Macbeth by the British theatrical group Punchdrunk, you are probably living under a rock. But while many of the mysteries of the show have been revealed via blogs and Yelp, the folks behind the performance keep adding new bits.

Their most recent addition is Gallow Green, a rooftop space above the masked madness below. Right now, the airy bar is in previews, so forgive them if the older lady in white stumbles, both on her words and the uneven terrine—it’s still 100 percent worth checking out. First, it’s on a roof, which always makes things more exciting, especially at sunset after a heavy rainstorm. Luckily, even if it rains, the majority of the space is sheltered in airy tarps. On one end they have a glorious old train car, gutted and rusted with delicate lace curtains hanging in the windows and a long, wooden table in the center. The rest of Gallow Green is a mesh of tables situated around pentagonal structure with rows of fresh herbs growing and white clad waiters running around. The whole thing brings to mind a fairy tale or some Shakespearian sonnet, perhaps it’s an urban version of Midsummer’s Night Dream?

Now, as for the acting part: like Sleep No More, there is a vague plot to Gallow Green, as well as an ominous elevator. This one is named Miranda, and the groans and squeaks that emanate from her make you wonder if the noises are for real or a soundtrack hidden in the paneling. Once you arrive upstairs, a hostess running the “fresh” flower stall (ask her for a stem, she will let you have it) greets you and leads you upstairs. We were graciously seated and poured over the menu of punches like the Sleep Bowmore Punch (made with Madeira wine, Bowmore single-malt whisky, nutmeg, and orange Curacao), which were created by cocktail expert David Wondrich. They also have a nice house cocktail list with appropriately themed names like Damned Spot (with Famous Grouse whisky, limes, Fentiman’s ginger beer, and a “spot” of Petchaud’s bitters) and Third Degree (with gin, dry vermouth, absinthe, and orange bitters). For food, the plates are small but succulent and run from three to seventeen dollars. We loved the warm pretzels with spicy mustard, Scotch quail eggs, the fun jar of summer pickles, and rich pulled brisket toast with tomato jam.

Once we settled into our cocktails and nibbles, that’s when we realized Gallow Green is a play. It became clear after a mysterious lady in a white satin gown came around and told us she and her husband threw this party for an important woman every night, just in case she showed up. The husband came by and said the same thing, and wispy girls flitted about the place looking lost, sad, and in love. Apparently, none were the one the couple was waiting for, but I did leave wondering who she was and what would happen if she did show, which, undoubtedly, at some point she does. With Gallow Green, at every turn you get the sense of the mystery and finesse that made Sleep So More so popular, and, if they play their cards right, it will be just as successful—at least until winter comes. 

‘Sleep No More’ Production at Home in Former Nightclub Spaces

By now you’ve all heard of Sleep No More, the version of Macbeth that’s being staged in what the Times and Post both call an old warehouse in Chelsea. I guess that’s partially true – and the production is partially Macbeth and partially Hitchcock and partially Eyes Wide Shut. The spaces were, at one time, warehouses but they became so much more. Sleep No More takes place in the bones of former nightclub hotspots Sound Factory, Home, and Guesthouse.

The web site of the production describes the location as follows: “Completed in 1939, the McKittrick Hotel was intended to be New York City’s finest and most decadent luxury hotel of its time. Six weeks before opening, and two days after the outbreak of World War II, the legendary hotel was condemned and left locked, permanently sealed from the public. Until now. Seventy-two years later, Emursive has brought the Grande Dame back to life. Collaborating with London’s award-winning Punchdrunk, the legendary space is reinvented with Sleep No More, presenting Shakespeare’s classic Scottish tragedy through the lens of suspenseful film noir. Audiences move freely through a transporting world at their own pace, choosing their own path through the story, immersed in the most unique theatrical experience in the history of New York.”

As I wandered around the McKittrick, surrounded by masked men and women and accompanied by my visiting, beautiful, intelligent, hip, fun mother-in-law—who I dared not abandon despite the demands of my hosts—I began to see familiar sights. Firstly, the club where you are allowed to remove your masks, dance with hosts, and have a drink was Home, a joint I designed and built. The bar is still there as well as the padded columns and walls. The bathrooms feature the wallpapers I picked out 10 years ago. The hotel’s “front desk” is the old copper and vinyl clad bar from Guesthouse. I remember Jon B. asking me if the copper would last and there it was as beautiful as ever outlasting his run. The candles were in the candle wall.

The lower floors that constitute the “ballroom” were once the Sound Factory, which became Twilo, which became the very unspirited Spirit. Now actors fluttered about and spooky guests ran after them. I was happy to see the old clubs reused. Clubs are basically illusions. They often start out as old warehouses, garages, or other unglamorous settings. The energies of owners and operators transform them into the chicest places on earth. It’s all smoke and mirrors really. The Paradise Garage, one of the top 5 joints of all time, was indeed a garage and then it was “The” Garage and now it’s a garage (Verizon) again. The public is expected to buy into the new incarnation and ignore the un-cool past. At Sleep No More they do an incredible job of transforming the building—which also housed BED nightclub—into this haunted, daunted old hotel. Like the club operators before them they reinvigorated and redecorated the discarded space, creating an illusion that it was something else.

For me, I was bored of it all in short time. The performers held my attention for minutes, no more. Other guests ran after the actors as they were told to do and watched them pantomime horror, or anger, or fear, or lust. I liked it when those things were happening in real time back… in the day. I rummaged through brilliantly conceived rooms and touched and felt what I was expected to and was awed by the detail. I paused by old office on the 5th floor and moved on. I always ended up in the club, the old Home and was thoroughly entertained by the torch song singer. I wished it was a club every night that I could just come to and listen to her without the hoopla and hype and masks.

I think you should go and experience it for yourself. I just didn’t have the patience for it. After awhile, after I had opened a hundred draws and seen the players with their lemmings in tow, I wanted to actually slit my wrists just to give the folks in the masks something to chat about. Sleep No More is an ambitious and brilliantly executed drama held in the bones of four or so once vibrant joints. It was the ghosts of these joints that haunted me.

Photo courtesy of Scoutingny.com