Diplo Headlines Huge Hush-Hush Event Tonight

Last night I bartended the Help Heal New York benefit at Pacha. I had not bartended since before you were born; the game has since changed. Here I am writing everyday about how to do this and how to do that, and my afternoons are spent designing bars so it was good to have this hands-on experience. I didn’t actually make a drink; I had minions to do that. I better correct: the love of my recent life, Amanda, made the drinks while I interacted with the patrons. It all went to charity – the price of admission, the drink revenues, and even the tips. The real Pacha bartender assigned to me, Megan, was amazing. Her smile and demeanor while slinging drinks for the cause and putting up with my antics was above and beyond. She is a great bartender and a wonderful new friend. Twenty-dollar bills and even some Benjamins flew over the bar to the tip bucket, which also benefits the cause. At one point I was squatted down picking up loot that slipped down from the bucket.

The DJs were just grand. I particularly loved Afrojack. I left before Erick Morillo went on, as I have to be up early for you…and looking good at that. At one point, Pacha owner Eddie Dean came by to hug and heckle me . He was accompanied by his sidekick, partner in crime, his "Tonto"… Rob Fernandez and DJ Sunnery. These guys threw money at us for the bucket as well-wishers gathered to shake hands and take pictures. All around us, thousands rose with the music… the love was apparent. DJ Sunnery , a big deal, was waiting to go on. He seemed as calm as a thoroughbred at the gate on derby day, ready to get this party started. I was told he is the nicest of persons and is married to the most beautiful girl in the world… Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes. I looked her up and, for sure, she is real, but alas I only have eyes for Amanda.  

Pacha is a monster. On every level, from the door to the staff to management, they are pros. Everybody talks a good game, but Pacha walks the walk. As those who know me know I am a rocker, and house or  EDM or whatever label is put on it in whatever decade doesn’t sooth this savage beast . That being said, being in a big room with a big DJ, big lights, effects and a big crowd is an experience unlike any other.

Before the bartending gig I was at 1OAK, tasked to DJ for Richie Romero at his birthday. I was to open for ?uestlove and Jesse Marco, and I had M.Ortiz opening for me. M.Ortiz was so great that I didn’t bounce him off, content to hear what he was offering. Amanda told me if I kicked him off, as some told me to do, she would "moida me.” Mr. M. Ortiz is getting ready for a British tour, and I expect we will be hearing his name often. He is really great. 1OAK was starting to fill up when the birthday boy finally showed. Richie Romero was zonkered as I wished him well. He has dodged almost as many bullets as your humble servant and it was good to see him surrounded by hundreds of friends and tacky balloons and such.

Tonight I will be at a big event in a big location…off the beaten path and super hush-hush as it’s sold out. Dos Equis is behind this shindig. Diplo will headline. There are six or so rooms of music and other distractions. I’m going to DJ for a short set along with Cobra Krames, Sam Valentine, David Katz, Justine D. Daniel Leyva, Fatherhood (Michael Magnan and Physical Therapy), Hayley Pisaturo, Shayne (Hood By Air), and 7aywana. There will be a lot going on at this happening and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. If you see me today, ask me nicely. I think there are three tickets left.

If I wasn’t obligated elsewhere, the place I would surely be is the Ava Lounge at the Dream Hotel up on 55th Street. A photo installation by Marko Kalfa will bring the sharp set. Liquid Lab, which I have to tell you about in depth on a later day, will provide fall cocktails. Fannie Chan wil DJ.

Another party worth checking out is the five-year anniversary of the Thursday Punk Rock Happy Hour at Otto’s Shrunken Head. My pals Traci Danielle and Joy Rider are doing the inviting.

Nightlife That Makes You Feel Like A Good Person

On Wednesday night we dressed like Eskimos and attended a private screening of director Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman at the Bryant Park Hotel’s screening room. Club legend Danny A. Abeckaser invited me and mine to the show. Danny plays a pivotal role in the flick as the best friend to leading man Michael Shannon. Michael plays hit man Richard Leonard "The Iceman" Kuklinski who had somewhere between 100 and 250 successful whacks before they caught him in 1986. The film is filled with familiar faces, from Ray Liotta, James Franco, Chris Evans, Stephen Dorff, David Schwimmer, and Winona Ryder. Winona ruled. Danny A. had his usual crowd of models and the folks that hang with them, and a good time was had by all. It’s good to see one of the good guys in the club world breaking out and living his dreams on the silver screen. The movie is chilling and captivating. It will come out in a couple of months.

Advance tickets are on sale for The 4th Annual Two Boots Mardi Gras Ball Benefit for The Lower East Side Girls Club happening at Le Poisson Rouge on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 12th. They have Cyndi Lauper and ?UESTLOVE doing the King and Queen of the Mardi Gras thing, and performances by Pitchblack, EMEFE, The Ambitious Orchestra and powerhouse DJs Roxy Cottontail and Beverly Bond. All sorts of other acts and stilt walkers and body painters will be part of this for such a great cause. The Lower East Side Girls Club helps young girls climb out of bad places, giving them guidance and support as they try to make their dreams come true. My pal Jenny Dembrow is a honcho over there working tirelessly to make it work. Tickets are $25 or $125 for the dinner, booze, and reserved seating. Get them here.

Just a word to all: it’s real cold out there, even for those who can afford warm clothes and shelter from the elements. Be aware that around us there are people who don’t have the ability to get by on their own. If you have stuff you’re not wearing that can help another, this is a good time to make room in your closet. Donate your goods to one of Goodwill’s NYC locations here and feel like a good person instantly.

This Just In: DJs Erick Morillo & Afrojack Join Pacha Benefit

This old guy once wrote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…." The quote begins Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.  He continued  "…in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." Mr. Dickens offered this tome in 1859, but was referring back to the French Revolution days. He might as well have been talking about now, for New York is a tale of two cities. While many of us are sipping lattes and talking football and going to parties, others are struggling in the cold, displaced and in despair.  It is the worst of times for so many of our neighbors while most of us are busy as bees, forgetting the destruction and "inconvenience" the storm brought, and readying for the holidays.

Last night at BINGO at Hotel Chantelle, a packed house laughed and squealed with joy as regular hosts Murray Hill and Linda Simpson returned to the stage after a two-week Sandy-induced hiatus. They were joined by Michael Musto who proved to be a joy. Like almost every event worth mentioning these days, this night was dedicated to raising money for victims of Sandy. Specifically, BINGO raised much-needed funds for the Ali Forney Center which was flooded by the imperfect storm. Homeless LGBTQ homeless youth can drop in when they need a place. 

Tonight I will party like nothing ever happened at The Electric Room where the dapper Nick Marc will celebrate yet another birthday. Partner-in-crime Justine D. will DJ. Kodi Najm of Hypernova will host. There are rumors of a proper English celebration with everyone involved partaking in heavy drinking and partying. This is rock and roll, followed by some rock and roll and then quite a bit more rock and roll. I’ll be there.

Tomorrow night, Richie Romero will celebrate his birthday and has tasked me to open up for real DJs Jesse Marco and ?uestlove. This affair is at 1OAK and I am very excited about it. I love the staff of OAK and, of course, Mr. Romero. As is his way, Richie was complaining about his age and other trivialities. I’m going to play tracks older than him to cheer him up. I reminded him that I have shoes that are older than he.

As I wrote the other day, I will then whisk myself up to Pacha for their Help Heal New York Sandy benefit where they have me bartending. Since I will have my CDs and headphones with me, I stand ready to pitch in if one of the following DJs fail to deliver: DANNY TENAGLIA, FRANCOIS K, SUNNERY JAMES & RYAN MARCIANO,  Chainsmoker, SHERMANOLOGY, DANNY AVILA, D BERRIE, AUDIEN HARRY, CHOO CHOO ROMERO, SHAWNEE TAYLOR (live), CARL KENNEDY, HECTOR ROMERO ,DAVID WAXMAN, CEVIN FISHER ,THEO, HEX HECTOR, PAUL RAFFAELE, CODES, ROXY COTTONTAIL ,SAZON BOOYA, DALTON, SIK DUO, CARL LOUIS & MARTIN DANIELLE, PAIGE, BAMBI and THAT KID CHRIS. 

Just added as we go to press are superstar DJs Erick Morillo and Afrojack. This is a serious not to be missed event. There are some fabulous surprises that, because of conflicts and dotted i’s and such, can’t be listed here but will be appreciated there. Among that illustrious crew are DJs from my management company 4AM. Chainsmokers are whisking in from Singapore and are off on tour but are stopping by for this fundraiser. Dalton has been debuting his new house tracks along the Northeast corridor, making stops in D.C., Boston, and Philly. 4AM just booked me for New Year’s Eve … yeah, it’s coming up fast.

Please help those still without, and as the holidays approach, be aware of those unable to have a normal celebration. Help where you can.

?uestlove, Rhazel Surprise Soho With Improvised Set

Yesterday in New York was beautiful—hot enough to get a sweat on, even—and if you were lucky enough to take your midday walk through Soho you may have run across an unusual sight: a pop-up concert featuring ?uestlove on drums and Rhazel on the mic.

The duo freestyled for twenty minutes, with Rhazel doing some vicious beatboxing, for a very appreciative lunchtime crowd of about three hundred. The event was affiliated with Red Bull Music Academy, a music festival of sorts that spans the entire month of May—“37 events with over 230 artists at 34 venues across New York.”

In a nod to the street-level nature of the performance, Rhazel asked the crowd if this show were as good as one you’d see on the A train. He also asked where Mayor Bloomberg was at, scanning the audience to no avail.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter

Chef’s Night Out: Pregaming for the James Beard Awards

Saturday may have rocked Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day, but for true culinary connoisseurs, Sunday was the night to party. The start of the evening featured a killer set by DJ ?uestlove, who is teaming up with Chicago-based chef Graham Elliot to pair food and music together. The two met at Lollapalooza in 2010 when Elliot acted as the culinary ambassador for the festival and something clicked, creating a match made in pop culture heaven. Last night they showed their partnership under a large yellow moon at the penthouse suite of the Mondrian Hotel in Soho. While ?uestlove served the beats, black-clad waiters passed out delicate truffle deviled eggs, fried mac ‘n’cheese on a stick, and hefty fried “Love’s Drumsticks”—all a sneak peek into what the team plans on doing in the future.

To drink they offered cocktails including the NY State of Mind, a mixture of gin, sparkling wine, and Ty Ku sake, and the Brazilian ‘”Roots,” which had Lebion Cachaca, cane sugar, and lime. Sipping drinks and taking in the killer view were Park and Recreations actor Aziz Ansari, Onion writer Bartunde Thurston, and Top Chef contestant Carla Hall. Like Hall, Elliot was also on Top Chef as well as Iron Chef America, and he has been nominated for three James Beard Awards.

Speaking of the James Beard Awards, last night also kicked off the 2012 JBA with Chef’s Night Out, an annual event celebrating the nominees. Campari helped sponsor the event at the Chelsea Market, and there were top bartenders like Dushan Zaric from Employees Only mixing up the Bouleuardier, a stiff drink akin to a bourbon negroni, and Damon Dyer from Rum House doing a fresh Campari with Fever Tree soda water. Jane Danger who runs the darling Jane’s Sweet Buns created devious shortbread with the sprit, which was also topped with rhubarb bitters cream. In the main hall, revelers indulged in melt-in-your-mouth Iberico ham served by Forever Cheese, whipped lardo from Dickson’s Farmstead Meats, tangy mac ‘n’ cheese by The Green Table, and dense chocolate brownies made by Fat Witch Bakery.

Some of the chefs, restaurateurs, and TV personalities enjoying the night included: Curtis Stone of the new Bravo show Around the World in 80 Plates, Ted Allen from Chopped, world renowned chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, Tony and Marisa May of SD26, pastry chef Pichet Ong, John Besh, chef Madison Cowan from BBC’s No Kitchen Required, Daniel Holzman from The Meatball Shop, Salumeria Rosi’s Cesare Casella, and southern chef Hugh Acheson—plus a whole lot more. Tonight many of these people will be waiting for hours at the James Beard Awards and this was the calm before the storm of tonight’s parties and prestigious honors.

Questlove, AC Newman Join Okkerivil River on Fallon

I spent my first year after college living in Austin, Texas. I was mostly unemployed. All I did was hang out at the giant Whole Foods during the day. By night, I’d be dragged to one of the city’s bazillion bars to see some “friend of a friend’s” band. The majority of these bands were not worth seeing. Austin is known for it’s music scene, but the awful secret is that because there’s always a band playing, the sheer quantity dwarfs the quiet minority of really good acts. The other secret is that everyone in Austin thinks Ghostland Observatory rule, and they are wrong. That said, I saw Okkervil River a few times while I lived there and was very impressed. When they got kind of big nationally a couple years ago, I was happy. The band has a new album coming out, and they played Jimmy Fallon last night to promote it.

The Roots’ ?uestlove joined the band on drums, looking dapper in corn rows and a vintage tuxedo. New Pornographer’s leader A.C. Newman lent vocals. But somehow the all-star cast didn’t quite work. I like the arrangement on the song they played — new single “Wake and Be Fine” — but either the vocals were turned up too high in the mix, or the song just needed a little more vocal melody to make singer Will Scheff’s scream-talk-singing work. But maybe I’m just overly critical. See for yourself:

The Roots and Ice Cube Perform ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Live

Fair warning, everybody—this performance is metaphorical crack for your literal ears. A few weeks ago, while warming up the audience on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, ?uestlove, the rest of The Roots, and Ice Cube busted out a cover of N.W.A.’s classic ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ It was the stuff of urban lore: unseen (except for those ridiculously lucky audience members) but powerful. Then, last night, ?uestlove tweeted a video of the performance. It is white smoking hot. The band is so tight, Ice Cube is so on-point, and ?uestlove just kills (per usual) on the drums. I love the original track’s dense Dr. Dre-produced sampled soundscape, but something about this performance just does it for me.

To be fair, one of hip hop’s most revolutionary qualities was its push to re-structure the aesthetics of authenticity—thanks to hip hop, a drum machine went from dumpster find to powerful aesthetic—and, in a lot of ways, live instrumentation is antithetical to the sound the movement championed. But, damn, if it doesn’t just feel good to hear someone actually hold down the classic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ rhythms live, with real instruments. I’ll be listening to this 100 times tomorrow. I suggest you do too.

Old Record Store, New Gallery

“It started last year in response to the economic downturn,” says Manom Slome, cofounder of No Longer Empty, a cooperative formed to stage site-specific exhibitions in vacant commercial spaces. “Walking on Madison one day, we counted about 15 empty storefronts,” Slome recalls. Confronted with all that unused square footage, the veteran curator, who spent seven years at the Guggenheim, and her colleague Asher Remy-Toledo saw an opportunity to put art in atypical places.

Since June, with space donated by various landlords, the group has put on shows in vacant storefronts beside the Chelsea Hotel, under the High Line and in a former belt factory in Brooklyn. (An artist from Italy transformed an abandoned freight elevator shaft into a version of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” that could take you up to heaven or down through the circles of hell). Through this Saturday, No Longer Empty, has taken up residence in the old Tower Records on Broadway and W. 4th Street, a venue that has been dark for going on three years. Dubbed “Never Can Say Goodbye,” the show re-imagines the old record store as, well, a record store, but rendered with a gallerist’s vivid imagination and a long time-East Villagers’ nostalgia. Upon entering the gallery, a Tower-yellow and -red kiosk recounts a little of the history of the spot. How it was a place where Mariah Carey, Tom Waits, The Talking Heads, Biggie Smalls, Metallica and Camper Van Beethoven all got equal time.

image “Diaspora” by Paul Villinski, courtesy of Morgan Lehman Gallery.

One of the most prominently featured works in the gallery, Paul Villinski’s “Diaspora” (above) consists of birds made from vinyl records fluttering out from a turn table, and casting their shadows across a vast expanse of plain white wall. The elegiac tone of this piece is in keeping with the rest of the show. Along the walls, where record company promos once hung above racks of CDs, the artist Invader has created a series of reproductions of classic album covers, including “London Calling,” “Iron Maiden” and “Nevermind,” out of Rubik’s Cubes (below). Like a Seurat fed through an I Love The ‘80s, each image falls apart upon close inspection, but comes together as you back away.

image “Rubik London Calling” by Invader, courtesy of Jonathan Levine Gallery.

A pimple-faced clerk greets you at the entrance to the No Longer Empty Never Records Shop (where, in fact, many items, including reproductions of some of the works on display, can be purchased), decked out in flannel, nerd-glasses and an expression that says he is silently judging you. Of course he’s made out of construction paper. (If you are hankering for the genuine scorn of living record store employees, Other Music is just around the block on w 4th.)

Some of the homages to yesteryear are a bit more tongue in cheek: A collection of Vanilla Ice teenie-bopper magazines are strewn on the floor, and run halfway up the ceiling. Upon seeing this display, The Roots’ ?uestlove, on site for a panel discussion about social media, told a story about running into the ur-white rapper on the street recently. “He greeted me like we were long lost brothers or something,” ?uest said incredulously. Then he mockingly flailed his arms across his chest, and intoned Ice-style, “‘Yo, ?uest. What’s up?’ Then I realized I was actually glad to see him. That’s how bad hip-hop is today.”

image

The show also contends with the effect of the digital age on music. For “The Song That Will Never Be Heard,” Paul Clement Williams wrote and recorded a song, made a compact disc of it and then destroyed the master and sealed the only copy CD in a glass box. It comes in a case emblazoned with a legalese-like warning stating that the owner of the work “solemnly vows never to deface the work by playing it or allowing others to hear it.” Another artist faithfully recreated her illegally downloaded MP3 collection by pasting downloaded album art on cardboard. Each of the handmade CD doppelgangers can be purchased for $9.99. This Saturday, the last day of the exhibition, at 3 p.m, Phony PPL, a group of teenagers from Brooklyn who play a blend of hip-hop, rock, jazz and won Bard college’s Battle of the Bands, will play. “They’re almost like a band from the ‘70s,” says Barbara Feldman of NLE. She came to Phony PPL through a mutual friend who knew the family of the band’s drummer, who happens to be the son of Def Jam pioneer DJ Jazzy Jay. “I just thought,” says Feldman of closing with a youthful act, “Let’s be optimistic at the end.” Those interested in attending any of the final performances at “Never Can Say Goodbye” should contact the show’s organizers. Look for the next NLE exhibition in West Harlem in April.

First Image: “Bling Box Orchestra” by Ryan Brennan. Photo by Jodie Dinapoli.