Concert Review: CULTS—Do We Want to Join?

If you are going to name your band “Cults”, you have a lot to live up to. Billed as a duo, the group are from New York City and are comprised of guitarist, Nord synthesizer player, machine manipulator with a very cult leader name—and a very “Big Brother and the Holding Company” hairstyle—Brian Oblivion, who and sings very rarely (definitely for the better.) The other half, and focal point of the group, is Madeline Follin, who sings most every song and is beautiful in an otherworldly way. Countering her soft and lovely good looks, her singing is at times is so startlingly apart from this world, that she could be standing at a mic on Titan, the giant moon of Saturn.

On their new album, Static—which sounds like a weird combination of 1960s girl group, psychedelic effects, Cocteau Twins-style ethereal melodies, and pure pop tunes—you can hear an example of Follin’s unique vocals on the song “I Can Hardly Make You Mine.” However, at their show this past week at Webster Hall, the galactic force was definitely with us, and those other elements from the album were buried in a muddy sea of psychedelic mush and mud. I really wish they had a better sound man, because what they were playing was both exciting and vital.

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Speaking of Big Brother and the Holding Co.—the seminal ’60’s group that spawned Janis Joplin—I see similarities here with Cults, aside from the hippie look. Not so much in the music, but in its execution. Mr. Oblivion (isn’t it great to say Mr. Oblivion?) may be half the group, but if they start to make it, there will pressure on Ms. Follin to take her unique vocal chords and go solo—that would be a mistake, and not only for the fact that he has the long and side-parted hair of Sam Andrew (and Peter Albin), but he also sings like Andrew. That’s where the similarity to Big Brother lies; the effect of his indistinctive drone giving way to her interplanetary blast is astonishing. It made Big Brother unique when Andrew gave way to Joplin, and it does that for Cults as well.

However, this really does not come through on the album. They are a much different as a live act than a recording act—as was Big Brother. The interplay of Follin and Oblivion, plus the ultra cool light show on hanging multi-sized TVs, drove the sold out hometown crowd nuts. In concert, Cults is five piece psychedelic 60’s rock band. The lead guitar player also plays a synthesizer and a glockenspiel—which looks like a small xylophone. The drummer was great, spot on, and solid in every song. Most unique was the bass player, who was playing what looked to me like a Gibson Grabber bass, which, unlike the deep, low sounding Fenders that most bass players use, produces a very trebly sound. Think Jack Bruce in the Cream.

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I bring this up because it really gave Cults a distinctive sound at the show, really cutting through the hazy mud. The bass was great. I wish more groups would use that—at least on some songs to mix it up. And to complete the 60’s feel, one of the songs they did had a riff that reminded me of the song by Scott McKenzie, “If you’re going to San Francisco [be sure to wear some flowers in your hair].” Maybe that’s where the idea for Cults name came from. The ‘60’s were a time of cults. In fact, one of their videos has a clip of Jim Jones, the cult leader who killed almost his entire flock with poison Kool-aid in Guyana.

I don’t think this Cults wants to kill us with anything but lovely pop infused outer space music—so, are Cults a cult?  Do they want to be a cult? Only until they wake up, like all of us dreamers. In the meantime, just the music will be worth following.

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Two Reasons You Have to Go To Webster Hall Tonight

The 8th Annual Paper Nightlife Awards will be held tonight at Webster Hall and everybody is going. These are the Oscars of nightlife, and so watching what the nominees and guests are wearing is everything. The categories are divided into two parts that People’s Choice and Paper Magazine have chosen. The People’s Choice part was infamous for ballot-stuffing, but they seem to have made it harder to just keep clicking that button for yourself or your favorite employer. The public gets to vote on: 
– BEST NYC PROMOTER
– BEST CLUB SONG
– BEST NIGHT TO GO OUT
– BEST MEGA DJ(S) WITH ONE NAME
– BEST MEGA CLUB IN THE USA
– BEST NY PARTY MUSEUM
I’d like to give an award to the person who came up with those categories.

The Paper chosen winners will come from a heavily skewed "new" list because that’s the way they want to roll. The categories here are:
– BEST PARTY
– BEST BAR/LOUNGE
– BEST HOTEL WITH A NIGHTLIFE SCENE
– BEST ARTY PARTY SPOT, BEST DJ
– BEST PART-TIME DJ
– BEST RESTAURANT WITH A NIGHTLIFE SCENE
– BEST CLUB
– BEST BEER GARDEN
– BEST NIGHTLIFE SOCIAL MEDIA STAR
– BEST NIGHTLIFE PERSONALITY

I don’t believe in "the best" in nightlife. Besides, if there was a best it would probably be over and on to the next by the time you are done reading this. The best of anything in nightlife – and don’t let anyone tell you differently – is what you like. To many, Lit Lounge is nirvana, and to others it’s a pigsty, a hole in the wall that smells bad and plays music nobody has ever heard of. But those are the same reasons why it’s nirvana to so many. These days, a joint could be the greatest show on Earth one night and a nightmare on any other. Clubs are no longer all things to all people as they have become very specific.

DJs, on the other hand, tend to trend, and it is common to hear the same tracks as you bop from one joint to another. Paper’s DJ category does seem to reward those less likely to play predictably. In that category, my favorite DJ not named Paul Sevigny or Jonathan Toubin is nominated. That’s Elle Dee. I love the "BEST PART-TIME DJ" category as it recognizes the "everybody is a DJ” era that I have become so involved in. Paper has been around for a long time, and some of the players who made it great are still around and as credible as anyone to give these awards. One of those venerable Paper players is the sparkling Mickey Boardman, who is celebrating his birthday today and tonight.

While I am out and about and at Webster Hall, I will certainly stop by Riot Avenue, my Thursday DJ partner Sam Valentine’s weekly Wednesday event there. Sam will be joined by Avi Miller. Among the hosts is the absolutely fantastic Bless Fantastic.

This Friday there’s a party across the pond that I wish I could attend. Old friend, DJ, producer, composer, innovator Larry Thom better known as Larry Tee will celebrate his birthday at Larry Tee’s Super Electric Party Machine at East Bloc, 217 City Road, London, England. I don’t even like to travel uptown so I send best wishes to one of the best.

Webster Hall’s GM Gerard McNamee Tells His Origin Story

In nightlife, one of the hardest jobs to fill is general manager. Everyone and anyone can be an owner. People who never did more than promote a prom end up calling themselves owners at joints around town. Great GMs are a rarity. Gerard McNamee is the GM at NYC’s longest running nightclub, Webster Hall. Being a GM at a lounge or midsize club is not the same as running a joint that holds 1500 and up. Webster Hall is ginormous. It holds concerts, special events, corporate events, and fund raisers, and is open as a club with  thousands of people from all over the world passing through.

The buck stops with Gerard, who is tasked to make hundreds of decisions a night and run a huge staff. He juggles this monumental task with an acting career. He plays the lead in a short film which just won two awards at the Independent Film Quarterly Film & New Media Festival. I asked him a few questions and got volumes from him, including this edited down description  of himself:

"My name is Gerard. I currently operate New York City’s largest and longest running nightclub and 1,500-person capacity live music venue, the legendary and world famous Webster Hall. I dispense alcohol. I entertain thousands from various cultures each week. I am all business. I work long hours. I do volume and roll full throttle. I don’t burn out. I thrive under pressure. I am decisive, a decision maker and delegator. I am a mentor. I am a protégé. I am a teacher. I am a diplomat. I have been told so. I am a businessman and entrepreneur. I curate art, fashion, music and theatre. I have shown so. I am local. I am international. I wear a suit well. I don Italian boots and shoes. I enjoy travel and work. I drink black coffee, espresso and fresh squeezed juices. I live in Chelsea and ride a Harley 12 months a year. I park my ’99 BMW 323IC convertible on 15th Street. New York City is my home. I am charming and have character. I am a natural host. I throw parties."

What isn’t mentioned here is that he is a gentleman, a man who gets and gives respect. I am honored to be his friend and to tell you about this tireless player who gets less sleep than most who dwell in the city that never sleeps

You are the General Manager of Webster Hall, a big job. But like everyone in nightlife, you have a shadow career as an actor. Tell me about that side of you, and how you manage to act and manage one of the biggest clubs in NYC? Tell me about your club career?
I have had an interest in acting since grammar school, where I played the lead roll in our annual Christmas play three years in a row. But then in high school, sports took over my life. My interest in acting has always been in the back of my mind, but I don’t particularly have the personality for it. I am a wallflower, a behind-the-scenes type guy. It’s just my personality. However, I was constantly told that I should put myself out there and that I would get work based on my look alone. I knew that this would probably be the case, and that I needed to get over myself and do it. I have been drawn to it. I promised myself that I would never be a starving actor, depending on acting to survive. I didn’t know if I wanted it that badly that I could commit and devote myself to it as a craft.

I already had a craft that I was a natural at, and that was throwing parties. I had done it from childhood. I used to spend all my paper route money as a child, every July on illegal fireworks and throw a party for all my neighbors at the house out on Long Island. I was in third grade, it was 1976, America’s Bicentennial. Several years later my mom and dad had an eighth grade graduation party for me. I had survived the nuns of our Lady of Mercy grammar school, and the celebration was on. My mom called her buddy, Johnny Broderick, to see if his son would DJ the event. The day of the party, Johnny and his son showed up to the house with a truck and an old beat up horse trailer. The contents of that horse trailer changed my life forever. They loaded out nine big sheets of plywood attached to 2 x 6 beams. Piece by piece up the long driveway and into the backyard they attached the pieces together with six inch lag bolts. It was a dance floor. Then, out came the sound rig. Two big ass JBL’s, two Techniques 1200 turntables, a JVC double cassette deck, and two extremely heavy, big fat crown amps. I took all the money I received at my party that day and went out and bought me a rig. I’ve been doing it since. That was the summer of 1983. I DJd through high school and through college. The day after I graduated from Fordham University I was invited out to The Hamptons. Within two hours of my arrival in Hampton Bays, I was bar backing at a place called "The Beach Bar." I went home only once that summer, much to my mother’s chagrin. I had only gone out there for a day trip. When I finally returned home after the season, without a penny in my pocket (I had been literally partying like a rockstar), I sat in the room that I had grown up in, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my business degree and my life.

I was borrowing my 14-year-old sister’s babysitting money to buy myself cigarettes and beer. My parents were fed up and disappointed at my lack of a real existence. My father gave me the ultimatum: "Start looking for a job to utilize your university degree or get out! You must at least make an effort." So that Sunday, I borrowed 5 bucks from my Dad and went and got me a copy of the New York Times. In the Classifieds, an ad read "NIGHTCLUB MANAGER WANTED. 40,000 square feet of adventure, must have 5 years New York City experience, Fax resume." I sat up in my bed as I read this ad and thought, Holy Shit! There’s my job!

I had two years experience booking bands and DJs at the college bar I worked at in the Bronx, and that was it. So I fashioned and fabricated a resume and faxed it away. They liked the fact that both my parents were from Ireland, which in their mind made me a farmer (they were farmers). I was hired in December of 1993, by Lon, Steve, and Doug Ballinger, at the legendary and world famous Webster Hall. I lasted until May of 1997. By that time, I had been sober since New Year’s Eve, a 5 month span. The temptation was great. I had to blow New York City in order to stay sober, so I bought a bar up at Hunter Mountain. Buying a bar was probably not the best idea for a guy that had been partying hard for a dozen years and who was trying to kick the habit, but I made it.

For the next 10 years, "The Cross" (short for Sixmilecross, the town in the north of Ireland that my Dad was born and raised in) existed in several locations. I had one up in Hunter Mountain and another out in Montauk, in East Hampton, and one most recently on City Island, in the Bronx. I returned to Webster Hall on Halloween of 2008. It was around then that Webster Hall hired a team of videographers to archive Webster Hall’s history. I met Gregg De Domenico and Jerry Zecker. Gregg assured me that one day I would be his muse. A few years later, he had an epiphany based in a photograph he saw while on a 5 month sabbatical to Spain. It was on this day that “Hip Priest" was born. Gregg wrote the character specifically with me in mind.

You meet a lot of people. How do you channel that into acting?
Yeah man, I do meet a lot of people. Thousands a week. They all have different needs. I "act" appropriately for all of them. I can literally hang with presidents. I hung with Clinton at Webster Hall for a few minutes on several occasions when he kicked off his ‘96 campaign there, or a homeless man on the street and everyone in between. I am a people expert. I diplomatically and genuinely give them what they need. I react to them as I react to my fellow actors. It’s all about them.

What does a day in your life look like?
Somebody asked me the other day, "How’s it going?" I answered "Same old, same old." and then immediately thought that my "same old, same old" was not the ordinary man’s "same old same old." I sleep at 6am or later, and I rise at noon. Upon awaking, I immediately begin to navigate through, and prioritize dozens of emails and dozens of texts regarding the next 18 hours of my life. Within minutes, I engage in the first of approximately 10 to 12 cups of coffee I enjoy each day. It is non stop everyday of my life, from when I wake to when I sleep. Webster Hall is a 24 hour 7 day a week machine. We book dozens of bands and DJs each week. We process between 5 and 10 thousand patrons each week. Three quarters of them we dispense alcohol to, the other 25% we have to monitor to make sure they do not imbibe illegally, as it is a privilege for us to allow 19 and 20 year olds to our venue. Attending Webster Hall is a right of passage for kids around the world. It is literally chaos and insanity between my job and juggling my acting career. 

Tell me all about the movie, including where it will be showing, your character, and where inside you he dwells.
It is funny how things happen. Some Soho casting agent stopped me on the street a few months ago while I was sipping my espresso in the East Village. They paid me 8 grand for the day—comical, really. The next week I shot Hip Priest, a short art house film. We have just begun entering it into festivals. Hopefully, someone will notice it and screen it for all to see.  I have been fully humbled twice in my life: once when my brother died in a fire in 1994 when I was 25, and again 3 years later when I stopped drinking. I think this Hip Priest experience has humbled me again. The title character in Hip Priest was written specifically for me, with me and my personality in mind. It has made me realize that people expect something from me. Everyone wants a piece, and I say that in the most respectful of ways. It is a weight I have always bore. It is a weight that I welcome and exploit. Hip Priest dwells inside me through my genetic makeup. I cannot help myself, it is how I am, it is who I am. I am a Leo, I love and lead.

This Week: Ray-Bans & Rolling Stones Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries

I was so crazy yesterday that I forgot to do the one thing I really wanted to do. This season does that to you. I wanted, expected, ached to attend the Ray-Ban: 75 Years of Legends event at The Darby last night. The Flaming Lips performed. I will attend the Rolling Stones concert as they bring their 50th anniversary tour to the Barclays Center on Saturday. It’s amazing that we are celebrating something that started 50 years ago and another thing that’s 75 years of tradition.

On this oldie-but-goodie tip, we have the wonderful Beatles cover band, the Newspaper Taxis, performing Revolver at the Red Lion, 151 Bleecker St. According to my pal Brian August, The Beatles never performed any part of Revolver live. My ex- wife Jennifer Hamdan did cover “Tomorrow Never Knows” when she was signed to Next Plateau Records. Her track failed to make it to any plateau, but it was fun. Still on the oldies tip, Gary Spencer will celebrate his 50th birthday with a bash tonight at  his Hanky Panky attachment to Webster Hall. Oldies but goodies – the prodigy producer/mixer Neil McLellan and good ol’ Andy Rourke (The Smiths) – will DJ, and The Darling Darling Music Company will perform live.

Older than Methuselah, Marty Abrahams told me about his solo exhibition “Break On Through” at the Salomon Arts Gallery, which will happen on 12/12/12 from 6pm till 9pm. If I’m not at that mega, super duper, ginormous Sandy relief concert at the Garden with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Roger Waters and all those other old guys, then I will attend Marty’s thing.

Somebody who never ages and whose humor is timeless, Murray Hill, will bring his annual “Murray Little Christmas” to us next Saturday the 15th, from 8pm to midnight to Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. Murray is amazing, amazing, amazing. Here’s the scoop:

“Expect an evening of hilarious and wacky skits with the cast, a sleigh full of cheesy holiday songs, plenty of nuts, fruits and tree trimming. This year’s special guests:

BRIDGET EVERETT (carnal chanteuse and fearless cabaret star), ERIN MARKEY (wacky performance artist), CARMINE COVELLI (a.k.a. SEBASTIAN THE ELF), THE NYC BURLESQUE CHOIR (conducted by Shelly Watson) with live swinging holiday music from Murray’s band THE CRAIG’S LIST QUARTET (Jesse Elder–piano, Kenball Zwerin–bass, Matt Parker–saxaphone, Arthur Vint–drums and rimshots). Set design by Steven Hammel."

Talking to Madame Mayhem About Her Cutting Room Show, Rock & Roll, And Making It

I may be the last person in the planet to not have visited the new Cutting Room. It’s all the rage, continuing its legacy of pushing the envelope in musical programming. Now, I have heard through the grapevine (how DID that expression get started?) that the folks in charge over there think Madame Mayhem is the realio dealio (again, how?) Anyway, I guess I’ll kill two birds with one stone (caveman expression?) and go check out her act and the venue next Friday or the Friday two weeks after. She has a bi-weekly residency and all the answers to all my questions below:

I’ve heard great things from the people over at The Cutting Room. Tell me about your residency there and the show next Friday.
The residency has been a blast! The band and I are having so much fun. Our next show is on Friday, March 22nd, and then we have another show at The Cutting Room on April 19th. It’s a high-energy show and you WON’T be disappointed if you come down to see me.

Tell me about the new Cutting Room.
It is a gorgeous venue with a classy and, most importantly, ROCK vibe. You have to really see it to understand how cool the place is. There’s a chandelier with guitars that I wish I could have and fit in my apartment. I feel so fortunate to be playing there!  It’s an upscale rock supper club that’s located at 44 E. 32nd Street.
Getting to play my music at a place that’s most recently hosted Billy Joel, Adam Levine, Ringo Starr, Julian Lennon, and is soon to have Guns N’ Roses’ Bumblefoot on the same night as me on April 19th kind of brings the whole WHITE NOISE album experience full circle.

The record features you guys plus plus plus…tell me about the collaborations.
My record “White Noise” was produced by Grammy winner Mark Hudson. He has worked with legends like Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, and Ringo Starr.  Working with Mark is always a good and crazy time and I learn a lot just being around him. Everyone that worked on this record is incredible, but what’s really cool for me is that we were able to get some rockin’ guest artists that I have admired for years to play on the record. They did it because they believed in the music, which was inspiring. They include:

Earl Slick – David Bowie, John Lennon, New York Dolls
Elliot Easton- The Cars, Blondie
Jonh Moyer – Disturbed, Adrenaline Mob
Rudy Sarzo- Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Dio

Working on this record with these legends was such an amazing learning experience and a humbling one at that!  You can download “White Noise” on iTunes.

What kind of music is on the album?
The genre is definitely rock. It’s orchestrated in terms of the way old-school rock ‘n’ roll was done 30 years ago, but is still so current in the way it relates to people today. It’s a musical listening experience that hard rock and even pop fans can enjoy.

What are your influences, your goals. Where are you in three or five years? Do I have a press pass to see you at the Garden.
INFLUENCES: I have a very eclectic taste in music so I try to incorporate different things into my music. I always joke that the reason I turned out the way I did, whether it be style, musical taste, anything really is my mom’s fault. Apparently, when I was baby, she would get sick of all the Rafi and Sesame Street tapes in the car and she would play what she loved: ’90s grunge. So yeah, Nirvana was my baby music, not to mention Aerosmith and Alice Cooper.
GOALS: My ultimate goal is to be able to do this for the rest of my life. Performing, being part of the industry. In terms of success, to me it’s being successful enough that I have the means necessary to be able to do this. I don’t think I’ll ever retire! More immediate goals are to be able to get on a tour with my band and just play EVERYWHERE! You know, spread the MAYHEM! WHEN I make it to the Garden you most certainly will get a press pass!

When did you start singing?
As early as I could talk, well, scream really. Making music and performing has been my dream since forever. There really hasn’t ever been anything else. I started off in musical theatre. I was a working actress at nine. I am classically trained in singing, dancing, and acting but I always knew that rocking out was what I wanted to do most. Not to mention I have been told by the people close to me that I’ll have a much longer life expectancy when I am doing what I love, since when I’m not performing or working, I’m not so pleasant to be around.

Rock and roll sells out stadiums but gets less respect in clubs in NYC. Is that true in L.A.?
People like you, Steve, and BlackBook are respected, and when you get the word out to people who usually go out to lounges or dance clubs – you give them the idea to try something new. On March 8th, The Cutting Room had over 200 people who had never been there before and never knew it existed. They are exactly the crowd that would never have gone to a rock show had they never received an invitation to see something new. They had an invite to see Madame Mayhem and weren’t sure what to expect. We ended up with a packed room, standing-room only, with an eclectic crowd that are now turned onto a new sound. I think the respect comes from people who are open to trying new things and who spread the rediscovery of rock around to people who otherwise wouldn’t know where to find it.

I have been having an amazing time playing here in NYC, since its home to me. Being able to play venues like The Cutting Room, Mercury Lounge, and a last-minute guest performance with Adrenaline Mob last night at Webster Hall has been amazing.  But I do know that rock ‘n’ roll over the past few years hasn’t been the easiest genre to succeed in, but my goal is to bring rock back to where it belongs, to the masses!

In LA, you can’t go very far without bumping into rock ‘n’ rollers, which for me was really cool especially since I was out there making the record. The Sunset Strip may not be exactly what it used to be back in its glory days, but it’s still the place to go to see live music and especially ROCK! I got to perform on the strip at The Viper Room a few times and The Roxy while I was out there and I have to say the rock and music community there really feels like a dysfunctional crazy family that you would never trade!

How does a band make money these days when everything is downloaded?
I am learning quickly that the industry is not like it used to be. As technology evolves, the music industry and artists have to evolve with it. It’s a lot of trial and error.

You’re doing well. What advice do you have to a bunch of 18-year-old kids talking about forming a band?
All I can say is DO IT! Pursue your dream NO MATTER WHAT obstacles get in your way. It takes a lot of hard work, thick skin, but most importantly passion. If music is your life (like it is mine), than it’s what you have to do and ENJOY the ride!!

Follow Madame Mayhem on Twitter here

Will Back in the Day Come Back?

The other night at the Latex Ball, I had a eureka moment. It occurred to me that I was witnessing what nightlife was like back in the day; when large, mixed crowds of creative people were all getting along and enjoying each other’s company in a huge room. Out of necessity and circumstance, bottle service drove the creative types from the game. The rising costs – which include rent, insurance, DJ fees, litigation, and too many etceteras – drove the clubs that didn’t embrace the table service crowd to Brooklyn or oblivion…which isn’t another name for Jersey, Queens, or Staten Island, but could be.

Yesterday I wrote:

"Creativity on a grand scale will return to nightlife as a business decision. Creativity is hard to extinguish. It has thrived on the street and in the subways, cave walls, in prison, and in societies that have repressed it. It has reared itself at advanced ages. It has given those seemingly impaired a way to the light. It has channeled the beasts and the fears within us and brought them to survivable places. Creativity will be embraced by the bean counters because it will be useful to separate their bean machine from the others."

Many clubs seed their rooms with dressy or flamboyant people to add to the adventure. "Image" promoters are asked to bring in and babysit young model types, because that is the image that has traditionally sold bottles. Many joints have "hipster nights," where the music isn’t the same ol’, same ol’ stuff heard around the scene. These nights are usually reserved for off-nights and generate enough money to be worth opening. The theory is that it breaks up the week and, every so often, a traveling wale (big spender) wanders in and it’s a score. These nights are the more creative (as I define it) and, in a sense, acknowledge that when the crowds are smaller on early weeknights, the clubs become more creative in order to set them apart from their competition. They change their own game to emphasize that their bean machine is cooler than the next one. New music and even fashion aren’t breaking out of clubs.Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny are throwing a couple of weeklys that don’t attract the fashion-forward set, and the music is also a step ahead. Places like Home Sweet Home are pushing the envelope with great DJs and fun programming. The Box format of shock and awe still brings in a great crowd, long after the novelty has worn off. The very fact that it offers “different” delivers crowds who are bored with the top 40 sounds and condo-clone set. That club does attract the debutantes and the frat boys and black card babies who, like moths, are attracted to its flame – but its smart door monitoring understands how much of that can be let in without scaring away the core crowd. On a small scale it proves that those not starving in Bushwick can embrace a creative format, and the different mindsets can exist in the same club at the same time. The era of a large club where all types gather has passed, but is the time right again for a real monster of music and fun and new ideas?

Nearly every club for a decade or more has hitched to the "great service" wagon. The art of bottle service has been refined into a science, but the concept is wearing thin. The clueless are still all in it but the sharp set are less interested in it as an idea of fun. It just comes with the table. I can’t help but believe those spending the bucks want anything more than the same, and there is little doubt that they will demand more. They are just following their traditional leaders: the good ol’ boy owners who service them as they flit around from Vegas to AC to The Hamptons and back.

One of these smart owners will turn to creative types to set them apart. Will it be drag queens dancing on the bar?…I think not. At least not in the beginning. But nights need to be curated to keep people in their seats and spending. After all, a bottle of Goose is the same bottle of Goose at the A-list club as it is in the dive bar. Getting dollars out of the customer will, as the industry continues to expand, become harder. Every nook, every restaurant or cranny, every roof, every bar salivates over the revenue stream bottle business brings. Entertainment to attract the crowds may not be as out there as what The Box has served, but it may separate the men from the boys. Vegas slams you with the big DJ, the beautiful go-go girls, and the staged entertainment. New York rarely offers anything more than a forced smile from a waitron and a sparkler. It will happen. Managing partners will mix things up or be left behind. Eventually, a large club will be necessary. It will start with a revamping of mid-sized venues and talent bookings. Electronic dance music venues will route acts from Vegas into their NYC locations and maintain a strict door policy. Think Lavo, but on a grander scale. As soon as spectacle is embraced, the need for a larger venue will become apparent. It may not be easy or even possible for a new large venue to open in Manhattan. The existing joints that live on the "size matters" concept are set in their ways and successful at what they do. Webster Hall may not be all things to all people, but they continue to offer brilliant music programming and serve thousands of people who enjoy their version of a big club experience. Their detractors must realize that they are music-based, they do make tons of money (one of the primary reasons to be in the business), and they have been around since before your parent’s were born.

Pacha serves those who want their brand of music and crowd. District 36 isn’t often on my radar, but it does offer a simple, classic, house-head purity. All of these joints are not part of the club social set scene. They don’t care much about that. Off-parties are wonderful fantastic experiences, but the jet-setters, the bon vivants, don’t consider them since they are putting on their shoes to go out. The cops and their puppeteers probably wouldn’t allow a new mega club in Manhattan, but Manhattan is not everything anymore. The high-rises of the Brooklyn waterfront, the $28 entrees at new nearby restaurants, the baby strollers on Bedford Ave., tell me that a ginormous joint could thrive in an old warehouse in Greenpoint or near there.

I have been hearing rumors and have sat in on a few meetings – I believe that this will happen. The next big thing most likely will be born outside of Manhattan and could redefine the scene to what it once was.

Birthday Boy Sam Valentine on Friday’s Sleaze Rock Festival & His Top 10 Rock Songs

Happy Sam Valentine’s Day and Week! I’m talking about Sam Valentine; the cool, cool rock and roll promoter that I work with every Thursday at Hotel Chantelle whose birthday is tomorrow. He lives rock 24/7, 365 days. He has the hair to prove it. This week, he is all over town celebrating, culminating in his sleaze rock festival called “Big City Rebels 5,” this Friday at Webster Hall. He has the band CRASHDIET playing, and much, much more. He says that he hasn’t been this excited in years. I caught up with Sam and asked him to tell me all about it.

It’s your birthday week and you have been celebrating this blessed event. What’s happened so far and what’s ahead?
So far I’ve been taking it easy and concentrating on promoting the big event coming up on Friday: my once-a-year sleaze rock festival called "BIG CITY REBELS 5.” This year I got the leading band in this new rock ‘n’ roll movement called CRASHDIET; they are basically the Motley Crue of our generation along with the bands THE LAST VEGAS, WILDSTREET, WICKED, and NASTY HABIT… lots of new blood with lots of passion, talent, and attitude. On top of this we have the rock n roll designer TOXIC VISION doing her party “GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS” with us; we get 30 girls and dress them in her trademark sexy bodysuits and they just go wild all night. As if that isn’t enough, for the after-party we are filming for a future episode of the popular TLC show NY Ink; Megan Massacre and Jes Leppard from the show will be guest DJing along with Joe Letz, the drummer of the industrial band COMBICHRIST. This is considered to be the rock ‘n’ roll event of the decade here in NY and it will live up to that.

Before the Festival on Friday, I have my weekly Wednesday the rock party RIOT AVENUE at Webster Hall. It’s known for its high level of debauchery, and this week we have a heavy metal magician and a strip contest.

On Thursday night, my actual birthday, I’ll be celebrating with my intimate friends at Hotel Chantelle’s GENERATION WILD party; that’s where the hangover will be started, and I expect the night to be crazy. I’ve got some very special guests coming as well.

You are a true rock and roll disciple. Tell me why rock is the true religion.
Growing up I had nothing to keep me company but rock ‘n’ roll. The moment I saw bands like Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, and Motley Crue on TV, I was hooked. I connected with this larger-than-life sound, look, and attitude. I like all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll, though I have a passion for the sound of loud guitars and pounding drum beats. It’s a style of music that rebels against the norm, and it expresses every feeling – from the love songs to the angry or just the party songs – it has it all. I don’t know where I would be or what I’d be doing with my life if rock ‘n’ roll hadn’t been there to guide me. I had no role models growing up but the rock stars on TV, which probably explains why I get in so much fun trouble all the time. 

Sam ValentineI DJ with you on Thursdays at Chantelle. You incorporate local bands into your set. Tell me why this is so important.
This is the most important thing to me. The hits that people know are needed, but these bands already had their success and got their money. The local bands are struggling to push and keep rock ‘n’ roll alive, and if we ignore them by not playing their music or rocking out to it, how is rock ‘n’ roll going to survive? Everyone likes to get a new car or a new apartment… new things are great, so why not want new music made by our generation? By playing these songs, we teach people there’s still great talent out there and rock ‘n’ roll is getting stronger than ever. It’s been growing in the underground for quite a bit now and it’s almost ready to explode again. It’s our local talent that is making this possible; their songs are as good as any classic, so why not play it in our sets? Someone has to put a stop to the same Bowie and Blondie songs being played over and over at every "rock" party. 

You swear by sleaze rock. Who are the sleaze rock players and what defines that sound?
Sleaze rock is the freshest most dangerous and fun sound in rock ‘n’ roll right now. It takes from bands like Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue – that party, badass, rebellious sound – but it’s being made by young people from this generation, so it took a life of its own, updating that sound to what we now call sleaze. It was made popular by bands like Hardcore Superstar, Crashdiet, Backyard Babies, and such. All these bands are from Sweden. Over there it’s the style of rock ‘n’ roll that dominates, and now it has spread to America with bands like Wildstreet, The Last Vegas, Dirty Penny, Sex Slaves, and such solidifying the following over here. It’s music to party to. It brings the fun back to rock. It has the larger-than-life rockstar look. It has danger, is dirty-sounding, and speaks to us, the generation that’s fed up with all this emo and generic sound that rock has had for the past decade. Plus, it’s giving strippers all around the world new songs to get naked to!

Hey, Hey, My My” rock and roll will never die, but most clubs don’t play much of it. Will rock be played in clubs in five years? Is it a viable genre for anyplace except dive bars and hipster hangouts?
I believe so. If you look back five years ago, there’s no place that would have ever let me play a sleaze rock track, but now they call ’cause every club wants that edgy look that this scene is bringing. I believe that in five years the sound will be just like the ‘80s again. It will be everywhere. It will be a great time, and everyone is going to want a piece of it. The pop world has drowned itself. Kids are bored. They need this new edge that sleaze rock and sleaze metal is bringing to music again… plus, it’s feel-good music and no one can be against that. In five years, I think my word will be proven right; it will be rock ‘n’ roll land once again. It’s long overdue.

OK, you’re going on a long rocket ship trip and can take 10 songs…what are they?

  1. Crashdiet – “Rebel
  2. Guns N’ Roses – “Night Train”
  3. Skid Row – “Youth Gone Wild”
  4. AC/DC – “Whole Lot of Rosie”
  5. Crashdiet – “It’s a Miracle”
  6. Wildstreet – “Easy Does It”
  7. Hardcore Superstar – “Run to Your Mamma”
  8. Motley Crue – “Kickstart My Heart”
  9. Backyard Babies – “Drool”
  10. Airborne – “Raise the Flag”

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Tonight the house community will gather to support Gwen McCrae who gave us the hit "Funky Sensation" and so much more. Ajna, 25 Little West 12th Street, will be packed to the rafters with DJs, performers, and hosts. Gwen suffered a major heart attack in London and this event is being held to raise cash to get her home to her family.

Two Articles On Bottle Service That Are Completely Clueless

There have been two recent articles professing the end of bottle service that I am being asked to weigh in on. The first: an article by Hardeep Phull on NYPost, and a story by Megan Willett from Business Insider. Both profess a "Chicken Little" approach to bottle service when all that’s really happening is an expansion of existing formats, not a quantum change. I contributed to my pal Hardeep’s article with a quote taken out of context from a much larger dialogue. He has it wrong, but compared to Megan’s take he is spot-on. Megan is clueless.

Marquee’s approach to dance was a calculated take on the market and their place in it. Their approach signals an internal decision to re-brand the NYC Marquee to be relevant to the Vegas Marquee, the highest-grossing nightclub in the country. They also have a Marquee in Australia. The NYC Marquee, after six years of wonderful and a few more of OK, needed a redux to bring it up to speed. I helped with the plan and the layout, but not the design. It was made clear from the start that it was all about the music, with some areas to accommodate big spenders who also cared about the music. It was also designed to be fairly non-competitive with their other NYC properties Avenue and Lavo, where bottle service thrives. Marquee made a smart move using their international DJ booking connections to create cachet. It doesn’t signal a trend of the end of bottle service in any way. Avenue and Lavo are bottle-selling machines. In that regard, the stories are just straight inaccurate.

Output in Brooklyn is as irrelevant to a larger social club concept as Cielo, the joint that spawned it. I love Cielo – did from day one. Its design, sound system, and bookings have made it one of the premier dance clubs in NYC. It has never been part of the larger club culture and has seen no need to be a part of it. Its new Brooklyn outpost should be a winner but it does not signify a trend. It’s merely serving dance aficionados in an ever-expanding Brooklyn scene. The trendy hipsters sipping $15 cocktails and eating $30 entrees at nearby hot spots in the new Williamsburg may never go to Output, and Output’s patrons may never go there but both will coexist in BBurg’s new world. Both are enjoying the transforming neighborhood which recently got a movie theatre and a Duane Reade and The Meatball Shop, and all sorts of other entertainment/distraction choices previously only found elsewhere. Output doesn’t signal the end of bottle service, but merely the expansion, or perhaps the gentrification of BBurg. On a side note ,I find it fascinating that a "no dress code approach to door policy" was mentioned or sited as portending a trend. I live in Williamsburg and basically everyone dresses the same here anyway.

Nightclub Space Ibiza is on its way to New York. It will be big, it will be grand, and it will compete with the other Ibiza-based mega club that thrives in NYC: Pacha. Webster Hall, a little as well. I go to Pacha on occasion, although not as often as I would like. I love Pacha. Eddie Dean and Rob Fernandez are magnificent at what they do. They find new talent, book established stars, and have created a mega club where you can dance and chat and buy bottles of booze or just plain water. They know their patrons and have a social scene that’s unique. They thrive and survive and have vast experience in the market. Space will be coming in and have to learn a lot quick. Big clubs attract big enforcement and scrutiny. They are off-the-beaten-path, but so was Crobar/Mansion before it was pummeled to death. 

Will there be competition? Of course. Will Space mean the end of Pacha? OMG, no. Space is a natural development. As EDM spreads to the masses, clubs will embrace the trend. More dance floor is needed to accommodate more dancers. These dancers are not being drawn away from bottle service. These clubs are not in competition with those clubs. EDM DJs command salaries in the high five and even six-digit ranges, and mega clubs are the only places that can afford them consistently  Space, Pacha, and Marquee have relationships with these superstar, rock star DJs as they are all international brands. The big club experience is enjoyed by many and shunned by many as well. I loathe EDM but I am confident that EDM heads would loathe my Ministry and Stones and Zeppelin DJ set.  

One of the things I particularly disapproved of in these articles and the comments that followed in social media was the comparison of these clubs to the mega clubs of yore. Palladium and Limelight and Tunnel all had door policies that culled crowds of 5,000 down to 3,000. Without getting into a discussion of the merits of door policy, those clubs had highly-developed social scenes at their core. We strived to book the best DJs available and had multiple, sometime six or more dance floors working in the same joint. We mixed crowds from all social strata, races, and creeds. Does EDM appeal to a mixed racial profile? Hmmm, I have not observed that. To me it seems to be white boy shee-it and that’s that, for now.

The articles also failed to recognize that EDM is a genre of music. There are many other genres of music. All have a place in our city which does include people of many ethnic backgrounds and classes and ages. EDM is expanding, but from my point of view it appeals mostly to a certain demographic and has not completely taken over the mindset of NYC clubs. Hip hop, mixed format, rock, pop, salsa and all sorts of other genres still pack them in. Sitting or standing or dancing with friends around a bottle is part of our club way of life. Marquee played a huge role in that development. Bottle service isn’t dying, going away, or being replaced. The writers just didn’t understand what the….  what they were talking about. No offense. 

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Saying Good Night to 2011

 

2011 rushes into history taking some notable strangers, a few friends, and some cherished concepts with it. I can’t complain about the way it treated me because it seemed to have treated a whole world of people worse. The world seems harder and more dangerous and less forgiving than in years past. Every minor conflict that we were worried about seems to have been worth the worry. The news is rarely good news and we seem to be accepting mediocrity as a nation. A recent trip to Virginia took me past town after town of similar malls and cookie cutter architecture. My New Year’s resolution is simply to still give a damn.

Nightlife has become more of a means to escape for most. There are still wonderfully creative and ambitious people pushing the envelope — celebrating creativity, but a solid decade of reality TV has unfortunately exposed us to our reality. "Boob tube" used to describe the instrument, when now it clearly describes those who find escape or answers or life watching it. I will be out and about tomorrow night popping in here and there, seeing the sights, kissing cheeks and telling bad jokes. I will DJ the last desperate hour of 2011 and a few moments of the virginal 2012 at Goldbar before heading into the streets where I always find comfort.

My first stop will be Stash, my wonderful creation on 14th and 8th. It is now ready for prime time players, and I will gather with a few friends and owner Matthew Isaacs for a toast to what was and what could be. It’s intimate, colorful confines will do the trick. I will miss GaGa at Times Square for the ball drop and probably Debby Harry at The Boom Boom Room (yes I still call it that). Nur Khan’s soiree at Casa Le Femme might catch me passing through for a second as I believe that the celebrators there will be gorgeous and fabulous. These terms are often mutually exclusive. That is a concept sometimes misunderstood in nightlife. W.I.P. seems to be a place to be with legendary producer Scram Jones Djing. If I am still awake I will head to Pacha for the tomorrow it always delivers. Pacha always is fantastic on New Years Eve. Webster Hall as well. If size actually matters (and I do thank God everyday that it does), these two joints are answers to your what-to-do? questions.

If you still don’t know where to go to find your place in the universe maybe it is best not to do it. The desperation of New Year’s Eve is sometimes a downer. Get some sleep and gather with friends for breakfast. If you must hit the streets realize that most places have been rented out until 2am with four-, five- and six-hour open bars as part of the package. By 2am there will be millions of not-so-hot messes walking and driving. Subways are reliable, packed and therefore safe at all hours. I tell everyone to hire a car and driver from your local car service for your peak hours. They charge 40 to 50 bucks but will wait for you anywhere and whisk you around and take you home safely. Split this with a few friends and it’s very affordable. Taxis will not be an answer. Places like Lit and White Noise, which are essentially mom and pop operations — saloons run by saloon keepers with panache — will often be the best place to enjoy the ride. They will be affordable and usually controllable. Anything goes in the big clubs, and if you don’t believe me ask any experienced security worker or company operator. They dread NYE.

Be careful, have fun and most of all don’t try to pack a whole years worth of partying into a single evening. Carry hand warmers and power bars and a small bottle of water. Stash some extra cash and only use it for an emergency. I worry about you.