NCI President Offers Seminar on the Importance of Nightlife Culture Next Week.

The Nightlife Cultural Initiative (NCI) in cooperation with the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) will be hosting a webinar next Tuesday entitledThe Business and Culture of New York Nightlife.”

The goal of this discussion is to tie the public support of nightlife with its economic success. A strong nightlife industry stimulates job creation, tourism and cultural development. However, if public perception focuses only on the negative aspects of nightlife and ignores the benefits, the entire industry and its related markets can suffer. The city as a whole can be weakened. This webinar will highlight the cultural benefits nightlife brings to any city and explain the challenges that nightlife currently faces in New York City.

The speaker, Gamal Hennessy, is the President of NCI and author of the book Seize the Night. RHI is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 with a mission to assist businesses and communities to plan safe and vibrant nightlife areas. This webinar is part of RHI’s Sociable City program which includes regular discussions online and in conferences designed to enhance and facilitate hospitality and nightlife nationwide.

Anyone interested in participating in this or any other Sociable City event can find more information on their registration page.

Have fun.

Gamal Hennessy

Vital Information

Date: Tuesday, September 11th

Time: 10:00 am- 11:00 am PST

Cost: $50

Link: http://rhiweb.org/webinar/author/hennessy.html

Two Boots Celebrates its History in the Lower East Side

 

Nightlife culture includes a wide range of creative elements from music to culinary arts to visual spectacles. It has a broad appeal not just for exclusive audiences but for the wider community. Two Boots, a long-time resident of the Lower East Side community will be celebrating its anniversary with an evening of music food and entertainment this Thursday.

At first, you might not think of a pizzeria as a part of the nightlife community, but anyone who has emerged from a bar or club in the middle of the night knows the importance of late night sustenance. Two Boots has been providing grub to the nightlife community for 25 years and is planning to celebrate with an outdoor festival at the East River Park Ampitheater. They are calling it the World’s Best Pizza Party and they are working with Summer Stage, AT&T and the Onion for this free event. There are over 100 performers and artists scheduled to participate including:

Luis Guzman

Nuyorican Poet’s Café

The Sierra Leone Refuge All Stars

Odetta Hartman

Lady Circus

Grolsch and Smutty Nose will be providing the beer and of course Two Boots will be supplying the pizza.

Mike Rosen is the spokesperson for this event. He told me that this event is about recognition. Two Boots knows that much of their character, history and success comes from the Lower East Side and the nightlife community. Over the years, they have worked with various local groups including the Lower Eastside Girls Club, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and Time's Up. This enormous pizza party is just another way to give back to the people who support them. The mainstream media is very quick to report on stories that paint nightlife and its related operators as blights on their community. This event does more than show that local businesses like Two Boots contribute to the community. It shows that the elements of nightlife culture can be shared and enjoyed by everyone.

Details

Event: Two Boots Anniversary Concert

Cost: Free

Date: Thursday August 23rd, 2012

Time: 5:00 pm- 9:00 pm

Place: East River Park Amphitheater

Twitter: @TwoBootsHQ

Have fun.

Gamal

Creating a Hedonistic World: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Giselle Reiber

 

by Gamal Hennessy

There are a lot of cocktail lounges in New York City. It has become a niche market unto itself. Every new venue is trying something different to stand out and appeal to the discerning New York native. Demi Monde is a new lounge that combines craft cocktails with creative entertainment for a very compelling effect. NCI sat down with their manager Giselle Reiber just before one of their unique nightlife performances.

NCI: Tell me about your career in nightlife and what you were doing before you got to Demi Monde.

GR: I got my start at Norwood where I learned a lot about how nightlife works. For a little while I was a bottle service hostess, but that wasn’t my thing. I transitioned pretty quickly into a management role and I’ve managed and help launch Pulqueria in Chinatown before coming to Demi Monde.

NCI: Give me an idea of the concept behind Demi Monde and how you are expressing that concept.

GR: Demimonde is a term made famous by Alexandre Dumas in the early 20th Century that literally means “half the world”. It refers to a high class hedonistic lifestyle. We’re trying to recreate that environment by combining high end craft cocktails with various types of performance art. We’ve only been opened a few months and we’ve already had contortionists, aerial silk dancers, fire eaters and burlesque shows. We plan to explore even more entertainment and performance art, although we probably won’t do the fire eating thing again.

NCI: Your cocktail menu is rather unique. Why do you think there has been such an international interest in cocktail culture over the past five years?

GR: I think it is a natural extension of the rise of foodies and the increased appeal of unique and exotic ingredients in food. When I first came to New York and started exploring restaurants I was exposed to cuisines and spices I never knew about growing up. I think it is similar for a lot of people when they start to explore cocktails. The same operators behind Death and Company developed Demi Monde so our approach to craft cocktails rivals anything available in New York.

NCI: You said you worked in bottle service before managing cocktail lounges. What do you think is the difference between your bottle service patrons and your cocktail patrons?

GR: I think the bottle service patron and the cocktail patron have different goals when they go out. The bottle service person is using the night to impress someone, whether it is his date, his client or his friends, about his income. The bottle is incidental. The cocktail patron is looking for a more sensual experience. They want a unique taste and a refined construction to what they drink. Whenever possible, we try to combine the two experiences by offering our hand made mixers with the bottle service instead of the standard juices to help our guest have a more distinctive experience. (See also: The Cultural Impact of Bottle Service

NCI: Demi Monde isn’t in an area known for its nightlife spots or cocktail lounges. Do you think you can lure more of the nightlife crowd downtown or do you think most of your regular patrons are the people who live and work in the area?

So far, have two waves of patrons on a typical night. Between 5-10pm, we get a combination of the Wall Street crowd and the regulars who live in the new buildings going up in the Financial District. Later in the evening we are seeing more people migrating down here from SoHo, LES and the Village.

NCI: People travel downtown for your cocktails even when there are several craft cocktail lounges in those other areas?

GR: They come for the cocktails and the entertainment. Demi Monde has become a destination spot because we offer an experience that includes cocktails, but we don’t just serve cocktails on their own.

NCI: What are you involved in outside of Demi Monde and where do you see yourself going in the near future?

Demi Monde is only part of my involvement in nightlife. I play keyboards in a performance group called Ice Balloons in addition to managing here. Both jobs give me a chance to be creative in different ways which is really what I want to do. I think I will stay in nightlife until I can work on my music full time or an even bigger creative opportunity comes along. 

Have fun.
Gamal

 

Consumption as Competition in Nightlife Culture

By Gamal Hennessy

There is an international competition every four years that brings athletes from all over the world for several weeks to participate in events of all types. There is a social competition every night that patrons of every class, race and demographic group compete in when they step up to the bar. Olympic athletes compete for fame, medals and patriotism. What do drinking competitors getting out of their experience? What motivates them to push the boundaries of tolerance and risk damage to their health and social status?

When Drinking Becomes a Sport

Keep in mind I’m not referring to any specific drinking game here. We are discussing drinking as a competition in and of itself without any other secondary set of rules. The rules of the game are simple; who ever is perceived to consume the most liquor in a given period of time and remain functional wins. This is a sprint, not a marathon. Someone who has one drink every night for ten nights is irrelevant to this contest. Someone who has ten drinks in one night is likely to get attention.

The interesting thing about the rules of competitive drinking is that they are seldom explicit. They are only hinted at in the statements that these rivals make:

Don’t try to keep up with me. I will drink you under the table!

You had 5 drinks last night?  I don’t even remember how many I had. It must have been around 9 or 10....

Who wants more shots?

The message is clear; in order to participate in this competition you have to keep drinking until you attain the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

Benefits of the Game

In competitive drinking, the quality of the drink is not important. The quantity is important. That means the benefits of this type of drinking are not sensual, they are social. The winners of competitive drinking are attempting to raise their social status among their peer group. It is a display of strength meant to send a message of high tolerance, endurance and superiority in comparison to the other drinkers. It is also a secondary signal of abundant resources and enthusiasm to push oneself in the name of “having a good time”.

All of this might sound petty and juvenile to the nightlife foreigner but the same dynamic exists in all levels of modern society. In the normal world, we compete in terms of money, house size, weight, hours worked, material goods owned and a host of other social struggles that are nothing more than substitutions for violent conflicts for dominance among our peers. Not everyone subscribes to competitive drinking as a concept, but that doesn’t make it any more or less credible as a social competition within that environment.

Pitfalls of the Game

Every game that has a winner also has a loser. In the case of competitive drinking, the loser is the one who consumes alcohol to the point where he is damaged socially, legally, financially or physically. This can manifest itself in a drunken brawl inside the club, a tarnished reputation, a lost job or a trip to the hospital. The pitfalls of competitive drinking both in the short term and over time can impact every other aspect of the competitor’s life. Like any other social competition however, some people are willing to risk everything for the chance at success. Everyone feels invincible when they start and very few people imagine themselves being the losers. Winning is a more happy daydream.

Two Types of Player

In competitive drinking there are the ones who drink and the ones who pretend to drink and exaggerate their consumption. The drinkers have the ability to enjoy the benefits of the game but also are susceptible to all of the pitfalls. The pretenders also can enjoy the benefits but can often avoid all of the pitfalls depending on how adept they are at subterfuge. While there is a potential social backlash for a person who is consistently caught lying about their drinking levels, the reality is that many people exaggerate their consumption to participate in the game and most of the drinkers do not have the attention span to keep track of what the pretenders do and don’t drink when they are in the heat of competition.

Organizers of the Game

When we try to find out who set up this game and who benefits from it, it is easy to point our fingers at the operators and accuse them of organizing and profiting at the expense of the patron. But a more reasonable observer has to look beyond the four walls of the bar. It is our wider society that pushes the maxim that more is better. It is our general economy that encourages increased consumption as a cornerstone of our prosperity. Outside of nightlife we have found a way to make every aspect of our social lives into some kind of competition. In many ways, nightlife culture is a mirror to mainstream culture. The patrons are primed to compete long before they step past the velvet rope. The operators may profit from this behavior, but they are hardly the ones to create it.

The Game in the Context of Nightlife Culture

Nightlife Culture is an artistic and social environment. If there is an absence of other types of interaction (musical, sexual or communicative) many patrons will default to competitive drinking. Understanding the motivation behind the action and dealing with those drives will help both the patrons and mainstream society better handle the benefits and pitfalls that it creates.

Have fun.
Gamal

The Four Residents of Nightlife Culture

      

 

by Gamal Hennessy

All nightlife patrons are not created equal.

I am not talking about differences in race, income, social status or gender. I am not referring to the reasons they might go out or the things they might like to do or the places they might like to go. The personal preferences of one patron and another is a natural and normal expression of individuality. I am talking here about basic patterns of behavior. I’m referring to the perspectives that separate one person from another and directly influence that person’s nightlife experience and the experience of the people around him or her. In my experience I have found that there are four types of residents in the nightlife space; operators, natives, amateurs and fanatics.

Operators: make the nightlife machine work. They are the people who offer the services and experiences that patrons come to enjoy. Operators exist on many levels and perform a wide variety of functions. Everyone from the owner of a venue to the manager, bartender, DJ, musician, hostess, waitress, security guard, dancer, sound technician and promoter are one level or another “operating” in nightlife. For many of them it is a passion. For all of them it is a business. Whenever you go out and enjoy a good party at a well run venue, with no fights, good service and a positive atmosphere, you have the operators to thank from the top of the food chain all the way down the line.

Natives: see nightlife as their natural habitat like a polar bear in the arctic or a tiger in the jungle. They are the people who spend a lot of time in nightlife and maintain a harmonious relationship with it. These are the people who go out to on a regular basis for a variety of different reasons and experiences; lounging with friends one night, listening to new music on another night, meeting clients for drinks and then dancing with a date at the end of the week. Some of them might know operators and use those relationships to get the inside track on the latest and greatest. All of them know the spots that best suit their personalities. The most important aspect about a native is the sense of balance. These people can drink, dance, and date several nights out of the week without sacrificing their health or their ability to work and without leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Amateurs: are relatively new to the nightlife experience. Circumstances like age, a previous lifestyle or simply being new to an urban environment have limited their exposure to clubs and the things that go on inside. New amateurs haven’t been to many venues. They don’t know what to expect when they get there. They don’t know what they can handle. They don’t know how to react in different situations and they haven’t integrated nightlife into the rest of their life. Old amateurs only go out to the clubs on rare occasions, but they go out on these same occasions every year. Although they have been exposed to nightlife on their birthday, New Year’s Eve and possibly Halloween, their relationship with nightlife is tenuous at best. Many of them still are unsure of what goes on in nightlife, many of them consume too much when they do go and many of them suffer in one way or another as a result of that over consumption. While some new amateurs evolve into natives, old amateurs shy away from repeated exposure to nightlife because of the pain associated with their over consumption.

Fanatics: combine two distinct qualities. First, they have considerable exposure to nightlife. They know where to go, they know what to do, they know what they can and can’t handle. Second they consistently strive to go beyond the limits of what they can handle with little regard for the consequences. These are the people who leave their homes at the start of the night with the mantra “Tonight, we are going to get fucked up!” They believe the volume of liquor they can drink is an indicator of their status. They see fights with other patrons and police altercations as struggles for respect and freedom. They consider the destruction of property and the disruption of people’s lives as inconsequential. They regard blackouts, hangovers and strained relationships are the cost of doing business. In the mind of the fanatic, if you’re not going to go too far, you shouldn’t bother going.

So where do you fit in?

Everyone who goes out fits into one or more categories. It might not be easy at first glance to figure out where you fit in. As I said before, it’s not based on age, standard of living, gender, race or social background. What kind of resident you are is based on your pattern of behavior and the frame of reference that guides your actions when you are out. Some patrons enhance the night, some patrons cause problems. You know who you are. The question is, are you the nightlife resident that you really want to be?

Have fun.

 

 

 

Why You Should Support Nightlife Culture

By Gamal Hennessy

When I talk to potential sponsors and charitable foundations about supporting nightlife culture, the first question I normally hear is “Why does nightlife culture need support?”

This is a good question. When people normally think about donating to cultural organizations ballet, operas and museums quickly come to mind. Nightclubs, bars and lounges are not normally identified with culture or the need for charitable support. What most people fail to see is that nightlife culture is a social good that is just as worthy of support and protection as any library, art gallery or concert hall. This is true for several reasons.

Nightlife culture is central to a city’s the quality of life. Without a thriving nightlife culture, our social dynamic is crippled. When that aspect of a city is gone students, tourists and young professionals migrate to other areas to satisfy that social need. Without a thriving nightlife culture, the artistic and creative community withers. When that happens, the economy and reputation of a city falls dramatically because people do not feel drawn to that environment. The health and progress of a city is directly related to the health of its nightlife culture.

Nightlife culture in New York is complex and multilayered. It has fostered our arts, giving us dozens of musical genres, culinary innovations, fashion styles and architectural novelties. It has shaped the relationships between people of different classes, races and backgrounds. It has attracted people from all over the world to visit, live and work here. It is as much a part of our history and identity as Wall Street, Times Square or Fifth Avenue.

In recent years, nightlife culture has been damaged by political, economic and technological changes. Nightlife has been made a scapegoat and held responsible for everything from drug abuse to urban crime and a general lower quality of life. Rampant gentrification, higher real estate costs and contradictory urban planning have created conflict between nightlife and local communities. Advancements in digital technologies and fragmenting entertainment markets have stifled many traditional creative outlets in nightlife. While nightlife culture continues to grow and adapt, it has suffered recently.

Supporting nightlife culture isn’t about supporting any one venue or style of club. It is about recognizing and appreciating everything that we gain from a healthy and vibrant cultural experience. This isn’t just the responsibility of the club owners. Everyone can benefit from nightlife culture, so everyone can play a part in appreciating and sustaining it. Without nightlife, New York would lose an essential aspect of what makes it the dominant city that it is.

So care about nightlife culture because it is one of the reasons you live in New York City. It is our soul and economic engine. Understand that it is important to everyone whether or not they patronize nightlife venues. Expose yourself to the cultural side of nightlife and experience everything it has to offer. Most importantly care about nightlife culture to make sure that it isn’t further eroded to the point where the city completely loses its artistic and social prominence.

Have fun.

Gamal Hennessy

Because It’s New York City: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Amanda Bantug

 

It is common knowledge that online marketing and digital distribution gives artists and musicians the ability to create and release music from any where on the planet. The cliché of coming to New York with your guitar to make a name for yourself isn’t as universal as it once was. But even in the era of iTunes Youtube and Reverbnation there are still many artists yearning to perform in the City. In the first interview of its kind, NCI talked to Amanda Bantug an alternative musician from Georgia who is planning her New York debut.  

NCI: When you imagine playing your music live in New York, what do you see in your mind’s eye? What do you think that first experience will be like?

AB: Since I’m not from New York, of course I imagine thousands of people singing my songs back to me a MSG, but realistically, that is not going to happen right off the bat. I know I’ll probably be at a more intimate venue, which is wonderful because I really get to interact with the audience. I hope the audience will give me a lot of their attention and really get to know me through my music. It’ll be really exciting for me because I love New York so much and it’ll be a dream come true to even play up there. Even if it’s just me and a guitar.  

NCI: Tell me about the last song you wrote. What inspired it, how did you develop that idea and what kind of emotions did it bring out of you when you knew it was done?

AB: I literally just a wrote a song yesterday. I have a very close friend who actually inspires me to write a ton of songs. They’re just in the phase of doing anything they want to do and take anything they are handed. It sucks because they have such a great talent that could take them wherever they want, but their heart just isn’t in the right place. So that is what the song is kind of about. After writing it, I just feel like a weight lifted off of me, because sometimes I can’t express myself best verbally, so I put in song. But songs can’t fix things, so the emotions I still feel towards my friend haven’t changed.  

NCI: What inspiration do you think you will get from being in New York City to perform? 

AB: I’ve read somewhere that being in different surroundings can help your mind open up to creating different ideas and what not compared to what someone would usually create in their day to day setting. With that being said, I would definitely be inspired to write about different concepts with a different type of genre. I am always up for experimenting with sounds, lyrics, and structure.

NCI: Why do think a lot of musicians still want to come to New York to perform? In an era of digital distribution and independent music, what still draws artists like you to want to perform here?

AB: Cause it’s New York City! What else is there to say? There are only a few cities in the US that are as diverse as NYC. I feel like you can always run into someone up there who can pull a couple of strings for you. Because of all this digital distribution, there is so much going on, it’s hard to listen to all of the bands that deserve a chance. That is why us artists need to play live in so many places, including New York :)

Links

Facebook: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandabantug#!/artist/bio/artist_1700888

Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandabantug#!/artist/bio/artist_1700888

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/amandabantug

YouTube: Amanda Bantug Videos

The Cultural Impact of Bottle Service in New York Nightlife

By Gamal Hennessy

If the rumors are to be believed, Rhianna might be single handedly responsible for altering nightlife culture this year. The bottle throwing brawl between Chris Brown and Drake, allegedly over her, has shut down W.I.P, sparked statements from the City Council, the NYPD, the State Liquor Authority and the newly formed Hospitality Alliance.  It remains to be seen what will come out of this controversy, but it is clear that for better or worse, changes in the bottle service dynamic will have a direct impact on nightlife culture itself that should be considered before any sweeping changes are made.

Historic Origins of Bottle Service

The practice that is now referred to as bottle service began in Post War Japan, where sake bars began to serve seated soldiers whole bottles of liquor at once, instead of constantly shuffling back and forth with drinks. What started out as simple efficiency evolved into a motivation for club reservations in Europe and finally a barrier to entry in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. The popularity of bottle service grew for two reasons; the economic benefit to the operators and the social benefit to a specific type of patron.

Economic Impact of Bottle Service

Everyone knows that the difference between the cost of a bottle of liquor in the store and the cost of a bottle in the club can easily be several hundred dollars, but not everyone knows why. Bottle service has nothing to do with liquor. It is about real estate and social prestige that has no realistic relationship to the actual cost of the liquor. When you order bottle service you are also assigned a specific geographic area that is far more valuable to the operator than the bottle. Each table they sell represents a specific stream of revenue. If bottle service was really just about liquor, the bartender would hand you the bottle and send you to stand in a corner.

The value of that real estate can be fundamental to the bottom line of any venue. A recent Harvard study called “Marquee: The Business of Nightlife” claimed that while only 40% of patrons on any given night might buy bottle service, that group accounted for more than 80% of the nightly revenue. From an economic standpoint, that means that the reduction or elimination of bottle service from New York nightlife would make it difficult for many venues to remain open. From a cultural standpoint, a severe contraction of the market could alter the basic activity and interaction that people have when they go out, regardless of whether they buy bottles or not.

Psychological and Social Impact

Patrons don’t pay for bottle service because they don’t know how much a bottle of vodka really costs. They buy bottle service because they perceive several benefits in this nightlife ritual:

  1. It is a temporary display of wealth that sends a message to potential lovers, rivals and associates.
  2. It is a source of ego gratification that can give the buyer a higher sense of worth relative to the rest of his or her normal daily routine
  3. It is a method of segregation that patrons use to separate themselves from other groups in a venue.
  4. It is a security blanket that patrons can use to feel safer in what might otherwise be a foreign or uncomfortable situation.

Ironically, it is social and mental aspects of bottle service that are the source of the problem. When celebrities, or any group, enjoys a feeling of entitlement they are more prone to act out in an anti social manner, especially if they feel there are no consequences. If a bottle throwing melee breaks out and the club is punished instead of the celebrity fighters then that feeling of entitlement is reinforced. We shouldn’t be surprised if they engage in similar behavior in the future.

Is This the End of Bottles?

There have been rumors and theories floating around about the end of bottle service from the time that it became a staple in nightlife culture. The most recent prediction of its demise has come in the wake of the economic crisis but the number of venues that provide bottles has not decreased significantly.

Can new regulations and laws hurt bottle service in ways that the economy couldn’t? Is it possible that we could see the practice altered, curtailed or eliminated from the nightlife landscape? To the best of my knowledge that decision hasn’t been made yet. I do know that if local officials are attempting to send a message to the nightlife community, that message needs to be sent to the people actually fighting and not the location that the fight took place.

 

Bottle service isn’t the main problem in the Brown/Drake fiasco; uncontrolled male aggression and fragile male egos are the main problem. We can’t solve that problem by legislating away bottle service. Take away the bottles and boys will find something else to fight with.  The most adequate response to promoting safety and security in nightlife is not to ignore the fanatics and punish the operators. If there is video of the crime, check the video tapes. Prosecute the bad actors in criminal and civil court. If the venue is found to be complicit in the events that occurred, then punish them in addition to everyone in the fight. To simply close the club and let the celebrities walk away empowers other fanatics to engage in similar behavior without fear of the consequences and they’ll do it with or without bottles.

Have fun.

G

The Culinary Side of Nightlife Culture: An interview with Jimmy Carbone and Rev Ciancio

By Gamal Hennessy

Music and fashion might be the most public aspect of nightlife culture, but consumption is the most basic and integral part of the experience. What we can eat and drink in nightlife is very different than what we allow ourselves to consume in normal life. There is an escapist quality in culinary nightlife that is just as strong as the artistic passion or the sexual expression. To get a better appreciation of this side of the culture, NCI sat down with Rev Ciancio and Jimmy Carbone to get their perspective on the eve of their new event series Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: Where did the concept of Elixirs and Eats come from?

Jimmy: We've been producing events together for a couple of years now. We know what goes into a successful event and what people enjoy. We have also made connections with a lot of small businesses creating unique small batch spirits. We decided to couple our involvement in culinary culture with the up and coming spirits producers that we know to create a unique series of events.

NCI: How did each one of you get involved in the culinary aspect of nightlife culture?

Rev: I started in the music biz as an artist manager. Managing bands is essentially like as series of pop up events.  I'd set up the tour, get the band in their van or bus, promote the shows and put the band back on the road when the show was over. After doing that for a few years, my interest in music events began to ebb, but my interest in the hospitality industry overall got stronger. That's when I began to focus on more culinary productions around the city.

Jimmy: I started out on the culinary and hospitality side of the business. I own and operate a restaurant called Jimmy’s No. 43 so the food and drink side of the equation has always been important to me. It was my involvement in that business that exposed me to the spirits that we are going to be focusing on for Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: How is your event different from other tastings in the city?

Rev: We’re different for two reasons. We've found that many of the tastings in the city focus more on the cocktail and not on the complexity of each spirit. That's why we want to offer our independent spirits neat or on the rocks, so our guests can get a full appreciation of the straight bourbon and the food we pair it with.

The other thing is, a lot of liquor tastings have a stiff corporate feel about them. We want to expose people to these great spirits and we want them to be able to meet the producers of each liquor we bring it, but we also want people to have a good time. That's why we're going to have great live music and a first rate burlesque show as well. We want people to get off work, come straight over, enjoy a summer evening on a beautiful rooftop and have a good time. That's always the main focus for us.

NCI: Tell me about the entertainment that you’ll have for each event and the venues you are working with.

Jimmy: We should talk about the venue first. Hudson Terrace is an amazing spot in terms of location, style and set up. It is the perfect place to spend a summer evening. It's also a great place to create a unique New York experience. We're going to have international trumpet player Fabio Morgera and his trio playing live to add to the ambiance and the Love Show burlesque to add some spice to the night. When you combine all that with our culinary offerings you get one of the best after work experiences in the city.

NCI: What about your beverage partners? Tell me a little bit about how they got involved in Elixirs and Eats.

Jimmy: We've met many great independent distillers when we were producing our previous events. For this first show, we're bringing together Warwick Valley, Caledonia, Scorpion Mezcal, and Templeton to let our guests sample and discuss what their spirits are all about. If you have a love for well made bourbon or you want to find out more about it, this will be a great setting for that.

NCI: What is the ultimate goal of Elixirs and Eats?

Rev: We want to expose people to more of the culture of spirits and create an atmosphere where people have fun exploring new tastes, new music and new experiences. We're not planning to take over the world with Elixirs and Eats. We just want to have fun giving people what they enjoy.

Have fun.

G

Stonewall, Nightlife Culture and Gay Rights in America

By Gamal Hennessy

The modern era of gay rights in America can be traced back to a small bar in New York’s West Village. When a group of transvestites refused to go into the bathroom to have their genitals inspected to determine their gender, it marked a turning point in the relationship between homosexuals and heterosexuals in the US. To a large extent it also changed the perception of homosexuals about themselves. The annual Pride Parade, positive gay figures in the media, debates on gay marriage and open sexual orientation in military service are all a by-products of the first Stonewall Incident.

Nightlife culture has a social impact that goes beyond bottle service and DJs. It is an environment that pushes the envelope of American culture as a whole. Historically, it is the space where minorities and homosexuals felt accepted when they weren’t accepted anywhere else. It is where modern music and fashion trends are tested before they slip into the mainstream. It is where social protests and movements from anti-Prohibition crime to the start of the gay rights movement found their home. If more progress is going to be made, it may very well continue where it started. Even if common society’s apathy, red state mentality or tabloid media slurs continue to promote division and hate, nightlife can and should be a haven for those who need a place to get away from the negative elements of society. Natives need to protect each other.

As New York celebrates LGBT Pride in parades and parties, we should keep in mind the importance that nightlife culture has played in providing a social haven and building the communities that drive progress in America.

Have fun.
G

The Pride of New York Nightlife: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Sabrina Haley

Pride is a cultural celebration born out of New York nightlife. It came from the Stonewall Riots and grew into similar LGBT events around the world. For some nightlife natives, Pride doesn’t just happen once a year. Some people live, breathe and create this culture every week. Sabrina Haley is one of those people. As a producer, bartender, photographer and activist she supports nightlife culture on a year round basis. NCI sat down to talk with her on the eve of her biggest event of the year 

Sabrina Haley Website

NCI: Let’s start by talking about how you got started in nightlife and what you are up to now.


SH: I came to NYC in 2004 to be a photographer. I attended work scholar program at the Aperture Foundation. I worked there forty hours a week but didn’t get paid. I needed to find another way to make some money. An old friend of mine from San Francisco got a DJ gig at a place called Girls Room. The parties were scarce for us back then so I joined her to create a new event. That turned into a weekly party called Girl Scout. We had girl-scout cookie cocktails and gave away merit badges for best breasts and best dancers. Girl’s Room was a dirty spot on Lower East Side but the party took off and I was hooked. I started to promote, attend and photograph as many parties as I could after that. NYC was alive and I wanted to be a part of it. I learned then that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. When you let go of that concept you can succeed and rock anything!  

Right now I am working to support Pride because it is my favorite time of year. I am working to produce some of the biggest and best parties. The biggest one I’m doing this year is the Siren Pride at the Beekman Beach Club. I’m planning to have great music, good food and drinks and sexy mermaid burlesque dancers celebrating with 3,000 people with a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

NCI: Tell me all the different things you do in nightlife culture in a normal week. And then tell me what drives you to do all those things.

SH: Currently I produce and bartend a weekly Tuesday night event called Mix Tape, at Henrietta Hudson’s. It’s a happy hour into night dance party focusing on old school hip hop and throw back dance music.  I also am the lead bartender and host of a Friday party called Lesbo A Go-Go at the infamous Stonewall Inn that has been going on for six years. We offer a high energy dance party with no cover, sexy go-go dancers, and lots of women every week. I also attend many other events to stay connected to the community. I’m out and about taking photographs at a lot of different places; everything from benefits to roof top launches to gay boy dance clubs to special house DJ sets. All my weeks look different! 

My drive comes from the passion I have for my community. I want my life and work to be about helping people and bringing them together. It is so rewarding for me to get emails from young queers thanking me for what I do because it makes it easier for them to be gay and feel comfortable in their own skin. That makes it all worth it to me. What I do sends the message that I believe in our rights and am here to fight for them. That makes much more sense to me than spending my days checking into an office or selling my soul to corporate America.

NCI: Talk about the struggles that go into putting together a successful one off party and a successful weekly party. How many hours go into preparing for one night?

SH: They are very different beasts. When I am doing a one off party, it’s really best to have at least a month of preparation. If it’s a big annual party like Siren Pride our team usually works on it for at least four months. The concepts get kicked around almost as soon as the last one is done.  It takes lots of hours. People really do not have any idea how much work it is to create a good party. It’s not just a FB invite. It’s a long term relationships with venues, talent and guests. It’s marketing across the board. It’s creative work to develop press, fliers and the look and feel of event. It’s decision making. It’s gambling. I have to decide which is the right DJ to make this crowd pop? What are the right hours for this night? The list goes on and on…


For a weekly party, I treat it like a relationship. You are working on it all the time, keeping up the momentum, coming up with new specials, theme nights, drink specials, promo, new talent, continued guests and things like that. You have to make the guest feel wonderful so they come back. A weekly survives on regulars. We love our tourists, and visiting partiers, but they do not keep it alive from week to week.

NCI: Tell me what you are looking for when you are conceptualizing a new event or looking at a new space?

SH: I usually have a creative spark; an idea of the event. Then I estimate the numbers from a 150 to 2000 person party. I try to find a space that is the right size and accommodations for that crowd. I like a nice full room, not too empty and not to packed. And the sound system is key. Finally, the venue has to be queer friendly (obviously) and the staff has to be both professional & fun. 

NCI: What is the single most important thing that goes into a great party?

SH: I like to say..."Energy In, Is Energy Out". It’s a simple concept of physics. I put my heart into my events. I give it my energy and then people feel that. Everyone we hire from DJs, dancers and staff all get behind the idea. Then it becomes a community. That is contagious. The crowd feels it. And that’s when you have a great party.

Sabrina Haley Website


Have fun.

G
 

A Life Behind the Decks: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Kamala

by Gamal Hennessy

When I began my professional exploration of nightlife culture one of the first DJ groups that inspired me was a trio of ladies that went by the name InJoy. I followed them from APT to SubMercer to Cielo. They captured everything about nightlife culture because they were soulful, sexy and they made beautiful music. All three ladies are still spinning in various venues and one of them, DJ Kamala sat down with me to talk about the life and inspiration of a New York DJ.

                Vital Statistics

  • Genre: Dance Music, House
  • Inspirations: Louie Vega, Timmy Regisford, Osunlade
  • Recent Performances: MOMA
  • Latest Project: Original Production due to be released July 2012
  • Next Local Performance: Thursday at Bath Tub Gin
  • Websitewww.kamalamusic.com
  • Twitter: @DJkamala

NCI: Tell me about the first time you spun in front of a crowd.

KJ: My first time was in the spring of 1998, at one of my favorite legendary New York City night clubs, Nell’s. Even though it was passed it's hey day, it was still monumental in my mind for me to spin there. It was a short set but I got the crowd going with Manu Dibango's "New Bell" and it felt great!

NCI: Wow. You remember the first major song you dropped almost 15 years ago? That’s deep. What inspired you to become a DJ in the first place?

KJ: I was always a music aficionado so at age 11, it became a hobby to collect music and record my own compilations. Being from downtown Manhattan, night clubbing became the thing to do very early on. Going out, dancing, listening to DJs, making friends and finding community. I fell in love with nightlife culture and history, how it related to my own story. I was already a night owl and 9-5 was a routine I struggled to flow with. Djing seemed to me the most fun way to earn a living that I felt I had a talent for and which could potentially become a career. Thanks to it, I've opened up to music production and it's a whole new world.

NCI: Nice. Who are your favorite people to play with? Where are your favorite places to play?

KJ: As a DJ, I've gotten to get to know a lot of DJs and it's always great to come together with talented friends musically. It’s a special treat whenever I get to spin with someone who I perceive as a legend in the business. In terms of places, I love spinning all kinds of environments because I get to feel my range and adaptability to spaces. I get a special kick out of spinning outdoors in public venues and of course anywhere with a big audience. The more the merrier.

NCI: What kind of mood do you try to create when you play?

KJ: My whole purpose as a DJ is to create a mood that evolves through out the course of the night, ideally complementary to the venue and occasion. Personal expression comes across heavily in my selections and I really want to touch the audience on a variety of levels subliminally and outright. I am always looking to turn people "on" with the music. As a woman, there's a natural sexiness that easily comes across which I am happy to exploit if it will open ears but mainly, depending on the occasion, I want to trigger an insatiable urge to respond physically to the music, i.e. dance!

NCI: Where are you playing these days? Do you have a residency?

KJ: It varies month to month the engagements that I play which is fine with me because I enjoy the novelty inherent in the work. A few recurring outlets lately have been Thursday nights at Bath Tub Gin, and the last Friday of every month at the Rubin Museum. I also spin every Wednesday 5:30 - 7PM via a mobile and internet radio site www.handzonradio.com.

NCI: Where do you find new music and the inspiration to DJ?

KJ: Music is the fuel for my DJing, if there were not so many amazing sounds to share, I'd be doing something else. Because of the music that I adore, sharing it, is a pure joy and thrill. I also get into the process of mastery. Of becoming ever greater at the craft I've chosen to express myself thru. Every time is a learning experience that I come away with enriched and it's inspiring to witness my own growth.

I get a good portion of my favorite house beats from sites like Traxsource and Afrodesiamp3. I am forever sourcing for music.  I'll look under any rock to find more songs that excite me.

Have fun.

G

Hip Hop Love from Tokyo to New York: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Mika

By Gamal Hennessy

Being a DJ in New York isn’t easy. In addition to learning the technical skills, you have to navigate your way though bar owners, promoters and patrons who often don’t appreciate you. It takes a lot of passion and confidence to thrive in this world. Many people want to DJ but can’t deal with that kind of stress.

Now imagine adding a move to the other side of the planet and learning another language to the obstacles between you and pursuing your dream of spinning behind the decks. How many of us would be willing to face all those challenges to reach our goals? That is what DJ Mika has been able to accomplish. NCI caught up with this old school DJ fresh from her performance at Hot 97 Summer Jam to talk to her about hip hop and living in nightlife culture.

Vital Statistics

  • Name: DJ Mika
  • Hometown: Ibaraki, Japan
  • Inspirations: DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Muro, DJ Mitsuru, DJ Maru and DJ JUNE
  • Last Performance: Hot 97 Summer Jam Interscope booth
  • Next Local Performance: Resident DJ Tues to Saturdays at bOb bar (235 Eldridge St.)

NCI: How were you first introduced to hip hop music growing up in Japan? What is the first artist you remember listening to?

Mika: My older brother has always loved hip hop music. Growing up with him and the music he listened to made me hip hop fan! LL Cool J probably had the biggest impact on me. The first songs I remember hearing were “Jinglin’ Baby” and “Round the Way Girl”.

NCI: What made you decide to start DJing? How did you learn to mix?

Mika: My brother and I spent a lot of time listening to CD mixed from other DJs. At a certain point, I wanted to make my own CDs. I didn’t know how to make them, but I knew I wanted to learn. So, I bought equipment and I started to learn by my self at first. After I came to NYC, I learned DJing from artists who taught me what they knew especially DJ C2. I always appreciated the time they took to help me.

NCI: What made you decide to come to New York? Was it difficult getting a DJ job here?

Mika: After I made my first mix CD, I didn’t think it was very good but I loved it because it gave me the confidence to become more involved in hip hop music. I started to dream about DJing for more and more people.  That’s when I decided to learn more about real hip hop culture and come to NYC.  I’m lucky because the friends I met here helped me a lot to get DJ job and always supported me.  I really appreciate that.

NCI: How did hip hop fans treat you when you began to DJ in New York?

Mika: Most people showed me a lot of respect, but sometimes it’s twice as hard because I’m Japanese and a girl.  It took a long time for me to establish myself. But, I think now I finally get respect for my set and not just because I’m a female DJ. J

NCI: What is the best part of being a DJ in New York? 

Mika: When I decided I wanted to become a street DJ, I knew the best place to do that was in New York. That’s where it all began. Now that I’m here and spinning on a regular basis, I am living my dream. What is better than that?

NCI: Is there anyone you want to shout out?

Mika: I’d like to thank everyone for reading this interview. I want everyone to know how much I love being a NYC DJ.

I also want to give special thanks to DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Starshell, DJ JUNE, DJ Smooth, Taq , Mitsuki, and all my friends!

Also, thanks to General, Nadia, from It’s Done Promotions, Rome from Badboy Records, Daniel from Drity  Magazine, DJ Emmo, Harmen, DJ Fortune, Espinoza from Cajo communications, Powaradio crew, ATS from the Rock Steady Crew, DJ Technic, Dreatraxx from Hoodstarz, my Japan Crew, identity bar crew, Rock and soul crew, Jemiho , DJ CHURCH, DJ Rawbetaz, DJ Krazie Charlez, DJ Max Carnage, Malik, George, Greg from bOb bar, Eli, Fred The Godson, Beats by Dre and DUB. (I can’t write everyone’s name but I want to say THANK YOU for everyone who supports me!!!)

Have fun.

G

Must Be the Music: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Herbert Holler

 

By Gamal Hennessy

Music is the heart of nightlife culture and DJs are the people who keep that heart beating every night in New York City. This week, NCI is proud to present three interviews with unique DJ’s filling clubs and dance floors all over the city. We begin with a pioneer of nightlife culture and the creator of the Freedom Party, DJ Herbert Holler.

NCI: You have been involved with nightlife culture for almost 10 years now. What do you see as the biggest difference between the environment you found in 2004 and what you see now?

HH: I’ve actually been involved with nightlife culture for 18 years now, if you can believe it. I started in 1994 promoting Giant Step parties. I was one of those dudes standing outside near the Cube on Astor Place, handing out flyers. (Ahh…The good ol’ days!) The main difference in the culture between then and now is that today, the culture itself has been turned into big business—molded, processed, and mass produced. There are “parties” everywhere. There are individuals calling themselves “DJs” and “promoters” everywhere. They’re pumped off the assembly line like bags of chips, so of course quality of the nightlife suffers. There’s still a culture, though, just not one with as much significance as before.

NCI: You told me that it is harder to figure out why people come to a party than to figure out why they stay away. What are some of the reasons people won't go out to a party and how have you learned to deal with those factors?

HH: There’re lots of reasons why someone may not come out. It could be location of the party, costs associated with attending (admission, drinks, food, transportation, etc.), what they’ve heard or not heard about the party, the kind of music played, maybe they’re tired, maybe they have to get up the next morning for whatever reason…The list goes on. I never know what’s going on in the minds of potential patrons, so I just try to make it as enticing as possible by taking away these obstacles. I choose venues that are easy to find and get to, I don’t charge a lot of money to walk in the door nor do I fuck with venues that hit you over the head at the bar. I make sure the music played is the BEST music in town (of course). I do my events on weekend nights so everyone can come out. I make sure I get the word out as much as possible, build as much buzz as I can, so people get excited and everyone’s talking about it. Etc., etc..

NCI: Explain the philosophy behind the Freedom party. What were you trying to create when you started and what have you learned about people and music as the party has developed?

HH: Freedom was created to, basically, help preserve NYC nightlife culture. Marc Smooth, DJ Cosi and I felt the BEST way to do this was to bring music back to the forefront. Make it about the music and the dance floor, and that in turn would work everything else out, from vibe to price. (Music is the answer!) Parties were mostly about attendees and how much money was spent. Freedom is about what’s being played. We completely flipped it around when we started in 2003. Today, we’re learning that a “classic” record’s excitement depends on what age group you have on your dance floor. “Funkin’ For Jamaica” was a big record for us when we started 9 years ago, and now, we barely play it. Most of our big records are from the later 80s, early 90s, and that has everything to do with how old the people dancing are.

NCI: You described the music that you play as music that has stood the test of time or will stand that test. What do you hear in a song today that tells you that song will last? Where do you find your new music or your musical inspirations now?

HH: For me, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not a song will stand the test of time: Does it have soul? It’s that simple. Does the record have a soul? A heart? A spirit? Melodies help, but melodies alone don’t make classics. The song has to have an identity, tell a story, DO something other than pull out pop devices and clichés. Most people think Isaac Hayes or Al Green or James Brown when they think of soul. But I think soul can be in anything. Dubstep, electro, commercial dance music, pop…All these things CAN have soul, and I find when they do, they stick around a lot longer. (Adele, Gotye, etc.)

NCI: Where do you see nightlife culture in the next 10 years? What will social entertainment look like in 2022 and will you still be a part of it?

HH: That’s too big of a question to answer on just one page. Shit…You can do a whole thesis paper on the future of nightlife culture. In brief, I guess…Nightlife culture will still be here, and perhaps it will find new breath, a new raison d’etre. Cycles play a big role in lots of different things. Perhaps we’ll enter a new cycle and see a revival in the respect and preservation of the culture. Maybe we’re entering one now. Regardless of where it will be, I will most likely be there with it. After all these years of spinning records and putting together parties (soon-to-be operating/owning), it’s safe to say that this is my calling.

Links:

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/herbertholler

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/herberthollerpage

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/herbertholler

Vimeo: http://www.vimeo.com/herbertholler

Subsriptions: http://www.tinyurl.com/subscribe2holler

Web: http://www.herbertholler.com

Have fun

G

The Social Side of Nightlife Culture

By Gamal Hennessy

When you walk past the bouncer and into a lively bar, it might feel as if you’ve submerged yourself into a chaotic mess. Various sized clusters of people are interspersed with floaters, stragglers and spectators. Some are laughing, some are dancing, some are yelling, some are oddly silent and a few of them are chasing each other around the room with phone cameras.

There is a certain amount of random shenanigans going on here, but if you sit back and observe them you can see that there are various types of communication, interaction and connection that going on in any bar or club. Being able to understand what is going on will give you a stronger appreciation for the social dynamic in nightlife culture. The following examples are not meant to be exhaustive or exclusive. Many of these interactions can happen simultaneously and even a conversation within a group can ebb and flow from one to the other. But these examples will give you a sense of the complex dynamic going on in any crowded bar.

Elements of Social Interaction in Nightlife Culture

Sexual: The most obvious type of connection in nightlife is the sexual one. Nightlife is sex and sexual energy is sublimated in to every aspect of the nightlife experience. We present ourselves in ways that we hope will attract potential partners. We tease and flirt to test the waters. We play games of attraction and seduction to capture their imaginations and then we go where that connection leads us. Whether you are talking about pick up artists in a meat market or a quiet date at a martini bar, a one night stand or happily ever after, modern courtship happens in the nightlife space. Without it, a major link in the sexual selection process would be gone.

Business: There is an saying about never mixing business with pleasure but anyone familiar with nightlife knows this mixing goes on every night. Nightlife is integral to many business practices and many deals, business connections and meetings would not happen absent a night of drinking. I’ve spent time with people in the advertising, legal and media industries. Going out to “events” for or with the client is just as important (if not more important) than the work that goes on from nine to five. I’ve seen upscale lounges sectioned off for so many private parties of investment banks and insurance companies that the place looked less like a bar and more like a convention at the Javits Center. I’ve been on both ends of the buying and selling process in several cities around the world and one thing remains constant; if a deal is going to get done, someone has to take someone out for some drinks. It could be a few pints at the pub. It could be bottle service at the newest lounge. It could be lap dances in the champagne room of a strip club. The concept is the same. If there is no pleasure, there probably won’t be any business.

Bonding: Our experiences are not limited to picking up strangers or selling something to our clients. A lot of our time is spent with people we already know and actually want to spend time with outside of work. Friends, family, couples who are dating, all use nightlife to reconnect and enhance the bonds they already have. How common is it to email friends you haven’t seen in a while and find out where they’ll be on Friday night so you can all hang out and have some fun? What is a date if not a couple spending time together? If family members come in from out of town and they are not too young or too old to go out, isn’t it normal to bring them to some bar? You could get together for conversation, carousing or just to catch up. The bar or lounge are prime places to do that.

Celebration: Venues often market themselves as having the best parties in the city. We use events and occasions both large and small as the reasons to get together and enjoy ourselves. A few close friends might take you out to celebrate your birthday with you. Perhaps you attend a release party for an artist’s album or gallery opening. Maybe it’s an after party for an awards show, closed deal or concert. Or it could be a huge holiday celebration for Thanksgiving Eve or New Year’s Eve. We mark some of the significant events in our lives with a celebration and very often that celebration happens in a club.

Exhibition: The most subtle type of social communication is the exhibition. Many of us engage in a constant struggle to raise our social standing and rank relative to similar people in our surroundings or our peer group. To achieve this, we show the people around us our value through some type of display.

  • Men will order bottle service to show that they have money to spend.
  • Clubbers will throw themselves onto the dance floor to show that the skill they have with their bodies.
  • Women will compare themselves to the size, shape, attractiveness and style of other women in the room.
  • Social butterflies will move through the room collecting handshakes and kisses to show how much people love them.
  • Drinkers will knock back beers as fast as they can to show their superior tolerance for alcohol.  

Each display is meant to send a signal, build reputation and ultimately value. The struggle to climb the social ladder is not unique to nightlife, but the exhibitions that can be found here are often different than what you might find in the daylight hours.

Communication as culture

It is easy to see how music, food and fashion play a role in nightlife culture and by extension influence society as a whole. But culture is not only the artistic and aesthetic components of a society. How people communicate with each other is also an important factor. Nightlife is, at its heart, a social interaction. We go out to connect with friends, lovers and strangers on one level or another. Our social interaction is part of our lifestyle and lifestyle is part of culture.

Have fun

Gamal

Where is the 21st Century Protest Music?

By Gamal Hennessy

I was recently having a drink with a veteran rock musician, discussing the changes in nightlife and music over the past two decades. At one point, she asked me “Is this generation of musicians protesting anything with their songs?” She said it as a rhetorical question but I think it’s a question that deserves attention from a cultural standpoint, especially since there are several factors that influence the music we listen to when we go out.

20th Century Protest Music

Modern social movements are identified with music that captures the spirit of that protest.

  • Various artists including James Brown, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, Sly and the Family Stone and Bob Dylan supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
  • Musicians like Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez and The Doors wrote songs protesting the Vietnam War in the 1970s
  • In the 80’s, the Police, U2, Prince and Bruce Springsteen released protest songs concerning various issues while rap music grew out of protest songs from artists like Grandmaster Flash and developed with groups like Public Enemy, NWA, and the Beastie Boys.
  • Rage Against the Machine, Living Color and the Fugees were three of the most prominent protest groups of the 90’s.

There have been a few other established artists using their music as a platform since then, but the end of the 20th century saw a decline in the socially conscious popular mainstream songs that were present in every other decade.

Reasons to Sing…or Not Sing

It’s not as if American musicians can’t find social and political issues to fuel their music. Ten years of war in two countries, the struggle over same sex rights, bank bailouts, Occupy Wall Street, Trayvon Martin, online privacy invasions, right wing fundamentalism, sexual identity debates…there seems to be plenty of inspiration for protest music.

But does modern culture discourage that type of expression? When many musicians have to be their own PR and marketing department, can they deal with the backlash that might come from a protest song? When so many artists are struggling to get a deal or utilize corporate distribution, can they afford to stick it to the Man? When militant political sensitivity in the media is combined with a 24 news cycle and social media, can any musician or artist afford to hold any strong political or social position? Have we created an environment where every artist has to behave like a politician running for office if they want to sell music on iTunes?

To Sell…or Not Sell

There is still plenty of protest music being made around the world. The Arab Spring, political developments in African countries and drug related terrorism coming out of South America are all the subject of protest music. There is also a strong element of American protest music in underground rap, rock and alternative music. But outside of a few isolated cases, mainstream American music seems to have fully embraced escapism to the detriment of the protest song. Since several social movements once grew out of nightlife culture, does this lack of protest music mean there will be a lack of social change emerging from bars and clubs in the future? If so, nightlife culture can’t be a strong catalyst for social change until the next wave of protest music fills the bars.

Have fun.
Gamal

The Sources of Segregation in Nightlife Culture

By Gamal Hennessy

Influential writer E.B. White once said there are three types of New Yorkers; the natives, the commuters and the migrants. In New York nightlife culture, the number of groups and subgroups we have is impossible to count. There are so many little “New Yorks” that it often feels like every taste, preference and orientation has its own scene with its own players and venues. How did this happen? How long it last?

The Major Divisions

There are easy ways to understand what the different scenes are in New York nightlife. The music you listen to, the people you hang out with, what you do and how much you spend all help define your experience. You might like that underground lounge in Chinatown that “no one knows about” but you’ll probably abandon it when the B&T crowd finds it. Similarly, the hipsters don’t mix with the house kids, the jazz crowd doesn’t drink with the rockers, and the pub crawlers wouldn’t be caught dead with the model and bottle crowd. New York City has plenty of generic venues, but it’s big enough and diverse enough that everyone can party separately without ever being exposed to another lifestyle

The divisions go much deeper here than just the major demographic groups. There are also multiple sub cultures within each set. For example, hip hop has mainstream industry spots like 40/40, old school spots like bOb Bar and your occasional hipster rap party in Brooklyn. Lesbians can be broken down into butch, femme, older and minority scenes. Someone once joked that if you’re an Asian woman looking to only drink cosmos and watch True Blood with gay Brazilian men, there is a bar in New York for you.

The different scenes are affected to different degrees as changes occur in the city as a whole. Just consider the recession as an obvious example. There are some people who were all about bottle service before the sub prime fiasco and they will still be buying bottles this weekend. There are other people who were in that scene but abruptly left it when their hedge fund or investment bank fired them. Then you have the scene that wasn’t buying bottles before, isn’t buying bottles now, and wouldn’t buy a bottle if they won the lottery. Your nightlife depends on how you define your experience.

Universal Separation

The fragmentation of nightlife groups mirrors a similar dynamic in the wider spectrum of mass entertainment. Before the rise of cable in the 1980’s, we only had a handful of television stations to watch. Now we can have more than 500 channels. In addition, sites like YouTube allow you to have more focused interests, watching hundreds of hours of video without ever turning on your TV. During the 80’s you listened to FM radio or watched MTV to get your music. Now digital music, streaming radio and iPods give you the ability to ignore mainstream radio altogether. We live in a time of limitless choices when it comes to personal entertainment, so isn’t it natural to have hundreds of choices in our nightlife entertainment too?

Terrorist Segregation

Not necessarily. Some nightlife operators point to more sudden and sinister reasons for segregation within nightlife. Tastemaker Roxy Cottontail has noticed a significant division into niche groups since 9/11. The ever-present icon Steven Lewis calls this the concept of Safety in Numbers or SIN.  

“9/11 had a major psychological effect on nightlife culture. Instead of feeling confident about interacting with people who were very different, we began to huddle up with their own kind. Now most of us are more nervous hanging around anyone who isn’t like us in ways we think are significant. The growth of bottle service is a direct by product of people’s need to be separated. It’s not that each group of people is doing radically different things. They are drinking the same drinks, dancing to the many of the same songs and still trying to have sex with each other. They are just less willing to mingle with other people.”

Segregated Collapse

The danger of all these different niches is that they might not be able to remain viable. As the local economy grew more spots could open catering to smaller crowds. If that group becomes more and more fragmented the clubs that cater to them might not survive. Lewis has predicted a shake up in the market, with a lot of venues folding or changing hands as economic forces separate the well run clubs from the transitory spots. A recent article in Elite Daily predicted that New York will die a slow death caused by oversaturation.

Nightlife culture is not a single monolithic concept. It has always had its divisions but modern factors have created scenes that are smaller and more fragmented. It is unclear whether this segregation can thrive long term. But the strength of nightlife culture is its ability to entertain diverse groups and feed different needs. Every scene is valid. Every scene contributes something, positive or negative, to the vital dynamic that drives the city.

Have fun.
Gamal

Life Beyond Robotz: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Ko-Lition

 

 

In spite of persistent claims that both nightlife and hip hop have been ruined by a lack of creativity, there are still artists and operators in the underground pushing nightlife culture to the next level. Two performers who are making a name for themselves in the world of live hip hop are the brothers DeLorean and Karl. We sat down with them to talk about their music before their next big show at the Knitting Factory this week.

• Genre: Hip Hop/Jazz/Electro-Soul

• Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

• Inspirations: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Digable Planets, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Biggie, Tupac, 

• Previous Performances: Ko-Lition TakeOver Santos Party House!

• Latest Project: Debut album 'Love Jazz Robotz'

• Next Local Performance: May 24th, 2012 'Ko-Lition TakeOver The Knitting Factory'

NCI: Talk to me about the philosophy behind your music and how it compares to the current generation of music?

KO: Part of the idea behind the concept of robots is the assembly line model that we all have to subscribe to in our daily life. We go to work every day, we load up our spreadsheets and contribute to the process of making things work. It is an existence that can feel very mechanical, very robotic.

Even when you talk about creating music and being in the music industry, there are methods you need to adopt and things you need to do if you want your music heard. There are elements of it that are very much like a machine. If you don’t conform to that model then getting your music heard is almost impossible. Of course, there are artists like Prince or Radiohead who can challenge prevailing industry models after they have been established. But nowadays even mainstream artists like Drake have to give their music away for free at some point to get their music out there. Part of Must Be Robotz is an exploration of that reality.

NCI: So the song is basically a critique on the forces of conformity in music and life in general?

KO: We don’t dislike current forms of music. Our music is hip hop with a jazz foundation, but we can get into the more electronic forms of rap. We even get down with dubstep and other types of electronic music. There is a lot of good stuff out there.

Our message is more than just a critique. We’re not attacking people’s lifestyles or society or the music industry. Part of what we are saying is that you need to find your way to enjoy the life you have. Maybe the price you have to pay for your fun and your individuality is your job. That’s how you can afford to do the things you want to do. We have to handle our own management, marketing, booking, legal stuff and production to be able to get on stage at places like Santos and the Knitting Factory because that’s where we can share our music.

NCI: What is it about performing that is so attractive to you?

KO: When you are on stage you are at your most vulnerable. When you go up there and pretend to be someone you are not, the audience sees right through that and they will reject you. You have to be willing and able to put yourself out there and expose yourself to really connect with the crowd. It doesn’t matter if you have to open raw emotional wounds in your lyrics, freestyle a few bars because you forgot your lines or work around the fact that the band has spontaneously decided to go into an extended solo jam session. When you’re on stage the rigid predictable life is gone. You are more alive because things are uncertain and unpredictable. 

NCI: Is that why you use a live band instead of a CD in your act?

KO: That is a big reason for it, but that isn’t the only reason. Some of our major hip hop influences like Digable Planets did their shows with live bands and that was a big inspiration to us. There are some sounds that have a special quality when you hear them live and we want those sounds in our show. But the biggest reason is the spontaneous energy that comes from live music. The crowd gets hyped up from a guitar or drum solo in ways that never happen if you just pop in a CD. We call our record company See Music Live because that is one of the best ways to escape the monotony of what we have to go through every day.

Have fun

G

Links
www.kolitionmusic.blogspot.com

www.soundcloud.com/kolition

www.facebook.com/kolitionmusic
www.reverbnation.com/kolitionmusic

www.youtube.com/Kotubetv

www.twitter.com/kolition

 

Women Behind Bars: Drinking with the Fairer Sex

Last week, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic took over dozens of venues in New York for a celebration of spirits, cocktails and the leaders in the industry. One of the more unique events was the Women Behind Bars seminar at Pegu Club on Saturday afternoon. Over rum punch, hanky pankys and gin mojitos, the speakers offered an overview of the historical role of women in the business of drinking.

The discussion was sponsored by LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and traced the involvement women bartenders from medieval Europe to today. Two recurring themes came across whether they were discussing public houses in England, taverns during the American Revolution, bars during the Industrial Revolution, saloons of the Western Migration, speakeasies of Prohibition or the modern cocktail lounge. First, women were both implicitly and explicitly used by men to attract men to places where liquor was sold. Second, women have always had to fight for access, rights and respect when it comes to being involved in this culture. Sometimes they had to fight moral attacks, sometimes they had to fight misogynistic attitudes. Sometimes they had to fight each other. It was their success in those battles that helped shape the environment we have today.

Nightlife culture became a focal point for social change in the role of women in a manner that was similar to minority integration and the rise in LGBT acceptance.  None of these groups have taken control of nightlife away from the establishment, but they have changed the perception and experience of nightlife that we have the luxury of taking for granted today.

Have fun.

G

Burlesque for Everyone: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Kita St. Cyr

Burlesque is one of the growing cultural trends in nightlife. The rise of this historical culture into mainstream consciousness offers creative opportunities in fashion, interior design, cocktails and dance.  I caught up with one of the prominent members of the burlesque community to discuss the cultural impact and direction of burlesque in New York nightlife.

NCI: Why do you think burlesque has been gaining so much more popularity in New York in the past few years? What is driving that?

KSR: There are quite a few pop cultural trends that are feeding an interest in burlesque now. A few years back there was the Burlesque movie Christina Aguilera was in with Cher. Shows on cable like Boardwalk Empire followed after that and there has been a steady increase of prohibition style speakeasies and cocktail lounges in major cities. All of that has a positive effect on the interest in burlesque. At this point, there is basically a burlesque show going on every night in New York City.

NCI: Do you feel that more men or women come to your shows? What is the difference between the way men and women watch your performances?

KSR:  When I look out at the audience now, I see a lot of couples coming to the shows. I think there is a something that both men and women get from burlesque that makes it easy for them to come out together. The women are attracted to the glamour, the costumes and the overall spectacle... 

NCI: And what are the men attracted to? 

KSR: Men like boobs. It’s really not that complicated for them.

NCI: Point taken. Are more minorities getting into burlesque? Are more minorities coming to the shows? Why?

KSR: The shows are becoming more diverse as the popularity of the art form grows. Entertainment is a business after all and a venue will decide to bring in different types of girls to fit with the patrons they have or want to have. I’d like to think that I am selected for shows because of my talent, but I’m sure that there have been more than a few shows where I was selected because I attract a certain demographic. When I produce Rhinestone Follies I try to create shows that have body and race diversity, both to show the wide range of burlesque as well as attract the largest audience possible.

NCI: Where do you see burlesque performances going in the next 3-5 years?

KSR: I hope that it’s not a fad that fades out over time. You can see a lot of burlesque culture becoming mainstream in terms of its impact on fashion and general entertainment and that needs to continue. Nightlife culture can always benefit from expression that celebrates female sexuality in ways that are positive and artistic and burlesque offers that to people. It has a long tradition that more people would appreciate if they took the opportunity to enjoy it.

Have fun.

G