So far from home, but never far away from a party in NYC
I’ve recently returned from a trip to New York with my housemate and among other things, I went out a lot. I was amused, amazed, and to complete this sickening slogan straight from the Gone Out tourism office, inspired. Over the evenings I spent partying, I danced like an absolute crazy in Greenwich Village, I got star struck when I went to a party where four members of house music royalty were just ‘hanging around’ and I discovered that underground hip hop isn’t just a 1990’s throwback.
Freedom Party at Le Poisson Rouge
On our first evening, we went to multi-floor club and gig venue Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The spacious ground-floor space hosts The Freedom Party on Friday, a weekly event that ticks all the boxes for any fan of danceable hip hop, r’n’b and soul, most of it from the 70’s to the 90’s. The first voice we heard over the PA had an English accent, as one of the guest DJ’s was from London. This made us feel at home, and the 70’s soul and funk he played was a great warm up set for the evening. The rest of the spinners were excellent; check out The Freedom Party’s residents biographies here.
Anyway, my favourite moment of The Freedom Party is a momentous part of the Michael Jackson back catalogue (Stevie Wonder’s was also getting substantial play). Unfortunately I was in the toilets when Remember The Time came on, but regardless I jammed to it while I put my lip gloss on in the mirror and attempted to block out a drunken girl’s moaning about her Mancunian ex-boyfriend.
A Monthly Bondfire at Bowery Poetry ClubSeveral nights later we met up with Adam B, a hip-hop journalist from Fairfield, Conneticut, who’s a regular on the NYC scene. He gave me the heads up for underground hip-hop night ‘A Monthly Bondfire’, featuring some of New York’s most inventive and talented emcees and performers. Hosted by creative all-rounder Conscious and presenter Tasty Keish, it was held at the Bowery Poetry Club in NoHo, Manhattan. The October party showcased Brooklyn’s Tah Phrum Duh Bush’s latest album ‘Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works’.
He put on a show that can only be described as hip-hop performance art. Tah used props including fake blood, mirrors and a bed to illustrate his frustration caused by his insomnia (the running theme of his album) combined with passionate storytelling, a sense of humour and a committed performance.
The whole evening captured the essence of the straight talking nature of the people and the ‘hardness’ that the city is famous for. It was also great to chat to some of the performers and local creatives at the end of the night; thanks to Tasty Keish, Funk The Formula designers Mustafah Greene and Colin Lawton for adopting me into their step family (and the TK Classics tee!), K.Gaines from The Sleepwalkas for the body popping, Tah Phrum Duh Bush for being patient enough to wait for me to understand his accent, the crazy t-shirt guys outside and of course, Adam B.
Enough of me, here’s Randomatic Idiosyncratic (Part 1) from Tah’s ‘The Insomniac Works’
Roots at Cielo
If it’s not obvious already, I’m a big fan of soulful and deep house. Speaking to various people on the scene beforehand, I was told the award-winning Cielo is a must. The Meatpacking District club hosts parties from the likes of house music legend François K , Kevin Hedge from respected production twosome Blaze, and the Grammy-award winning Louie Vega, one half of production duo, Masters At Work. Hedge’s and Vega’s legendary Roots party was our final night-time stop of our trip. This soulful and Latin-tinged affair was on the top of my ‘to do’ list, so to end our adventures in one of the most admired clubs in the world was fitting.
House heads I’d spoken to hold it in such high regard I was expecting it to be Mount Olympus or something. Of course it isn’t mythological Greek heaven, it’s a nightclub with facilities you’d expect; a dance floor, a dj box, a bar and a VIP area. However, it’s their distinctly high standard that makes Cielo stand out from your local disco. About 50 disco balls are suspended above the specially designed sunken dance floor. The walls light up and the rest of the lighting effects are amazing. It also has that rare luxury; air-conditioning. Basically, Cielo is a house purist’s idea of Mount Olympus. Wait a minute… it’s all making sense right now.
One of Cielo’s other redeeming features is the Funktion One sound system. When Louie Vega dropped this in his funk and disco part of the set, I fully understood why I was told that I have to go to this club.
It sounded exactly how it should; Jocelyn Brown and the rest of Inner Life may as well have been right there, and I just happened to crash the stage.
The only thing about Cielo that niggled me was the atmosphere. While there were some entertaining break dancers and smiley people – which is the best part of going to a house night in my opinion – I felt like I’d stepped into atmosphere similar what I can only compare to a local pub you’ve never been to before. To justify:
1. People gave us ‘who are you?’ looks
2. A man was asleep in the corner.
3. Todd Terry and Mr.V just turned up for a few drinks and a dance to some tracks played by Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge. In the UK, if anything of note happened on a night out at the pub, it would be Dave, the ‘funny’ guy from down the street singing on the karaoke.
The third part of that comparison is clearly not a bad thing. I just wish Cielo was walking distance away from my house. It’s pretty cool we got to see some amazing producers that are known around the world relaxing in a place where they really felt welcome.
And being made welcome by all of the people we met is yet one of the many things I will always remember New York for.