Shiny Silent Disco Balls, Gratitude & Balancing Acts.

image_1356408818741589Sitting at the diner on Lorimer & Metropolitan, I watched the scores of people lamenting the dysfunctional G train with a quiet smirk. After finishing up the burger & red bull I’d ordered when we were forced out of the station like confused cattle, I made my way to the Electric Warehouse just as cold drops began to fall. Tonight, the unofficial Burning Man Decompression event for NYC was going down and a little rain wasn’t going to stop it.

I shook hands with my friend Drew, the producer of the event and congratulated him while he processed my entry/ticket rapidly. There were dozens of burners in stilts, top hats, fur coats, el-wire tuxedos and all manner of costuming that were aching to get into the space and I didn’t want to get in their way. After checking my coat I received what I have come to cherish at Drew’s annual event, my hug to enter. Every attendee is given an honest-to-goodness hug. Not a patdown, not a security check and not a grope. A straight up “thanks for coming, you’re cool, gimmie a hug” hug. Which feels great, and there’s a person of each gender so it doesn’t get weird of course. I get hugs from both people (because I like to live on the wild side) then head in to check out the Silent Disco. Two DJs I am totes crushing on right now were rocking out.

The Silent Disco, run by a clever fellow by the name of Michael White, provides each of the listeners in a space with can-style headphones, with a button to press to switch between two DJs spinning in the room. This solves two problems. First, you can have two DJs playing violently different music standing next to each other with no problems, and secondly, if you want to have a conversation with someone, you take off the headphones & the room is splendidly quiet. The consummate professional DJ Pony & the gorgeously talented DJ Orange Krush were opening the night there, generating the dance floor from thin air yet again, like two beat-matching magicians. Slowly but surely, burners, ravers, club kids, hipsters, girls in slinky dresses & heels, guys in camouflage pants & hoodies, all manner of person came in, put their headphones on and got down. By the time the duo were halfway through their sets, the tent outside the party was packed warm, with projection work on the ceilings and two simultaneous dance floors intermingling I went back inside to grab a bottle of water, suddenly being reminded how big the old trolley repair station actually was. 10,000 sq feet, high ceilings and places to hang lights & equipment galore. A friend was delighted to find his pictures were playing off of a projector, and a stream of amazing HD photographs lit up the bar. As I chatted with DJ Resy, who was taking the night off behind the decks to help out at the bar, I remembered what Gratitude was all about. Many of the people at this event haven’t seen each other since Burning Man, while others see each other daily/weekly.

But there are so many different kinds of parties that we segment ourselves off. Live bands vs. DJs, house vs. techno, black light vs. disco ball, these invisible lines in the sand that are terribly important when managing expectations. And at Burning Man, they’re all represented in some fashion. Over an 8hr period in one space, that job is harder. With the drums in the main room coalescing with the scheduled performers, the live vocals/acts outside, and the DJs in the Silent Disco, Drew had managed the hat-trick of pleasing pretty much everyone.

I returned to the Silent Disco after making the rounds through the space to see DK & Boris having taken over the decks. DK’s set squelched out as his signature mix of house & electro with the occasional dash of dubstep kept the club kids happy, while Boris (of Toad fame) was keeping the old timers happy with acid techno & psychedelic breaks. This led to many hilarious moments where half of the dance floor was quietly grooving to itself while for the other half, the beat had just dropped and people were flipping out with it. The space remained packed, while the cabaret-inspired live music tent next door had been heating up for a while. DK & Boris kept the energy going way longer than I had beverage, so I snuck outside to check out the fire spinners.

Oh yea, and there were people spinning fire outside for hours. Independent of all of the music, because that is another aspect of the scene represented by a significant portion of the community, with it’s own rules, subtlety and awe-inspiring power that can affect an audience just as a beat drop can. And these characters did not disappoint. Whether using poi, fans or other various implements, the fire lit up the lot outside the venue (while safeties stood watch of course) and seemed to almost chase the rain away. Inside, Electric Warehouse thundered with the sound of the Ale Ale Drummers, led by Justin. This crew of merry beatmakers added a significant tribal feel to the more organic music emanating from the main stage, that added even more to the aerial performances & the other performances that occurred throughout the evening. I picked up my Jack & Coke and headed back to the Silent Disco, as there was one last pair of DJs that I couldn’t miss before I left.

2melo & Tektite, both old friends, were pushing the dance floor to stay on their feet, keep out of the venue and rock out with cans on. While Tektite’s been discussed on the blog before, with his precision breaks ensuring his dancers never stopped grooving to the well manicured beats, samples, cuts and hooks he drops, 2melo is a friend of mine from the neighborhood I grew up in, though we didn’t connect until meeting at an amazing underground space that’s sadly no longer with us. 2melo’s the only DJ I’ve met on the East Coast that’s able to spin trap, reggae, hip hop, moohmbahton, breaks and worldbeat without making me feel skeezy. There’s this afro-cuban vibe that he blends with latin beats and the gangsta basslines that only a born & bred New Yorker would know and it’s infectious. I heard the guy mix trap into his set for the first time in NYC, and the crowd was eating it up. I’d been nervous that people would just drop their headphones and walk out, but both the long-legged girls in the slinky dresses & the old school burners wearing fur coats were loving every minute of it. Once I heard the trap remix of Children (the late 90’s trance standard that found its way into minivans) and the dance floor cheered for more, I knew we’d arrived.

I was headed out but my friends running the lights grabbed me away from the bar and told me to stay for a little while longer. The drums built to a crescendo, the DJ pulled into this huge build, and then, right as it dropped, more than a dozen lighting changes went off, and the dance floor was bathed in disco-ball refracted lighting. Shiny disco balls were surrounded by beams of white light, peppering the space with sparkly brightness.
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The crowd’s mood surged, and the euphoric dancers cheered. I wished my friends a wonderful evening, grabbed my coat and plunged into the stillness & darkness. I had much to be thankful for. Drew and his team deserving much of that.

This is Terry Gotham, see you on the dance floor.

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