I had an opportunity to take some time away last week and spend some leisure time up in NYC. Being my first time, I had asked around for some recommendations on a good house night to attend while I was there. Output had some trance DJs on all night so that was a no. Luckily, it wound up that Louie Vega was playing his Roots night at Cielo - and it was the night's 13th anniversary party! What a coincidence.
Now, I live in Gainesville, a small college town in Florida. When people I meet here learn that I work with house music, they usually say something stupid like "Oh, so like EDM?".
My point is that there are absolutely zero good club nights where I live, and there haven't been any since Sasha & Digweed played here on the regular back in the early 90s (I was still in diapers then so I didn't make it to those). The underground house music scene here simply does not exist. Everything closes at 2am. The ideals of unity, acceptance, universal love, equality - all those tenants of real house music are not at all a part of the superficial 'clubs' across most of the US today.
As such, I was nervous that Cielo would be packed full of young hipsters that night, asking the DJ to 'play something we can dance to because it's my birthday'. On the event flyer, the tagline 'The Roots of Electronic Dance Music' appeared at the bottom. Red flag.
I'll start by saying this - The real house music culture I was looking for is alive and well in NYC in 2017. Let me tell you a bit about what I saw, heard, and experienced.
My girlfriend and I arrived at the club around 11. We thought we were there too early but decided to head on in. We had gone out to see Guy Gerber in Chicago a few months before and the only person dancing at 11pm that night was "cutting shapes" and trying his best to look like Skrillex. Nobody else arrived until 12 or later.
Anyway, we get through the bouncers and the coat check and step into the room. The place is already absolutely going off. The first things I noticed was that the dancefloor was FULL. The whole place was full. Everyone was just dancing with themselves, smiling, and having a great time.
We danced a bit and it was awesome. The Funktion One sound system was incredibly clear. It was loud, but not at all muddy and not at all painful, even though I am 6 and a half feet tall and my face was practically in a speaker the whole time. I'm an awkward lanky mess when I dance, but each time I bumped into somebody or elbowed someone in the face they met me with a smile. There was zero attitude in this place. None. This was the vibe I was seeking! It's still alive! I even got a good vibe from the nights' talent!
At one point I wound up in line for the bathroom directly next to Louie Vega (I see why they call him 'Little Louie now'). We've never communicated but I do work for some folks he regularly collaborates/DJs with. I was tempted but resisted the urge to be that guy and instead gave him a silent head nod of acknowledgement. He smiled.
The night was beautiful to watch unfold. The dancefloor and club in general stayed fully packed all night. The place was full of so many different types of people - there were average joes, gay people, straight people, asian people, latin people, drag queens, white people, black people, big people, little people, tattooed folks, clean shaven office workers...you name it. Everyone clearly came that night to simply be around one another and to have a good time with the music. Everyone was putting out the good vibes. It was exactly what I was looking for.
So, if you're like me and live in a place not quite as big as NYC and wonder if the underground house scene is still alive - it is. I will say the most lacking demographic in the place that night were people under 30. I hope that can change and nights like that can happen well into the future, for everyone.