Last Saturday, downtown darling Oscar Sanchez of ‘1992’ and Melissa Burns, nightlife personality and host of Club Yes, hosted the inaugural launch of their new party MASSIVE. Or at least, it was supposed to be the inaugural launch. Our night got cut short after the club manager made it abundantly clear that queer POC crowds are not welcome at his club, nor is music that deviates from the top 40 and 80s britpop you hear at every basic NYC party. As a DJ, I’ve witnessed a lot of bullshit behavior from club management, but nothing compares to this. For those still thinking we live in a post-racial society, listen up.
MASSIVE, to the raised eyebrow of some, was booked at Up & Down, formerly the The Darby in West Village. The club has already built a reputation as an exclusive playground for celebrities; Rihanna had her MET Gala After party there:
Joey LaBeija and I were the scheduled DJs for the night, and despite some trouble actually getting in to my own gig, the night began picking up steam, drawing a crowd of uptown club kids dressed in Hood By Air and Gypsy Sport who danced to everything from queer dembow edits to MikeQ cuts.
But around 1:45 AM, the club manager of Up & Down suddenly showed up at the booth with a random DJ and a laptop in tow. This blonde-haired, suited individual proceeded to force Joey to end his set, claiming that the music we were playing was “inappropriate,” not discussed in preliminary meetings with the promoters, and “clearing out” the crowd.
Putting aside absurdity of his claims, let’s provide a little context: at the time this occurred, there was a line outside of people waiting to get into the party. Yet Up & Down’s typical bandage-dress-and-stilettos clientele was ushered right in, while door staff didn’t even allow some of MASSIVE’s other hosts inside. This may seem like your standard meatpacking bullshit, if it weren’t for the fact that several partygoers — including some Remezcla staff — reported hearing club staff explicitly refer to the racial makeup of the MASSIVE crowd as a problem.
Meanwhile, the downstairs club where we were playing was packed. Several club patrons from the upstairs party had even come downstairs to check out the music. So let’s put this together: you’ve got a packed club, people dancing and drinking, and a line of people waiting to get in. What’s the real problem here? You can let Chromeo & Rihanna have a party inside your tacky club, but you can’t fathom the idea of having NYC personalities like Ian Isaiah, Cakes Da Killa, or Andreas Aresti taking up that same space? By 2AM, the music was shut off, and we were told to leave.
Perhaps most confusing about this terrible turn of events, was the fact that hosts Oscar and Melissa were approached by Up & Down representatives and asked to throw an event. After seeing the success of parties like Club Yes at Le Bain, Up & Down claimed they wanted a similar vibe at their venue. According to Melissa, they wanted something very “Fade to Mind”:
You don’t get more Fade to Mind than the screams & howls of Total Freedom remixes. But apparently, this track here is what really set club management off:
Too #ghettogoth? If you don’t get what Venus X has been mad about, now you know.
— VENUS X (@VENUSXGG) May 12, 2014
Rihanna gets to wear a look and claim it as something she’s invented, meanwhile the people who are living this lifestyle and creating the culture are being kicked out of spaces where they should be celebrated. Instead of being held in high esteem for creating new trends in art, music, and identity politics, they are being exploited and discarded.
Venues like Up & Down promote this culture-vulture behavior, pushing the originators out while stealing their looks and ideas and marketing them for white consumption. The club owner wants what is boundary-pushing and revolutionary, but only if a consumerist anglo crowd is there for it.
Ironically, the DJ that replaced us opened up his laptop and started playing a Rihanna track. How telling. As we left the club on Saturday night, you could hear glass shattering as drinks were thrown at the DJ booth.