“Before we put on the party at Frank’s,” Eric Clark said, “no fucking magazines or newspapers would write about Brooklyn. Now Brooklyn is played out.”
Come again? Amid the endless chronicling of Brooklyn’s rebirth–the rhapsodizing about Smith Street restaurants, Williamsburg art galleries and cutting-edge Greenpoint rock clubs–it was staggering to hear someone call the world’s trendiest borough “played out.”
But that’s exactly what Mr. Clark was saying–and he’s something of an authority. For the past three years, Mr. Clark, who D.J.’s under the name E-Man, has hosted Bang the Party, a sweaty, massively popular dance event at Frank’s Lounge, a two-story Fort Greene bar.
Bang the Party and Frank’s were to the Brooklyn revival what Mudd Club was to Soho, or Hogs ‘n’ Heifers was to the meatpacking district. Every Friday night, hundreds of young people–many of them from Manhattan–packed shoulder to shoulder inside the bar’s tiny upstairs space, drinking Red Stripe and listening to house music spun by Mr. Clark and his cohorts. With its mixed-age, mixed-race crowd, authentic 70’s décor and low-key atmospherics, Bang the Party was a refreshing antidote to velvet-rope Manhattan, and its success helped return Brooklyn to the nightlife map.
But now, suddenly and somewhat surprisingly, Bang the Party is bailing on Frank’s and Brooklyn. In an ironic twist, Brooklyn’s hottest party is going to Manhattan. On Friday, March 15, Bang the Party debuts at Opaline, an East Village club and former restaurant on Avenue A, between Sixth and Seventh streets.
Mr. Clark said the move is at least partly dictated by space concerns. Bang the Party had gotten too big for Frank’s upstairs, he said. And a separate hip-hop party Friday nights in the club’s downstairs room has also grown, leading to long, very un-Brooklyn waits outside.
But Lorie Caval, Bang the Party’s promoter, said the organizers also wanted to move because Brooklyn had become overexposed and a less exciting place to throw a bash. Endlessly hyped and aggressively gentrifying, it no longer felt like an outpost, she said. It was starting to feel like Manhattan–and if Brooklyn was getting to be like Manhattan, organizers thought, why not just save everyone the cab fare and move the party there?
“I don’t think [Brooklyn] has that sort of esoteric, out-there vibe that it once did,” Ms. Caval said. “I think the neighborhood is sort of watered down.”
Of course, Bang the Party’s departure also demonstrates the fleeting, fickle nature of the party-throwing business, where new is everything and popularity can be both a blessing and a curse. The dance-night move is unlikely to halt the continued change in neighborhoods like Fort Greene, where new stores and restaurants sprout up each month and rents continue to rise.
But the Bang the Party move does suggest that Brooklyn’s reputation as New York City’s desired destination of hip is in danger. Bang the Party had grown so big and well-known in Brooklyn that, in order to shake it up, organizers opted to move to Manhattan–a place no one considered dangerous and original anymore.
Indeed, some clubgoers felt Bang the Party had faded as an event, and was long overdue for a change of scenery. At the event’s final Friday at Frank’s, March 8, Christina Bienko, a Baruch College student who lives in Bushwick, lamented the Ivy League grads in cardigans and square glasses inundating Frank’s.
“When this place originally started off, it was not like this,” she said. “Everybody was dancing and you still had the old crowd, like old moms and pops who lived in this neighborhood before gentrification–before anything –and they were chilling and you be drinking with them. It was like old school !”
Ms. Bienko used one word to describe the crowd she saw that Friday night: “Wack.”
Of course, as neighborhoods change, there is always tension–sometimes silly tension–between early discoverers and late arrivers (not to mention longtime residents, who are usually the most impacted of all). The area around Frank’s is now home to a gourmet grocery, fine restaurants and furniture stores, and though such additions invariably bring rising rents, not everyone turns up their nose. “I don’t mind having a Japanese restaurant right on the corner,” said Mr. Clark, who lives in Fort Greene. “I don’t mind having a French restaurant on my block.”
Still, for some of those whose business it is to sell coolness, Brooklyn is feeling increasingly less cool. Ms. Caval said the surest sign that Brooklyn’s reign as the hottest thing around is ending are the write-ups she’s seen in publications like Time Out New York and The Village Voice.
“When The New York Times is saying that Brooklyn is the new something, well, that means so long!” she said.
Bang the Party’s mailing list reflected the extent to which the hype had grown and Manhattan had penetrated Brooklyn. On the mailing list sign-up sheet at the March 8 party, Manhattan addresses outnumbered Brooklyn addresses by more than two to one.
“Now the neighborhood has changed so much, and there’s so much going on, that coming here is like no big deal,” Ms. Caval said.
If Bang the Party is the first high-profile Brooklyn soirée to go to Manhattan, changing political winds may move other borough nightlife back over the river. Part of the reason Brooklyn grew as a nightlife destination, party organizers said, was the crackdown on noisy clubs in Manhattan during the Giuliani administration. Conversely, Brooklyn offered large spaces and vacant neighborhoods–and less of a chance of police interruption
But after Sept. 11, and with the election of Mayor Bloomberg, said D.J. Shauna Slevin, police in Manhattan have been taking a softer stance on enforcing noise complaints and cabaret licenses.
At Frank’s, Ms. Slevin was passing out flyers for a party she was going to D.J. the next night in a new space in a DUMBO warehouse. The weekly event, called N’ICE, had been bouncing between Baktun, a bar in the meatpacking district, and Centro-Fly, a club in Chelsea that attracts lots of women in strappy tops and men in short-sleeved muscle T’s. Ms. Slevin liked DUMBO, and said she was happy to find a crowd that knew who D.J.’s like Roy Davis Jr. and the Wicked Crew were. But for the underground house scene, the center of gravity was slipping back to Manhattan, she said.
“I think a lot of underground parties are going to move back into Manhattan,” she said. “Ultimately, people who’ve lived there for years who are into clubbing are not going to move away from there.”
But not every Brooklyn party organizer was itching to move back to Manhattan. Every time there’s a magazine article, more Manhattanites discover Brooklyn, said Ray Hands, a hats and sportswear designer who throws parties in a warehouse on Bergen Street. That’s enough to keep a lot of parties going, he said, adding: “Manhattan is trucking into Brooklyn.”
Ray Hands was asked what he’d do if the crowds got to be too big. Move to Manhattan? No, he said.
“V.I.P.,” he said. “You get a mob and you want to kill that, V.I.P. the people you know and let them bring their friends. And that’s it.”
–Macabee Montandon and Gabriel Snyder
More Things I Actually Said To My Cat 1. “Baba, when you die, I’m gonna sew you into my chest like a bear rug, so we’ll always be together.”
2. “I just caught ya bein’ cute again–busted! Call the cops!”
3. “Baba, what did you think of that girl last night? Did you like her? Because I think I liked her. Baba, you’re not going to get jealous, are you?”
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5. “Quit yer squawking, ya little bitch, or you’re gonna get your bottom blistered.”