“I would believe only in a god who could dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound and solemn: he was the spirit of gravity—through him all things fall.” – “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” Friedrich Nietzsche
The entrance to the apocalypse was a singular open gate to the Brooklyn Naval Yard last Friday night. It was pouring, and the hoard was reminiscent of that scene from every zombie apocalypse movie where they’re about to close the only bridge that leads out of the city, and the ~authorities~ say, “There’s only one shuttle left,” and someone (me) screams something like, “I’m a member of the press!” and push through dejected, shouting masses.
We were headed to Vice’s 20th Birthday. Not the 20th birthday of the venture backed new media org with the HBO show, TV programs, documentaries, smattering of verticals and burgeoning news staff. It was the 20th anniversary of a magazine, a record label, a rolodex—the way-back-then Vice. After all, that recent injection of half a billion dollars was an overnight success 20 years in the making. And they were going to fucking celebrate.
Once through the gates, those of us who chose to walk went at a quick jog under the looming of the Naval Yard. I was alone; my one potential companion to the event got lost in the masses while looking for his coke guy
The party was in a hanger that dwarfed us even looking in from the outside. In past the obligatory table of free magazines and wall full of print covers no one paid any mind to (aren’t we all just technology companies now anyway?) were all of NYC’s health goths, Twitterites, wide brim hats, beards, beanies, bloggers, flannels, fuccbois and fangirls.
The past couple of weeks have been a bloodletting in the media—buyouts at the Times, the issue-cancelling exodus at the New Republic. What a downer! At a pre-game party for Vice employees, Vice cofounder and CEO Shane Smith took the stage with one million dollars cash and gave out bonuses to every present employee. Happy Birthday.
“Every Vice employee is here right now carrying $1,500 in sequential hundreds,” someone in the crowd told me. “Let’s rob them all and go to Mexico!”
Sounded like a plan, only it was impossible to figure out who was a Vice employee, who was a friend of Vice, or someone whose “boyfriend worked for Vice” (the vast majority). The party wasn’t a party so much as definitely just a concert—most people knew a sum total of three or four other people at best.
We wanted to closer look behind the madness, so we found a rep for Vice out in the smoking area and asked where the real people were. You know, editors, hosts, honorable guests, etc.
“Tonight, we’re just celebrating, so everyone’s a VIP,” a Vice representative told me. Which got me wondering who the hell those people were on the balcony above the stage, hidden behind the lights show with cocktail dresses and much more room to breathe, watching on high. Those must have been the very, very important persons.
The show was hosted by Andrew W.K., the pinnacle party-host who would be one of the many people to begin the night with “When I met the guys at Vice for the first time.”
The first few hours of acts were hard rock and metal bands—perfect for those 30 guys up front with the beards throwing up devils horns. The lineup was a whirlwind of, “Did you hear Jonah Hill is performing with Spike Jonze? Oh shit, I missed it!? Well at least Scarlet Johansson is setting up for her songs now. Or is that Pussy Riot? What time is it?”
Slowly the crowd at the front became denser, and the detritus began to rise—legs were lifted higher as it became more difficult to shmoney dance over a growing pile of cups, cans and plates. In the smoking area, the small tables each became a leaning tower of garbage. Not a single one toppled.
Lil Wayne, the most hotly anticipated name on the set list—for most, the answer tonight, “Do you know who’s playing tonight,” was, “All I know is Lil Wayne!”—took that stage some untold hours in what what seemed like five minutes.
We left shortly before the end—not early, per se. Right before Nicki Minaj presumably took the stage to give what was no doubt a rapturous performance of “(two tracks).” We followed the dissolving crowd through the rising tide of garbage, the quarantine area, into the industrial village of the naval yard. Like watching the world rebuild itself—instant sobriety.
Doubtless, the party went on, spawning a contagion of spontaneous afterparties, polluting every nearby bar, and into morning. For all we know, it never stopped.
Maybe Shane Smith is still there with the throng, taking the stage now, refuse piling up higher, almost up to his neck. Tossing stacks of cash.