The Paradox of New York City Nightlife

There are many different options for partying in NYC, but whether or not you have a good time comes down to the crowd.

La Luna
Revelers at La Luna at Kockdown Center. Isaac Solomon / MATTE Content (MATTE)

If 2016 was the year of “like, realizing stuff,” then 2019 is the year of finally applying your realizations to your behavior in a practical sense, or at least that’s the hope. I can see the gears turning in many of my friends’ heads as we go about our lives as people in our mid- to late 20s: how much of what we’re doing actually makes us feel good? To what degree can we expect to “optimize” our time, and at what point is it appropriate to not micromanage so much and just throw caution to the wind? These tensions are particularly at play when it comes to nightlife, which is such an evolving and varied landscape in New York City that it becomes a bit impossible to evaluate the scene as a whole.

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I mean, very basically, say you live in Brooklyn and you like to dance. Kid, you’re in luck. You’ve got drag shows at House of Yes, sprawling techno and dancehall parties at Nowadays, all-night raves at The 1896 and theme park-scale parties at Knockdown Center, like the one I checked out last weekend. One of the many incredible things about New York is that the more parties you go to, the less you end up knowing.

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Or, put another way, as I’ve begun to really embed myself among the many different kinds of party options available to me, I’ve learned that there are many elements which combine to make up a truly successful good time. By the way, here’s what doesn’t make for a good time: having to upload your debit card information to a bracelet(?) so you can pay for drinks. In my experience, this weirdly surveillance state-adjacent bracelet technology has worked about a quarter of the time.

The disco ball at La Luna.
The disco ball at La Luna. Sam Wallander / MATTE Content (MATTE)

Last Saturday, I walked 30 minutes from my apartment to Knockdown Center to check out La Luna, an “all-day and all-night mini festival” which featured a lineup that included Wild Dark, Carlita, Conclave, Medina and many others. I got there around 10 p.m. to find several different DJs spinning simultaneously in different parts of the huge space, which gave off a curious effect: the main hall felt like a traditionally dark and sensually sweaty warehouse party, and the huge disco ball in the backyard gave the outdoor area summer-in-Amsterdam vibes. My favorite space, however, was a sunken brick pit in which more daytime-rave beats were being pumped into the warm evening air.

The biggest thing for me that makes or breaks a night is the crowd. Some people (deservedly so) are most concerned with hearing their favorite kinds of techno. For example, if the BPM is off, the night is a bust. I don’t care about that as much; I can pretty much listen to anything, but if some drunk asshole shoves me or steps on my foot, I’m much more likely to write the evening off as a failure. I’m sensitive, what can I say. To me, La Luna didn’t exude the kind of all-night paradise energy I’m most interested in, but it was by no means a total bust. I scooted home as untimely rain started to fall, feeling grateful that my designated dancing sneakers hadn’t given me blisters.

The Paradox of New York City Nightlife