a blog with cultural bulimia.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Victor Calderone @ Crobar - a review

Great description of last saturday's debut of Victor Calderone's residence at Crobar - I have absolutely nothing to add - thanks JJ for forwarding it to me.

"One step inside Crobar on a regular Saturday night and you understand why they're focusing on the straight market and relegating us to afterhours and Sunday nights.

Simply put, you can't sit down in Crobar unless you're very rich. All of those seating areas we explored during Alegria -- the skyboxes at the top of the balcony, the mid-level room just off the dance floor, the box seat section at the south edge of the main dance floor -- every single seat in the house is a VIP area. And every single one was occupied Saturday night. I have no way of knowing how many were paid for and how many comped, but clearly if even a substantial number were paid, that's a huge additional revenue stream for the club that the gay crowd would never generate.

Second, the drinks. Regular drinks aren't badly priced by New York standards -- $5 water, $6 beer, $8 mixed drinks -- but order something premium, and forget about it. One friend had a martini: $15. Another friend ordered two drinks with Grey Goose vodka and paid a total of $35.

And boy, do they drink. It wasn't as crowded as Alegria -- when we arrived at 2 a.m., it was actually just about the perfect size crowd, thick enough to convey a sense of energy but not so packed as to create traffic jams anywhere. (It was, however, one of the ugliest crowds I've ever seen. I hate to sound classist, but this wasn't the straight crowd that used to show up at Twilo before Junior went on. These were big-haired, purse-swinging, overlipsticked, underdressed women and their boyfriends, who ranged from cute-in-that-incipient-beer-belly way some young straight guys are, to downright scary, gangstas and no-neck football wannabees and everything in between.)

But they were sloshing from left to right and back again. And I'm pretty sure they weren't just on alcohol: at one point, I got in line to use the stall in the bathroom, and when someone came in to use the urinal, the (obviously straight) guy behind me said, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, "Nice to see someone who actually has to use the bathroom, huh?" One really can't party with drunks unless one is drunk oneself, so we stayed to the side and waited for Victor to come on.

What made the wait bearable was Angel Moraes, the opening DJ. I had never heard him before and, except for "The Cure," the song that was a big hit for Junior in the last days of Twilo, wasn't really aware of any of his work. The first hour we were there was a bit choppy but then he settled down into a tribal, Victor-ish groove bracketed by a couple of odd but welcome oldies, "Equitoreal" and Sandstorm's "Return to Nothing."

Shortly after 4 the music stopped, the lighting rig lowered to just above the dance floor, there was a huge blast from the nitro machine and then we heard Victor's signature drum sound. It was a nice way to start the party, by appearing to convert the place into a totally different club. Unfortunately it took a little longer to convert the crowd. Shortly before 4 I had wandered around looking to see if a gay element was discernable; I saw gay and potentially gay boys in ones and twos scattered around, but no critical mass yet. Between 5 and 5:30, however, a gay section formed on the dance floor, underneath the DJ booth at first and then metastasizing into the center and around, until by the end of the party the straight people had been pushed to the fringes.

As more and more friends came in, we starting hearing about long lines and searches at the door. We hadn't had to wait at all when we arrived at 2 and there was no search, but at peak after-hour arrival time between 5 and 5:30, people waited as long as 45 minutes to get in and there was a full search. Security was also very visible during the afterhours part; the people who had spent the first few hours keeping non-VIPs out of the seating areas seemed to have been reassigned to patrolling the dance floor. It wasn't the most oppressive security regime I've ever seen at a club by a long shot, but it was noticeably stricter than at Alegria. One (admittedly reckless) acquaintance even had his bumper confiscated, but was not thrown out of the club.

Victor's first few hours were kind of generic, drums and bass with the occasional shouted, chanted or spoken-word vocal. It's really nothing like Abel, who plays recognizable songs even if they're remixed, sampled and layered extensively. Nobody was expecting too much from him since it was a new club and a new event. Finally, he found his groove; the music didn't sound much different but all of a sudden it went right to my crotch and started tingling in the way that only Victor's music really can.

Unfortunately, the crowd never reached the critical mass necessary to really enjoy this music right. While the dance floor was loosely filled, people weren't packed together enough to create any sexual heat. It also didn't seem that people were there for that; they seemed more interested in just getting lost in the music. It went on like this for a couple of hours, the crowd diminishing one by one. I was tempted to stay till the end to see whether Victor would end with some morning music, which he sometimes does, but decided it wasn't worth the wait and left with my group around 10.

All in all, as the BP ads say, "It's a start." Maybe people were tired after Alegria and taking the weekend off, but they need to draw in more people, more consistently, for this event to work. The crowd they got seemed to be the party-literati of New York, the ones who know what's going on, read HX and NEXT for the articles and follow DJs around. That's not enough to fill that big club on a consistent basis. Hopefully they will start doing more marketing, have people stand outside Roxy handing out discount-admission cards, or even engage a real promoter to create a real "event."

Mr. A."