Techno Punks and Chelsea Boys: Inside Shade's New Year's Eve Blowout (VICE)
Nightlife in New York City is a shitty game. The average lifespan of a DIY venue is probably shorter than your last relationship; even the legal ones tiptoe around the brink of extinction, dodging police and rising rents until they inevitably get crushed by the iron fist of gentrification. Last year, we waved our tear-stained handkerchiefs at Body Actualized, the only yoga studio in Brooklyn where you could snack on shroom chocolates while vibing to analog techno; we also lost 285 Kent and Glasslands, the twin pillars of sweaty warehouse parties, and Steel Drums, the weirdo dance den that frequently hosted Aurora Halal's Mutual Dreaming parties. Scores more of these dearly-departed venues ghosts live on in hazy memories and drunk tweets.
Big clubs hardly fare better. For every venue that manages to weather this notoriously fickle city, dozens more disappear in a shitstorm of public meltdowns and bad press, sometimes just a few weeks after opening their doors. (Remember Sankey's Brooklyn?) Nights out in this city can feel like an ordeal of garish subway rides, endless coat-check lines, $8 bottles of Corona, and grueling sets of nondescript tech-house. Plus, your friends are abandoning the party life in droves, broadcasting their life-changing new hobbies like yoga and cooking all over Instagram as you wrestle with your old enemy: the dreaded MDMA comedown.
But every now and then, parties come around the renew your faith in the power of a dancefloor: not just as the predictable cesspool of drugs and hook-ups, but as a space that provides a sweet escape from the drudgery of work, a communal experience of bliss, a fleeting sense of freedom. On New Year's Eve, I found that at Shade—one of the few roaming raves left in New York City where you can find unchecked hedonism raging under the radar of the city's watchful police force.
Bouncing around the many warehouses that dot Brooklyn's industrial corners, Shade is a nomadic party that manages to pull off what every rave should. It's relatively intimate—just one to two thousand people on a single dance floor lined by speakers. The crowd leans towards chiseled gay men and Bushwick queer kids, which everyone knows has fewer inhibitions and better dance moves than the straights. The vibe is edgy without spiraling into the dark and creepy zone. Everyone dances.
Talk to any promoter who dabbles in this increasingly rarefied corner of the nightlife ecosystem, and they'll tell you that these one-off events are a huge pain in the ass to produce, like trying to shoot moving targets while city officials breathe down your neck. But the team behind Shade, Ladyfag and Seva Granik, are old pros; I'll never forget one of their most recent triumphs: an Alexander Wang afterparty during Fashion Week where Miley Cyrus' ice cream cone pasties brushed against my arm as she smoked spliffs and danced to Jersey Club.
Last night's Shade took place in a warehouse on the Greenpoint waterfront with soaring views of the Manhattan skyline beyond the chain-link fence. The theme centered around a dystopian vision of the year 2084, where the last of humanity is huddled for one last apocalyptic rager while the rest of the world burns outside. To that end, cryptic messages following a vaguely apocalyptic narrative flashed around the room, spelling out messages about drugs and death while urging the populace to remain calm. (When's the last time you sat down at a rave and actually read something?)
Behind several LED panels flashing Ladyfag's vaguely ominous likeness, DJs like Egyptrixx, Morgan Louis, Fatherhood (Michael Magnan and Physical Therapy), and Nita Aviance deftly wove futuristic, Night Slugs-esque club tracks with brutal, Berlin-style techno. The look was a mix of Enter the Void's neon-soaked technophilia meets Blade Runner's industrial grit meets Hackers' techno-punk flamboyance, with lots of buff, shirtless Chelsea boys in leather gear thrown in.
The party cleared out around 8AM, and as I followed a group of bleary-eyed, costumed club kids out the door in search of the next afterparty, one of them remarked, "This was the closest thing to Berghain I've ever experienced in New York." Which, in club land, is pretty much the highest form of praise you can get.