Friday night I lost my Verboten virginity – well sort of. For the past couple of years I’ve come to boogie and swerve at Verboten's quality music-driven events at various venues in NYC; thrown by a crew devoted to underground dance music in all its forms: house, techno, deep house, indie, bass and nu disco – but after more than a decade of being a nomadic event series, Verboten needed a more permanent place to call ‘home’. We'd been hearing rumors for over a year that Verboten was getting ready to settle down in Williamsburg, and that time has finally come.
Brooklyn has become one of the hottest places for electronic music right now, especially "the underground". Most recently, Manhattan's music scene has shifted toward "super clubs" (for lack of a better term) with a more EDM-based party scene, i.e. champagne spraying, light up batons, confetti, seizure-inducing strobes – the works. All the while, Williamsburg's trendy Wythe Avenue is looking and feeling more like a low key version of the Meatpacking District. Brooklyn Bowl, Wythe Hotel, Output and now Verboten have opened in the area within a short period of time, mimicking a similar style of the nightclubs of the late 1980s and '90s, such as Twilo, Tunnel, and Sound Factory.
Verboten's new warehouse location exemplifies all of the qualities that the Verboten name has become known for. Catering to a more mature audience of music lovers, Verboten's new club is the best in New York City. It's elegant yet simple, and is exactly what the nightlife scene has been lacking. The Verboten crew did an impressive job of creating a fine establishment with an authentic and comforting atmosphere. Furthering their reputation as one of the best party series in NY, from the moment you walk in, it's a club by the people for the people. So leave any pretentiousness you may have at the door or find yourself a different club.
Verboten is a club in every sense of the word. It’s definitely not a super club – it doesn’t feel like a palace with a throne provided for the DJ – it feels like a hole in the wall you’d find in the London music scene or something similar to Good Units, an underground gymnasium Verboten threw parties at back when they first started. It’s clear the club’s focus is on the music, while creating an intimate feel for club-goers, something clubs these days lack and try to make up for with plush decor and bottle service.
The venue is a 10,000 square ft. former metal shop, with an enormous main hall that leads you to two different rooms, allowing for different sounds to be pumped out to the crowd at once. The Cabaret Bar is situated toward the back of the house, with sound absorbent curtains, neon chandeliers, and its own bar so you don’t have to wander too far if you find yourself with a hole in your glass. You can’t get more intimate than this space, with the DJ playing on the same level as the crowd and its own sound system, designed to function along with the Control Room or independently. The Cabaret Bar plans to host to day parties, smaller weeknight events, art shows, cabaret and eventually, a small plates restaurant.
The main room, the Control Room, has a futuristic and industrial design with an impressivly ginormous disco ball hanging from the middle of the dance floor. It features a one-of-a-kind crystal clear Martin Audio sound system, acoustic ceiling panels, panoramic video walls, and a "sprung wood" dance floor that allows you to feel the vibrations in your bones. The wood itself was reused from an old factory Thomas Edison used for photography. The side areas of the main room are slightly elevated above the ground level, with scattered VIP tables and people who stand above the floor to get a different view of the room. The lighting is not over-bearing like most clubs you walk into. Also noteworthy, you don’t have to do the awkward bathroom shuffle across the middle of the dance floor to get to the restrooms, and there’s air conditioning.
Verboten was proud to have iconic pop artist Mike Dreeland showcase his new pieces in the Cabaret Bar with music by Niki McNally and a surprise aerialist performance. The art show led into the night's main event, "Zeitgeist" – Verboten’s in-house party focusing on the spirit of the times; cutting edge electronica, indie dance and nu disco. Chicago house/disco don Felix da Housecat was the main act on the bill for the night. Felix doesn’t make many stops in New York, let alone this side of the pond; so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see this international legend.
I arrived around 1:30am and caught the latter part of Brooklyn-based duo Metro Area's outstanding, soulful DJ set in the main room, and the tail end of Clarian's set in the long, rectangular Cabaret Bar. Felix came on around 2:30am and the surprisingly empty space filled pretty quickly. It was evident that most people were there to see the legendary magic man in action. Verboten has without a doubt, helped stir a renaissance in NY nightlife.
Felix played so many un-IDable tracks, exactly what I was hoping from his set.He mixed disco and soul, the origins of dance music, with more funk and house. A few tracks I caught (thank God for Shazam) were "Dancer" by Robert Hood, "2 HypeTools 5" by Jose 2 Hype, "Get Deep" by "Harry Romero" and "Backlash" by Wehbba. Kate Simko played alongside him in the other room. She closed out the Cabaret room around 4am, while Felix held his post behind the decks as long as people were still dancing until about 6am.
Welcome to a new era in New York nightlife folks. Verboten has some pretty fantastic shows coming up, including Lee Burridge, Audion, Justin Martin, Cut Copy and many more. Here's something to keep in mind, there's only so much the club's organizers can do to keep a place running smoothly. My only concern is that I hope it doesn't get over-crowded and become a sweat box and/or packed like sardines as sadly a few of NYC's night clubs with so much potential, have become. Verboten is a club for the people, by the people, so remember that. Please don't abuse this gem Verboten has worked so hard to create. But most of all, have fun and keep it classy ;)
Stay tuned for more visual art and live music at Verboten to be announced soon!
See who is playing in the coming weeks at Verboten here.