New clubs, new nights, new attitude
Bloomberg injects sanity into the city’s cabaret laws; Crobar, Spirit and Sound Factory all to compete on Saturdays
by Matt Kalkhoff

Exactly one week after I moved to New York City, in the spring of 2000, two of my favorite DJs unexpectedly went into exile as their respective long-running residencies ended.

On the very same Saturday that Victor Calderone threw in the towel at Roxy, the city shut down Twilo, leaving Junior Vasquez the second displaced superstar DJ of the weekend.

I had finally realized my lifelong dream of becoming a snobby New Yorker, and then the Nightlife Capital of the World abruptly loses two major marquee names. Bummer!

That’s not to say there haven’t been memorable nights out dancing since. Quite the contrary! But it has been touch and go. Yes, some parties thrived, despite Giuliani’s best efforts at sterilizing club life and smothering any hint of fun or creativity. But an overwhelming sense emerged that our beloved party scene was losing its edge and was dangerously close to becoming — dare I say it?— pedestrian. The horror!

A withering economy, 9/11 and unrelenting bureaucratic obstacles didn’t help. Even as the 2003 coat-check season approached, the city’s nightlife forecast still seemed mild at best, with perhaps only a few scattered flurries of fierceness.

Like most weather reports, however, this prediction was thankfully way off. As evidenced by a virtual avalanche of announced club openings and dramatic DJ maneuverings, revitalization is well under way.

Boosting morale even further was Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra’s recent announcement that the city will soon repeal those inane, outdated cabaret laws. Instead, her department will issue “nightlife licenses” to address real issues like safety and noise.

Twilo space now a spiritual oasis
So with the same patriotic fervor that Shrub and his fellow White House weeds so shamelessly pull off politically motivated publicity stunts, I returned to the former Twilo space on West 27th Street for Spirit’s preview party this past Saturday night. A truly innovative (if not risky) venture, owner Robert Whooton has created an elegant nocturnal retreat that offers revelers a New Age nightlife alternative modeled after his extremely successful Dublin entertainment complex of the same name.

The holistic venue’s 35,000 square feet are divided into three separate areas: Body (main room/performance auditorium), Mind (massage and alternative treatments) and Soul (glass-enclosed organic and vegetarian restaurant overlooking the dance area). While the reported $5 million renovation has transformed the space considerably — sunken and expanded floor, raised ceiling, VIP mezzanine level — Twilo’s footprint is still discernible.

Illuminating the club’s stunning interior are the sublime lighting effects of designer/director Guy Smith (of Saint-at-Large fame). Large video screens on either side of the stage present additional visual diversions.

But it’s the massive white orb protruding from the wall in between them that is the club’s centerpiece. Interstellar images and psychedelic patterns projected onto its three-dimensional surface create galactic illusions reminiscent of Timothy Leary’s fabled hallucinogenic journeys.

Less impressive was the dreary show shortly after midnight. Mercilessly long, the performance consisted of a few suggestively attired dancers whose monotonous choreography and anticlimactic stationary trapeze act fell short of expectations.

Spirit officially welcomes the public on Dec. 6 with a special performance by legendary DJ David Morales, and will be open every Saturday thereafter. Visit for details.

Vasquez, Calderone: heat wave
Forget La Niña and El Niño. La Vasquéz and El Calderoñe are back with a vengeance and ready to really heat things up in New York City with their brand new residencies.

In an intriguing move that surprised many, Sound Factory recently announced that it is going gay on Saturday nights with a party called Re:Union. Long-time resident DJ Jonathan Peters has been replaced by Sound Factory alumnus Junior Vasquez, who begins his weekly residency on Dec. 6. When asked why he’d drop the hugely popular hetero fest, owner Richard Grant simply replied, “Time for a change! Time for controversy … keeping it fresh and exciting.”

Vasquez will welcome guest DJs from time to time Whether he plays the entire night or just the morning hours, he has promised to end the party by noon on non-holiday weekends. This is a throwback to the far more civilized schedule of past afterhours parties that made him famous. Visit and for details.

Crobar had planned to open its doors the same weekend, but the club’s perpetually delayed debut has been pushed back yet another week. No word yet on opening party DJs, but Victor Calderone is slated to spin New Year’s Eve and then begin his biweekly Saturday night
residency in late January.

While the club is not specifically courting a gay audience (“mixed” is the new black), a significant homo contingent is all but inevitable. Keep abreast by visiting and

Euro trashed at Avalon
Speaking of mixed crowds, I ventured over to Avalon on Thanksgiving Eve to hear the Six Million Dollar DJ, Paul Oakenfold (he’s been ranked the world’s most successful DJ by Britain’s Sunday Times and the Guiness Book of World Records).

I wasn’t sure what to expect: European DJs sometimes draw the oddest (and youngest) crowds. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

As expected, Oakey is quite the showman. But when he went on at 1 a.m., he immediately took control of the already energized audience and didn’t let up once before my 4:30 a.m. departure. God bless those Brits and their aversion to dropouts. It’s just too bad that the more popular foreign DJs, like Oakenfold, Paul van Dyk and Pete Tong, never seem to play gay events here in the U.S. (Hint, hint!)

Until next time: Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Yourself.

© 2003 Matt Kalkhoff

These articles appeared in NY Blade on December 5, 2003