It seems like a time-honored tradition to bemoan how New York nightlife has gone down the toilet. The great clubs are long gone: Studio 54 only lasted for a couple years; Palladium is now an NYU dorm; CBGB's turned into a John Varvatos store. Pre-Giuliani residents are constantly going on and on about the death of the truly epic parties--and these complaints used to be solely Manhattan-focused, but, with the rise of persistent gentrification, they've now moved into Brooklyn.
But all is not lost. Besides the fact that one of New York's most annoying laws--which prohibited dancing in bars without a cabaret license--was recently struck down, there are whole communities of mobilized young people who want to create safe, inclusive, and joyful experiences on the dance floor. Enter GARDENS, a new queer party starting tonight, organized by DJs Jordan Alper (aka DJ Jor) and Julia Pradhan (Phoneg1rl), and headlined by iconic DJs Heather and Cinthie, both mainstays of the Chicago and Berlin house scenes. Alper and Pradhan founded GARDENS with an admirable goal: to highlight "the queer and intersectional narratives of house music, with a dance floor centered around safety and openness to everyone."
Pradhan, who spins house, Chicago footwork, and industrial club music, moved to New York from Chicago in September of 2016. "The Chicago scene as I experienced it is very trans and very femme, and the New York scene seems to be much more masc," she says. "It hasn't felt super comfortable all the time, as a woman of color in these spaces. So I really want to foster a dance floor that's really safe and open to everyone, something that isn't so masc."
Both Pradhan and Alper want to honor house's roots in queer and brown communities, and to create a space that's open to all. "House music in particular has always been such a way for me to connect with and learn more about my own identity as a gay man and as a queer person," says Alper. "It makes feel like part of a community that spans back for so long. And some of the best parties I've been to have been ones where when I'm on the dance floor, I'm able to feel that directly."
"I've always felt that the parties I wanted to go to musically were always at odds with where I wanted to be in terms of friendly queer spaces," he continued. "And so I really always dreamed of a party where I could book my favorite DJs and use it as an opportunity to connect with the queer community here in Brooklyn."
GARDENS, which will be held at Bushwick's Elsewhere, has a truly epic lineup of DJs. A smaller room will host DJ MikeQ, NK Badtz Maru, and Oscar Nn from Papi Juice, a collective which hosts monthly QTPOC parties--the goal of GARDENS is to pay homage to house roots while still connecting with present-day queer nightlife communities. And of course Heather and Cinthie, the headliners, are the DJs of Alper's dreams.
Cinthie, who has played an essential part in Berlin house for decades, told me she was "super hyped" to play. "I love playing for gay and queer parties because people are usually more open-minded," she says. "I grew up with house music in the '90s, and house and disco parties have always been full with gay, trans or queer people, and I always loved that. [It taught me to] take people for who they are and not who they love or how they look."
GARDENS' hosts also include a gorgeous cornucopia of drag queens, including HaraJuku, Zenobia, West Dakota, Ruby Fox, and Panthera. Looks will be served. As Cinthie joked, "The only bad thing is that I might be the most underdressed person at the party."
Phototography: Lydo Le