The Truth About Music: Play It Loud

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Review: Mr Saturday Night and The Ellusive Scene

The great fallacy of New York’s glorified “Bad Old Days” is the idea that everyone involved in that legendary artistic renaissance devoted every waking moment to it’s enrichment. Yes, many of the artists were living hand to mouth, but the fans, friends and general “scene” around those various movements were usually working folk who just tapped into a moment. The man waving his hands in the air at the command of DJ Kool Herc might have worked as a repair man, the young woman losing herself in the club experiments at The Paradise Garage could have been a telephone operator. While it’s true that Manhattan was unfathomably cheaper and grittier than today’s sanitized playground, the idea that the whole island was some kind of anarchist collective does a disservice to the men and women who found time during their working week to support their favorite artists.

Now move forward to today’s Big Apple. 8 years after James Murphy declared we were “fresh out of shout,” the effort to preserve that old DIY art culture is an ever worthy struggle. For many, supporting artists (let alone being one) is increasingly tough, as ever increasing rents and cost of living force the 9-5 crowd to make frugal selections with their entertainment. While there are many venues and artists keeping various scenes alive, perhaps none are doing better at their self appointed task than Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter, who together DJ and host dance parties under the moniker Mr Saturday Night.

Started in 2009, Mister Saturday Night have devoted themselves to an alternative nightlife experience that is “just as interested in constructing an engaging journey and fostering community as they are in dropping good tunes.” While that might read as pretentious nonsense, Eamon and Justin back up their words, donating 10% of their profits to The Robin Hood Foundation in New York. Avoiding traditional venues like Webster Hall, The Mister host their events in non traditional DIY spaces like Shea Stadium and Silent Barn, where I recently attended one of their parties.

Mister Saturday Night parties aren’t exclusive, as the tickets are sold first come first serve on their website for about $20. However, Justin and Eamon make it clear that they are trying to break away from the immature, belligerent reputation that’s become attached to modern dance culture. They do not allow any phone/camera use on the dance floor, but the DJ’s are known to personally select their security staff, who are instructed to be friendly and forgiving for all but the most egregious infractions. This might seem like a small detail, but there is something freeing about knowing that everyone dancing is there in the moment, not collecting images for posterity. Further, their is comfort in knowing that while the event does have a small element of control, there are no crowd harassing robo-bouncers making you feel like some kind of captive on your night out.

While the general vibe Mister Saturday Night cultivates is important, that wouldn’t matter without the music, which is where they really separate themselves from mainstream dance culture. Eschewing the barely remixed top 40 and frat boy dubstep that plague’s so many modern clubs, MSN play a non stop 6 hour set that winds it’s way through all different corners of dance music, while usually staying somewhere near the orbit of heavily rhythmic House. From old Soul and Disco extended “12 jams to Hip-Hop bongo’s behind stabbing House piano, the DJ’s create a never ending mix that calls you in but never curdles into anything overtly intense or confrontational.

As I left the party around 2 AM things were just reaching their peak on the dance floor. Meanwhile, people lined up to get in-house haircuts and thumb through the bins of records for sale, both run by the live in collective that runs Silent Barn. I couldn’t help but think about those legendary loft parties that invented modern club music in America in the early 70’s, how a city on the brink of bankruptcy inadvertently became the incubator for so much culture. These day’s we are on the other end of the spectrum, with the city safer and stabler then ever, but on the brink of losing “the shout” that makes it so special. This is obviously a much bigger and more complex issue, but by fostering an inclusive setting in a DIY environment, Mister Saturday Night has given all of us working folks who want to hold onto a piece of the “Bad Old Days” something to rally over.

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