In the fall of 2009 dance music’s renaissance had begun gaining momentum in the US, and slowly began taking over my life. The one party that credits the initiation among me and countless other youths in the tri-state area was Friday nights Girls & Boys party at New York City’s legendary nightclub, Webster Hall. I vividly recall the excitement bubbling in my underage loins upon watching the Girls & Boys promo video in my freshman year dorm room – an advertisement promising the forefront acts in dance music and above all else a wild, unforgettable night.
5 years later the team at Girls & Boys has kept that promise every Friday at Webster Hall. Now, with a revamped look, Webster Hall’s brand new L-Acoustics Kara sound system, and a killer fall line-up, Girls & Boys is poised to reach new heights in it’s 6th year. In honor of their upcoming 5 year anniversary, the teams principle members answered some questions on the history and action behind the scenes of one of dance musics greatest institutions. Read below as Kenny Schachter, the co-president of Webster Hall, Thomas Dunkley of longtime New York promoting team GBH, talent buyer and resident DJ Alex English, and Executive Assistant & Artist Relations Laura Bo Sherman provide a retrospective and hint toward the future of Girls & Boys.
Nick AM: What was the first Girls and Boys party like? Who initially had the idea, how was it arranged, who played, how was the turnout etc?
Thomas Dunkley: The first time Alex and I did anything at Webster Hall was the GBH 10 year anniversary… James Murphy, MSTRKRFT and Grandmaster Flash were all DJing… it was a great party. After that I think we all liked the idea of a weekly… it took some time to get it together though – up until that point we had been limiting that kind of sound to smaller rooms like Hiro Ballroom (a 500 person space), so Webster Hall with the main room cap of 1500 was a big jump…
Kenny Schachter: The first time Webster Hall partnered with GBH for a party was on May 16th of 2008. The bill was MSTRKRFT, James Murphy, Does it Offend You, Yeah?, Grandmaster Flash, and L.A Riots. We charged $10 for tickets. After the most insane party vibe any of us had ever seen, we talked… and thought “well we should do this again”. About a month later, on June 21st, we did another one. This time with Crookers, DJ Funk, Dave 1, Danger, Spitzer, and Midnight Juggernauts. Again, we charged $10 for tickets. Then we thought, “maybe we should do this every week?!” We spent the next few months planning and formatting all 4 floors of Webster Hall and launched Girls & Boy in December of 2008.
Alex English: The very first one at Webster Hall was with Alan Braxe & Lifelike. It was early Dec 2008. During that year the French pretty much owned everything. Everyone was still mad about anything Daft Punk and Justice. Since Alan did the seminal track “Music Sounds Better With You” with Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk (as Stardust), we thought it as a good way to kick off the party. It was definitely a great night!
Laura Bo: I was the late-comer and my first Girls & Boys was 4 years ago, Dave 1 of Chromeo and the guy from Vampire Weekend. I fell in love. I needed to be a part of the party… and I was lucky enough to get adopted by the team.
Nick AM: Did you all ever expect the party to grow to become the institution that it is today?
Thomas Dunkley: It was touch and go for the first few months… we had some great parties but it could be financially stressful. One of the reasons that we went into a bigger room though, was that we saw what was happening with electronic music and we realized we were going to need a bigger venue… and after a few months it seemed that the scene caught up with us. I remember telling Kenny back then that I thought we had four years of working together… but it has been a lot longer and we are still trucking.
Alex English: I definitely didn’t expect it to be so big. But our motto has always been “shoot for the stars” when it came to booking. I think it was 2009 we nearly got Chemical Brothers to come DJ.
Kenny Schachter: We hoped it would! Our goal was to always curate the most cutting edge dance music, support the up-and-coming artists, make the fun element our focus, and keep the ticket price consistently low. We thought that if we followed this course, New York would notice. To this day, we always offer an inexpensive way to get into the party because everyone should have the opportunity to experience it!
Nick AM: What are the perks of running G&B?
Thomas Dunkley: Working with Webster Hall is great because everything runs like a well oiled machine… which means that I get a chance to hang out and relax at my own parties…. Also, more importantly, it is nice to run a party that your friends actually want to come to.
Alex English: Drink tix every week! lol seriously… getting to meet and perform with some of the biggest names in the electronic music world is a HUGE perk. Also the minor celebrity that it gains you is nice
Kenny Schachter: Seeing the smiling faces of every girl and boy in New York singing along to lyrics. Getting to know the artists and watching their careers take off after they play Webster Hall’s famous stage. Getting to work with all the amazing people we have met at and through the party over the years.
Laura Bo: We have such an amazing team and family. That’s probably my favorite part about the party. Meeting so many amazing and talented people who all have the same goal of doing cool things together.
Nick AM: What was everyone’s most memorable night? Any funny stories?
Alex English: Last year we did the Ed Banger 10 Year Anniversary. Backstage was total madness. I was running around as usual and Pedro (Busy P) stops me for a sec and says “Alex… I want to introduce you to a friend of mine… Guy-Man” (Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo from Daft Punk)… I was such in a rush to sort out whatever task I was trying to do that I did not realize who Pedro was introducing me to… I ran off after shaking his hand and stopped literally 5 mins later and said to myself, “wait a minute, I just met half of Daft Punk!”
Thomas Dunkley: Alex’s answers for these two questions are great.
Alex English: It’s gotta be the first night Skrillex played at Girls & Boys. Nov 2010. There was so much bass that some of the venues pipes burst near the back bar. Sonny also stage dived into the crowd.
Kenny: Skrillex’s Webster Hall debut. I will never forget it (but Alex already talked about this).
The first time we had Baauer and Just Blaze play the party was the week The Harlem Shake went viral. There were 200 people on stage going nuts. We may have lost power to the booth a few times that night.
We once booked Black Devil Disco Club. He sat on a stool for his entire DJ set, faded out the music entirely between each song, and applauded. It was odd, but hey, the music was awesome.
Laura Bo: Dada Life was a good one, we dropped banana inflatables from the ceiling. My other favorite night was probably Datsik & Tittsworth. There are stories from that night that have always stirred up a good laugh.
Nick AM: What is the future of G&B?
Thomas Dunkley: We’ll keep on keeping on exposing new music to the city… it is kind of what we are good at. We’ve never been tied down to one genre, so we have a lot more freedom than most other clubs when it comes to what we book, and we’ll continue to try to use that power wisely.
Alex English: We want to keep pushing musical boundaries. Hopefully Girls & Boys will come to more cities. We had one in Clifton Park NY recently at Upstate Concert Hall with Kill the Noise, Two Fresh & Botnek. We shall see!
Kenny: We will stick to the foundation of what makes Girls & Boys and Webster Hall so special. We will always re-invest into the party. We will evolve musically. Hopefully we will pop up in other cities to say hello. Maybe even make an appearance at a festival.
Laura Bo: The future holds so many surprises and adventures. Like Alex said, I hope we bring it to more cities. I just want people to love it as much as I do.
Girls & Boys would also like to thank all the past members of the G&B family: rekLES (Daniel Casanova), Cassy Cusimano, Roseanna Lane, Char DeStefano, Annie Rinsky, Kids With Snake, Jeff Meltz, Bad Decision (Ray Tiong & Gavin Royce), Famous Friends, Alex Dziena (Alex Malfunction), Jess Imler (Jess Marquis) & Tommy Frayne