Output was packed to the rafters.
An overwhelming number of sweaty, swaying bodies milled intoxicatedly about in loose rhythm with the deep beat. Detroit legend Kevin Saunderson had set an intense, driving vibe with his opening set, and now MK was laying down his increasingly adored brand of minimalist, melodically driven deep house. A group of what seemed to be MK groupies loitered just inside the VIP entrance to the elevated booth, lounging leisurely around as they sipped their drinks.
I immediately envied the amount of space they had to themselves.
Output is still a child in the grand scheme of New York nightlife, but you'd never know it. It already has become an iconic staple of underground dance music culture. But, more than anything, it has become yet another example of why it's so hard to keep something "cool" in New York City.
Don't get me wrong - Output is a blast.
The architecture is stunning. The use of space is economic and yet sprawling. And truth be told: the best artists play there. The atmosphere is one that has been missing from New York City ever since the mega clubs were shut down a decade ago.
When Output opened, it was a beacon of light for techno and house lovers. The owners and management explicitly outlined what the club was about: good vibes and good music. They threw out the bottle-service model of clubbing that insidiously ruined Manhattan's club culture, and redefined the standard for New York nightclubs. Its success has been astounding, and the role that it has played in restoring New York City's reputation as a global hub for dance music cannot be stressed enough. However, it's very possible that the club has become too successful for its own good.
While the early days of Output were highlighted by the incredible amount of space the club afforded for dancers, most shows in the past six months have drawn capacity crowds. The simple truth is that Output has changed.
But before anyone starts pointing fingers, one must first ask: wasn't it unavoidable? After all, New York City is pretty bad at keeping secrets. Especially when its a secret like Output.
Output's purpose was to skate along the margin of popularity while offering the lost culture of a music-centric club, but it would seem that this model has backfired. Blame it on Guetta, blame it on guidos, blame it on social media - it doesn't matter. Output has become the limbo between dance music as pop culture and dance music as underground.
MK's show at Output was the perfect example of this odd communion. Even more so, MK himself represents this bizarre unity. Although Mark Kinchen has only become an international phenomenon over the past four years or so, he is actually one of the most OG deep house producers around. He's part of the second generation of Detroit house and techno talent that emerged in the early nineties. His iconic 1993 remix of the Pet Shop Boys hit "Can You Forgive Her?" would blend into the current deep house resurgence without anyone blinking. Moreover, he is no average dance music DJ. In fact, it would seem that he only returned to house music upon it's emergence as a pop cultural form.
Kinchen's influence in the music industry is a well kept secret. He produced nearly all of Pitbull's establishing hits when he emerged on the pop scene. It's really no surprise that he has become Lana Del Ray's official "official" remixer. And yet, iconic producers like Harry Romero still cite his music as influential within the underground dance music sphere.
MK's ability to have one foot in each arena is more or less unparalleled. That's why there is an overwhelming sense of irony implicit when he is billed alongside Kevin Saunderson, who is quite literally one of the inventors of techno.
Three audiences showed up to Output on Thursday night: Kevin Saunderson fans, MK fans, and then general yuppies who just wanted to be a part of Output's hype.
There are few clubs that can attract this diverse of an audience; but what results when such worlds collide is an absolute cluster-fuck of humanity.
While I thoroughly enjoyed both performances, I found myself repeatedly taking refuge in the adjoining Panther Room, the club's more intimate dancefloor, where Nadastrom was laying down some wonderfully soulful vibes.
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