United Souls: A Recap of The First Town Hall Forum

Photo: WRSPhotoGraphics

Where do you see New York City nightlife in the next 5 years? That’s the question some people could not answer.

Over the years of club going, I have heard a lot of voices and opinions of the nightlife such as DJs, clubs, and other various issues.

Wednesday night, the good people of Cielo decided to open their doors for the very first United Souls town hall forum, which let DJs, producers, dancers, promoters, singers and the clubgoers sound off on how they feel about the nightlife and what we can do to change some of the issues that may underlie. “We are here to take back the night,” deepa Grooves’ Recordings owner and US host Brian Burnside said.

Photo: WRSPhotoGraphics

The moderators of the forum were Blaze’s Kevin Hedge and house diva Barbara Tucker. And they started off with two concerns: Barbara says she sees major changes in the nightlife and asks us “Why are people not coming out to the clubs anymore?” Kevin Hedge explains his reason why this meeting was held. “I’m tired of going to other countries and hear people say that New York nightlife is dead.” He says.

The forum brought up some major issues such as bottle service at clubs and why they exist, the “Legend Generation” (as Barbara Tucker nicely puts it) being welcoming to the new blood of clubgoers that’s coming up, newer DJs on the rise, cabaret laws, and the club industry as a whole. But the biggest issue that was spoken about was the younger generation coming up. Club legend Evelyn Santos said it best, “We really need to set an example. If we’re not supporting now, the newer generation is not gonna support it either.” 24-year old photographer Amanda Adams-Louis told her story of how she came to NY to go to college just to be a part of the New York house scene. ” I have heard so many stories of the culture and the community,” She said. “But I moved here in 2004, so I have also heard about the decline that this nightlife is having.”


Photo: WRSPhotoGraphics

The forum also goes into the music industry affecting club life. “There is a younger generation out there,’ DJ Disciple explains. “I see a paradigm shift in the music. Too many older producers are not breaking newer talent in to keep soulful music alive.”

“It doesn’t take a DJ to be a nightclub.” Barbara Tucker noted. “It takes artists and performers to reel people in. Labels need to get a chance to put their artists on in the clubs. If that isn’t done, who will push the music?” At The Club singer Lynn Lockamy goes into her experience of the house music industry. “It’s a little disheartening to me,” she said. “How can an enigma with no face and no name have such a hit song? Why is not a person noticed? It’s because the production team who has helped to make the song made themselves famous without saying to the artist ‘Come along with me. You wrote the song, let’s take you along ride.’ I was told don’t do it for the money because there is none. If there is such a demand for my music, then there is a dollar somewhere…”

The dancers get to speak their peace. Professional dancer Mike the Movement feels that the dancer is an artist, as well. “We travel with this. We spread this culture worldwide,” he explained. “Can we at least come back home with a thank you or some type of recognition for the work that we do?”

Photo: WRSPhotoGraphics

One of the topics was also about community, something that the city highly lacks. “It was a street culture, starting with block parties and the radio.” US host Kervyn Mark said. “We have an adversarial relationship with the city. Jersey holds the Lincoln Park Music Festival, Chicago has a House Day. We don’t even have a step day. We need to come together to show the city that we can do it!”

Jive Records A&R and Chose Few DJ Wayne Williams goes into how Chicago happen to have city events that deal with house music. “You have to play a certain amount of politics,” he explained. “We take house music very seriously. You have to do something about it! Don’t wait on the city for things to happen, you demand a day. Just do it!”

Some club owners also get into the forum to defend their side on some of the topics that are talked about. DJ and Cielo owner Nicholas Matar goes into how bottle service saves clubs. “We don’t necessarily market it, but due to bottle service on the weekends, we can make rent and support of the venues that happen here. We would have been out of business years ago if it wasn’t for that.”

Photo: WRSPhotoGraphics

There were some agreements, debates and some emotions involved, but it all comes down to one word for this forum: SUPPORT. “We are here and willing to share our views and concerns.” US host Conrad Neblett said. “If we don’t this scene will DIE.”

DJ/Producer Michael Alexis goes into his native Boston scene and how it ceased to be. “I’ve witnessed a scene die. I don’t wanna witness it again.” He said. “The reason why is because ownership is not adhered to. Go to someone else and give them the power, you don’t have your own power. There is no reason for everybody asking to get in. You can’t keep asking when you got the power to just do.”

Photo: WRSPhotoGraphics

“Nothing is gonna change unless we change our consciousness about the scene,” Conrad added. “It’s not all about the DJ, the party goer, the promoter, nor the producer. They are all a part of the scene. We all are charged to take it to another level. We feel the music and are inspired by it. We have the opportunity to bring our consciousness together and create our future in a thriving way.”

The moral: Just do it! Nothing is gonna happen if you don’t take the time to change.

Click image for more info on United Souls and how you can get involved.

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5 thoughts on “United Souls: A Recap of The First Town Hall Forum

  1. GREAT RECAP of the evening, and I hope you continue to follow the growth of this coalition… thanks for including my pics! I tried to photographically tell the story of the evening. Your inclusion of them means I achieved my goal!!

  2. At the Paradise Garage, members paid $8 and guest paid $15. Over 30 years later guest prices remarkably have not changed very much. Our house music culture will not survive without financial support from it patrons and the understanding that the cost to run these parties and venues also goes up with time. There is also revenue that is generated from our scene that contributes to our cities taxes, jobs, benifits and economy structure. These facts and statistical data have already been compiled. We must unite with the whole night life and entertainment community of NYC, and be recognized as a significant tax revenue generating entity. We must also develope a respected political voice with the city council and city hall, as a united business association that has powerful voting power! This city seems to be milking its entertainment industry which we are a part of and clearly NOT Supporting it. We cannot do it alone. I don’t know how to complete this task, but I am willing to be a part of making it happen. This town meeting was a great start in this process. Thank you Kevin Hedge, Barbra Tucker, United Souls for spear heading this important effort for our house music future. I hope this does not “die on the vine” Joey Llanos (Paradise Garage, The Choice)

  3. Well said Joey. The reason no one can answer the “Where will the scene be in 5 yrs” question is because it is an ever evolving animal. A large part of the stagnation is due to people not allowing it to do that.

  4. There are two main reasons why NYC nightlife is in a crisis. First, the skyrocketing cost of commercial real estate in Manhattan over the past two plus decades has squeezed out all but the most profitable businesses. With this, a similar explosion of residential rents have driven many creative people (artists, musicians, etc.) out of town. Only the rich need apply. So, the creative heart of New York has been ripped out.
    Second, two successive City Governments (G_______, Bloomberg) have presided over an atmosphere hostile to prospective and current club owners. These are two real body blows to the scene.

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