Hoopla Hooper: Brian Pennington

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This Beat is Mine

The history of New York City’s nightlife stretches back to the origins of most modern forms of music, including dance music. New York is a melting pot of cultures that has given birth to countless genres and subgenres of dance music. Its 2010 incarnation is just as varied and influential as ever. Even though America does not pride itself on all-night dance parties as the rest of the world, New York’s club culture centers squarely in the center of American nightlife.

Like many New Yorkers I am not a native of this city. Growing up in Appalachia and going to college in the Midwest, I was used to dance culture as a tiny fringe element that had little bearing on the music and places I would go to. I first came here in the late 90s, and some of my earliest club experiences in NYC were dancing to britpop, soul, funk and the earliest incarnations of electroclash. New York was a revelation then much as it must be now, a place where we stay out all night and dancing is serious business.

With memories of NY parties like Tiswas and Larry Tee’s Berliniamsburg, I returned to my native West Virginia, where I set about learning how to dj, and quickly began throwing my own parties at a local rock club. I booked musical acts too, most notably a young Girl Talk, who traveled from Pittsburgh numerous times to play our parties, until he got so popular he eclipsed the size of our venue. But, after a few years, it got boring. There was nowhere bigger to go and people’s tastes just weren’t exciting enough.

So, about three years ago, I returned to NYC. The nightlife landscape had changed dramatically. The electro scene, far from its infancy I witnessed in 2001, was now packing giant clubs. Dance acts that then had a solitary 12″ out now sold out cavernous new venues and played outdoors to thousands.

In West Virginia, I was one of only a handful of djs, but here there are thousands. Anyone with an iPod and some moxy can and will style themselves a dj here in post-millenial New York. Those of us who have spent time painstakingly learning the craft of mixing records rub shoulders with kids who have never touched vinyl.

I find myself gracing New York City’s numerous dance floors now in the age of remixes as digital promotional tools and the increasing influence of dance music on the scope of American music. I try to take in as much as possible now, from the dumb Top 40 nostalgia fun to secret disco parties in hush-hush warehouse locales.

In this column I’ll be talking about as much of the nightlife scene as I can get my hands on and talking with some folks who spend their energies keeping the wheels of our city’s clubs moving along. I’ll give you a dj’s eye view into what it means to put together and promote a party in a city where just standing out from the pack is a constant struggle. We’ll look at where and when to go and where to look for the latest Brooklyn club jam or Summer anthem.

So, I’ll be back here in a couple weeks, just as the weather starts to warm up and everyone starts to get that itch in their hips.

’Til then.