Alegria Shows Its Pride
Written by Steve Weinstein
From time to time, the editor of noiZe cedes the floor (or the blog) to one of our knowledgeable readers, and few are more aware of the music, lights, sound, venue, crowd, sampling, beat mixing and everything else that goes into a great party as Brennan Sullivan. This Washingtonian frequently ventures to New York for the biggest and parties, and this Gay Pride was no exception. Brennan attended Alegria the night of the march down Fifth Avenue. Here is his report:
This was my first time at Webster Hall. Beautiful old space! I heard about some of the problems when they held these parties there several years ago, but I must say that other than the oppresively hot dance floor, the venue seemed fine. While it was super packed, we were somehow able to move around surprisingly well. The upstairs balcony, with VIP on one side, gave a nice view of the action below (but was also hot). No one is to blame, though; I'm not sure the best A/C system in the world could do much with that many hot boys in one space! Sure, the floor still sways, but the flow was not a problem up and down the stairs and the bathroom lines were almost non-existent. Yes, it's a pain to have to go all the way down to the basement to pee, but that just gave me another excuse to stop in from time to time and hear Joe Gauthreaux play a great set in the Marlin Room. While it never reached critical mass in there, he did manage to draw a respectable-sized crowd in the middle portion of the event, and it was soooooo nice and cool in there!
Danny Verde played the opening set upstairs on the main floor until Abel took over at 4 a.m. Danny played an excellent set of music, weaving in his own mixes and mash-ups with some standard circuit fare, but all with a very energetic and intense pace. He played fine earlier on, maybe slightly uneven in spots (but I'm just being picky!), and then gave it to us full throttle from about 2-4 a.m. He played his own private mix of "Vogue" which is hands down the best mix I've ever heard of Madonna's song (better than Midnight Society's/Bill Hallquists' Reconstruction or Paulo's) and a mix of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" that makes Rauhofer's otherwise fine mix pale by comparison. Danny's set was not only a perfect set-up for Abel's deeper, harder beats to follow, but Danny could have easily taken his signature sound and evolved it for a full 12 hour set. Here's hoping for that!
Under normal circumstances, I would have complained about the lack of decor in this space, what with Ric Sena bragging in the last email he sent out prior to the event that the decor and set would be one of the best ever. Well, until the opening show/performance, I was bummed. The decor was minimal, and mainly relegated to the mardi gras style masks adorning the walls. The one exception was the iconic Alegria disco ball, this time lit up in fabulous display of different colors and descending periodically throughout the night. If that were it, that would have sucked. But that's where Ric likes to play with an audience's expectations and upend them. Once the stage opened up (after a seemingly random group of ragged-looking vagabonds chanting and playing drums departed stage left) it was SPECTACULAR, as in, the best Alegria show I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few.
The Alegria chant that Abel initiated almost a decade ago with Jeanie Tracie's vocals grew louder and louder as the curtain rose. The vagabonds (no doubt dressed to look raggedy to contrast what was to come) exited and a giant tiered set with dancers clad in bright festive, Brazilian colors and headpieces dancing on multiple levels revealed itself. The set had its own light system with the letters A-L-E-G-R-I-A all flashing different colors, and also on the levels themselves. Well, basically, Abel proceeded to blow the roof of Webster Hall with this opening to his set in truly spectacular fashion. Other dancers came off the float too and danced in front of it, and predictably, the crowd went nuts. This all ensued for about 30 minutes, and was capped off by a confetti drop that you had to see to believe.
The rest of Abel's set was overall very good. Still for me, it felt a bit flat in places. The roaring heights which Abel usually takes us to just didn't seem quite as high this time. Some of the music was dated and most of it was what Abel has played before. I stayed until 10 a.m. so I heard his set. If it wasn't 93 octane gasoline, he was pumping 89, or 91 — still enough to put it into high speed.
One thing that I will point out in fairness (though I don't think this affected his set overall since it happened during a short time span) was that a few rude patrons kept coming up to Abel on the stage (bypassing a ridiculously fat security guard sitting----or should I say dripping-----off a giant, throne-like chair on the side of the stage) and distracting him. They appeared to just want to talk to him, but didn't have a f***n clue about what they were doing. When they couldn't get his attention along side of him, one of them came up behind him while he was mixing and Abel literally turned around with his arm outstretched and pushed him firmly back. It happened two other times as well, but without the forceful push, from different patrons. Maybe this freaked him a few times, because it is true that at gay events, it is not cool to make your way into the DJ booth unless you have been expressly invited.
Overall, this was a great Alegria, mostly because of the first half. The second half for any casual Circuit-goer would have been more than fine. But for us avid Circuit fans, we have come to expect nothing less than a top-notch set from the DJ most closely associated with Alegria. In contrast, at last year's Alegria Pride, Ralphi and Abel tagged-teamed it as Rosabel, of course, and it was amazing. One should remember that Abel used to DJ the whole party doing the whole 12+ hours in ferocious form throughout, all without breaking a sweat and without an opening DJ.
As much charm as Webster Hall had, my favorite venue for Alegria, other than the irreplaceable Crobar/Mansion, remains Best Buy Theater. Best Buy is just perfect for it, and the location is preferable since it's smack in the middle of Manhattan (although Webster Hall, on the northern edge of the East Village, isn't exactly Siberia). Being down in the East Village actually works out better, though, when you're stumbling out into the broad daylight and don't want a million tourists staring at you.
Great job, overall, Ric Sena. Looking forward to attending the next party from the one true brand that can be counted on for consistency and high marks.