Matinee Takes Manhattan
Written by Mark Thompson
Late in June 2010, an Iberian breeze blew across New York Harbor. The sounds and feeling of Spain’s fabled party island of Ibiza enveloped the beach at Governors Island, a pristine enclave off the coast of Lower Manhattan that formerly housed the U.S. Coast Guard and is now parkland. New Yorkers somehow managed to grab hold of that Spanish wind and claim it as their own. This refreshing tropical zephyr felt by thousands of partygoers was the work of Matinée Group, a collective based on the Iberian peninsula. Sweeping into New York during New York City’s massive Gay Pride weekend, the group’s Saturday evening début was a direct hit of gale force. More than 4,000 partygoers, straight and gay, caught the grooves of DJ-percussionist Theresa and DJ Taito Tikaro at a phenomenal event that was hailed for its professionalism and theatricality.
Two months later, Matinée New York caught the tailwinds of Hurricane Earl and once again landed on the shores of Governors Island for a second spectacle. This time the party was called La Leche Festival. Coinciding with the start of New York Fashion Week, Matinée La Leche attracted thousands of people attired in white for a fashion and theatrical extravaganza that featured the sounds of DJ Theresa and DJ J. Louis. Along with the DJs, there was a cavalcade of talent — more than thirty live performers, including chanteuse Shawnee Taylor, who sang her No. 1 hit, “Live Your Life” with its insistent (and totally appropriate) refrain, “You know you can have it all.”
“Matinée is all about good energy and a fun, sexy crowd,” says Tommy Marinelli, the founder of New York Crobar. Marinelli, working with local promoters Jake Resnicow and Rob Fernandez, is committed to “bringing something fresh” to the New York club scene via Matinée New York.
Since 1997, Matinée Group has been producing parties in Ibiza and Sitges, while also helming some of Europe’s largest events, including Circuit Festival in Barcelona (the biggest gay and lesbian event in Europe) and the Matinée Summer and Winter Festivals. Attended by thousands of people (a healthy dose of whom seem to have stepped out of the pages of European fashion magazines), Matinée Group’s parties have a reputation for chic Iberian glamour and excessive theatricality. “We’re trying to go back to the roots of what made New York nightlife so great: new parties, new music, new venues, a new, fresh energy,” says Resnicow, the 26-year-old founder of Management 360.
Governors Island is the ice-cream-cone-shaped island just across the harbor from the base of Manhattan. Leaving from the historic Beaux-Arts Battery Maritime Building, the Governors Island ferry affords passengers one of Manhattan’s more striking vistas: the sun descending behind the Statue of Liberty as a kaleidoscope of lights from the offices of the Financial District flicker on, making the ferry ride the equivalent to a Broadway show overture. Postcard views of Downtown Manhattan and a purpose-built stage complete with soaring proscenium has made the Beach at Governors Island the perfect locale for events like the Saint-at-Large’s introduction of the Freemasons to America’s gay Circuit and Victor Calderone’s tribal danceathons.
The setting is also just right for a party determined to marry New York’s theater scene with its throbbing nightlife. And there’s no question that Matinée New York’s first two events have been marked by stellar production values.
Matinée Pride featured three-story scrims by corporate sponsor A/X, which flanked aerial performers, ballerinas, go-go boys, and an explosion of fireworks. Matinée La Leche showcased fashion, with the thirty-plus performers vogueing and strutting in outrageously outsized outfits, marked by mountains of white tulle and clouds of satin and chiffon.
“I always hear stories about how NYC nightlife used to be,” says Matinée New York’s Assistant Artistic Director Patrick Crough. “I’m ready to be a part of something — something for our generation.”
For years, Body & Soul defined Sundays in New York, just as Danny Tenaglia’s Be Yourself event was the Friday night New York party (produced by Rob Fernandez, the third industry heavy behind Matinée New York). Both of those legendary parties became highly regarded for their signature sound. The three DJs behind Body & Soul produced numerous CDs, spawning a musical category known simply as “Body and Soul,” a melding of deep House with R&B and a heavy dollop of old-style Motown soul.
Ibiza Sound: Made for Dancing
Similarly, the music of Matinée has its own signature: a cool, sexy, vibrant vibe that’s fresh and vocal, thanks in large part to DJ J. Louis, the all-star deejay most often associated with Matinée. One of Ibiza’s more prolific deejays, DJ J. Louis is the producer behind more than 100 chart-topping hits, including “Shine on Me,” “Real Things,” “Pray,” and “Today Is My Day.”
As for Matinée’s New York resident, DJ Theresa, she’s the sinuous siren who plays the bongos as a complement to her insanely buoyant and booty-shaking sets. With her infectious energy behind the decks (as well as onstage), it’s often Theresa who kick-starts the party even before the first ferry has docked.
“Matinée is far from your typical American ‘Circuit music,’” argues Resnicow. “The music is fresh. It’s vocal. Matinée tracks just make you want to dance.” The Matinée crowd is certainly a crowd that loves to move. Earlier in the summer, at the huge Ascension oceanfront party on Fire Island, a corps of Matinée Leche go-go boys and girls made a splashy entrance and kept the energy peaking wherever they landed on Ascension’s massive dance floor.
Of course, “la leche” means “milk” in Spanish — a name that has become synonymous with Matinée’s famous White Party in Barcelona and Ibiza. Matinée La Leche at Governors Island followed in the tradition, with inflatable Holstein dairy cows that bobbed over the crowd while go-go boys in dairy cow briefs worked black-and-white Spanish fans. The resultant scene was a psychedelic amalgam of the Dairy Association’s annual convention and the White Party at Vizcaya.
“Everyone – gay or straight – is at Matinée to have a ‘sick’ time,” says Marinelli. For his part, Resnicow contends that Matinée “isn’t about the DJ so much as it’s about the experience. We are bringing back the experience. New York used to be like that.”
Based on the popularity of Matinée New York’s first two events, it would appear that New Yorkers have voted with their feet. The response to Matinée New York has been so positive that Matinée will be back for three more events in the city that never sleeps, before its triumphant return to Governors Island again next summer.