Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everybody Goes Home Happy

I can’t say that I’ve ever found Andrew W.K. to be a genius. He certainly cracked open his own niche with his debut album, I Get Wet, which featured several blistering tracks devoted to some variation on the theme of partying (“It’s Time to Party, Party Hard, Party Till You Puke). The songs were the very essence of straightforward: joyous celebrations of the ethic of having a good time, and nothing else. You want a message, as W.C. Fields used to say? Try Western Union.*

*How many expressions like this will soon become meaningless to us, what with the passage of time and technology? Remember ‘you sound like a broken record’? Such a rich phrase, evoking something both auditory and visual, rendered nearly useless in a fifteen-year span. I’m all for the evolution of our discourse, but I feel that we are made poorer in our progress.

That being said, I think he’s hit upon something in his latest venture—that being a club called Santos Party House, located in Manhattan. Much like other clubs in the city, the place features dancing, drinking, and music (it is legally classified as a cabaret, meaning the dancing can continue until 4 AM), with one markedly different catch:

Anyone can get in.

"Along with his partners—the downtown artist Spencer Sweeney, the architect Ron Castellano, and nightlife veteran Larry Golden—Andrew began conceiving of Santos three years ago, long before the economy nose-dived. But their vision has proven to be almost presciently in line with recession-era New York. While Santos is a big, commercial, high-profile dance club, it has a decidedly democratic, unpretentious vibe. There are expensive drinks and a line out front, but the club isn’t defined by $900 bottles of Cristal and a bitchy door policy. Unlike Marquee and the countless other clubs that have metastasized in West Chelsea, Santos positions itself as a self-consciously friendly place, letting in anyone and everyone who believes that forgoing inhibitions is a more noble pursuit than flaunting wealth."

This is a beautiful thing and should be rightly celebrated. I’m not much of a club person, but I’d go to this club. So many clubs embody their name far too rigidly—you are restricted to dress codes, you can’t get in if you’re the wrong size or income level, you are at the mercy of a rigid quota system. You are made to feel lucky at having gotten in to the damn place at all. You’re part of the club. Aren’t you special?

At W.K.’s place, the emphasis is where it should be—on having a good time. Aside from the occasional solitudes that are good for one’s mental health, isn’t an experienced shared amongst us all one that is also enhanced?

Exclusivity has its places. You don’t want your pilots or presidents to be held to no standard at all. The idea of a club, or a clique, or a list is corrosive, however, as it creates divisions and enforces the idea that some are above the rest, not in talent or appeal or skill, but in worth. It’s where we get a rigidly defined idea of the “it” crowd or the cool kids, with the rest of us striving for acceptance or recognition that, once attainted (I hesitate to use the word “earned” for reasons that will soon become clear) is almost immediately obsolete.

What’s the point of a system like this? I can’t see what it accomplishes except to imbue a certain lucky few with a sense of belonging at the expense of the misery of the many. The operative word here is lucky, because who are you except the product of blind chance? You were born in this or that location, with this or that family, and this or that economic situation, with a billion other factors that you had no control over whatsoever—all of this combined to create YOU. Certainly, you had some input in the process that brought you up to whatever point you’ve currently reached, but that’s a product of luck as well. Have you ever considered that drive and motivation and talent are also products of these factors?

You shouldn’t be put on a hill merely because you hit a couple genetic trampolines on your way through life. You’re not so damned special.

So, good on you, Andrew W.K. We all have something to offer, and if everybody goes home happy, all of us benefit.

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