RIP Webster Hall – 8.5.17

It seems like the only time I cover nightlife anymore is when some sort of historic NYC institution shuts it’s doors. Between the New York nightlife and all of my friends who have died I seem to be getting a little too good at writing eulogies… But that’s life and sadly we suffered another casualty in the corporate takeover of downtown New York City: Webster Hall.

Webster Hall doesn’t close it’s doors for a few days, but last night was the memorial service for the legendary venue. AEG Live recently bought Bowery Presents (Terminal 5, Bowery Ballroom, etc) and they weren’t done buying up New York venues. They partnered with Brooklyn Sports Entertainment (Barclays Center) to purchase Webster Hall after being owned by the same family for nearly 30 years. The venue will continue, possibly under the same name, but it won’t be the same.

Webster Hall was home to the first Motherfucker party I shot for my site. Motherfucker was the greatest party I have ever been to and their 7th anniversary was at Webster. I barely knew Michael T at the time and he specifically told me I couldn’t shoot it so I went around him and got a press pass from the Faint. The next day I got an angry phone call from Michael yelling at me about going around his back. I still have no idea how he got my number but despite his anger he loved my photos and I from then on I was always on the guest list to his parties.

Webster Hall was the place I would bring friends who were visiting town so they could see what real nightlife felt like. Webster Hall had the kinda parties you only see in movies. I would spend New Years eve there hanging with tourists and porn stars and misfits and famous DJs. I let Alex English crowd surf with my camera to MSTRKRFT and partied with a dwarf dressed like a New Year’s baby. It was always the party you dreamed about going to before you moved to NYC.

When my favorite weekly party Trash moved to the basement of Webster I was disappointed because there weren’t any lockable bathrooms to shoot naked girls in, but I quickly got over that because Alex and Rekles were throwing their weekly Boys & Girls upstairs. Every Friday I would shoot both parties for the Village Voice and get paid twice for the same amount of work.

I could use the word legendary a lot in this article but Boys & Girls will go down in history. I don’t think EDM would be what it is today without that party. From their first sold out party featuring Justice to Skrillex playing last night they gave DJs of all genres a huge platform in NYC and they did it so consistently for so long. Despite my long career shooting dance parties I don’t actually like dance music, but that scene was so much fun to photograph and it really felt like a family. For so many years the only DJs I knew were DJs I actually knew and now those same people are touring the globe making millions. That shift from EDM feeling like an underground movement to Atrak, Skrillex and Diplo becoming pop stars was such a crazy thing to be a part of and you had a front row to that every Friday night at Webster Hall.

Once EDM became pop culture the vibe of Webster Hall changed quickly. There were so many bros upstairs at Girls & Boys that the only safe space was when you were hanging out on stage. The security became overly aggressive and there were always crazy lines. Getting into Webster Hall became so stressful. You had to make sure you were on the right list and had the right photo pass and then had to wait in line again your bag checked and then groped by security. By the time I got in the club all the positive energy I had would be gone.

But downstairs at Trash was a whole different thing. DJ Jess was the first person to hire me to shoot parties in New York and one of my favorite people to party with. When Jess worked out his deal with Webster he was given his own door and own security and they were told not to search anyone. Jess stepped up and took responsibility for his party. His little family of misfits playing the Smiths and Bowie were left alone by the finance bros and aggressive security upstairs. Once you got past “door bitch” Brendon James you were set.

Jess threw me a bunch of birthday parties over the years but my 30th was the last and one of the most memorable. I will leave out the details here but let’s just say I got fairly drunk and ended the night naked stuck inside my laundry basket until the go-go dancer I had lured home with me with the promise of tiny kittens pulled me out. My final Tweet of the night was about eating a pretzel sandwich.

Eventually I went to Trash less and less but I would always go to Trash’s anniversary parties. Trash meant so much to me and it was the longest running weekly party downtown. When it finally ended it felt like such a huge chapter in my life had closed. It was such a sad moment made only more sad by the tragic death of DJ Jess a year later. I actually referred to his death as the end of New York nightlife. It was so fucking heartbreaking but his memorial brought so many people back together and it was of course held at Webster Hall.

Despite my complaints about the terrible crowds and aggressive security at “Webster Hell” I really do have so much love for the place. I met so many amazing friends and lovers there. I had so many good times. Many of the staff felt like family and I loved going to Veselka or Sidewalk or another diner with the bartenders and go go dancers and DJs at 5:30am after waiting for everyone to finally clear out so we could get paid. Last night I got to see a lot of those people again.

There are a lot of people that run Webster but I want to give Kenny Schachter a special thanks. He would always get me into shit if I asked and was always so cool to me. He really appreciated the people who were part of the scene and made me feel appreciated. He was one of the first people I ran into last night when he walked me in the door and made sure I had all the passes I needed without having to deal with any of the madness. Skrillex and Boys Noize gave him a shout out last night and the whole thing got me choked up when they brought him on stage and thanked him for everything.

Before I finally get to the photos I should probably mention the actual party last night. Deux Twins were on when I got there and they were followed by Ekali. Around 1am Skrillex got on and didn’t stop playing until six in the morning. He brought up Boys Noize and they performed as Dog Blood which is honestly a fantastic name for just about anything. I have also been told I should mention that DJ Sliink was there although he didn’t play any music.

I still don’t fucking know anything about EDM but Skrillex was a pretty good soundtrack to reminisce to. I just hung out on stage all night with old friends telling stories about that period of time where we ran downtown nightlife. I was talking to a DJ, a coke dealer, a door guy and another photographer together just looking back on the last decade. I might be a more successful photographer now and still doing some interesting shit with my life but I don’t think my life will ever be as fun as the years where I could walk into any bar or nightclub south of 14th street without so much as an ID. I would know a dozen people in every spot and run into bunch more people while headed to the next one.

Everyone who has ever lived in NYC has their “things were better back in my day” story but the sale of Webster Hall another reminder that the New York I fell in love with is gone. Thanks for the memories.

Click here to see way too many photos of Skrillex from the End Of An Era closing party for Webster Hall.

RIP Webster Hall



RIP Webster Hall

RIP Webster Hall

Deux Twins

Boys Noize & Skrillex

RIP Webster Hall


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