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What it's like to club it up at the American Museum of Natural History

What it's like to club it up at the American Museum of Natural History
Photograph: ©AMNH/R. Mickens

I live in a 77th Street tenement building that exists in relative defiance of its surroundings. When I step out onto my roof, I’m treated to a gorgeous view of the city skyline and Central Park, but also a putrid oily gust that sticks to your nostrils with tar-like tenacity. (New York is nothing if not a self-contradiction at all times.) The ground-level tenant is Shake Shack, and its exhaust (black burger-scented billows that eek out of steel chimneys) acts as a sort of realty repellent; my rent is easily the cheapest around.

Despite what Fitzgerald called “the consoling proximity of millionaires,” I have only one neighbor who doesn’t look at me like I’m a sign of the neighborhood’s decline: The American Museum of Natural History.

Recently, I watched wobbly legged hoards gush out of the Hayden Planetarium after midnight, and so it came to my attention that AMNH hosts an actual night at the museum. Because I like museums and drinking where it feels like I’m not supposed to, I decided to check it out. 

I assume the name of the evening’s festivities (“One Step Beyond”) is either a promise to forge past “boundaries,” in a pretentious rave-y sense of the word, or that it’s a reference to the Madness song of the same name—or possibly both? Ignorance is bliss, even if it’s willful, so I decided not to ask as I walked into to the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman “Hall of the Universe” on Friday, May 6.

One Step Beyond typically sells out, so if you want to go, buy your tickets early—a good rule of thumb for these sorts of events in general. This is especially important when a big name is booked (past performers at AMNH include Animal Collective and Kanye West).

As is typical for after-hours dance parties hosted by various museums, the drinks at One Step Beyond are redeemable only with tickets, which are expensive ($8 wine & $7 beer) and bought separately, which means you have to wait in two lines. For this reason, if you plan on drinking, I recommend starting before you arrive.

The docket for the evening included: 

Arthur Baker: The bearded Baker cut his teeth in Boston clubs in the 1970s, where he played mostly dancehall records and funk from Philly. Even today, he still plays an all-45s set, which is pretty cool, though he no longer rips records off with a screech before smashing them on the floor, which he used to do back then when the crowd wasn’t apparently digging what he was spinning. An old pro-DJ turned cultish producer, Baker has collaborated with giants like Bob Dylan and Al Green, and also made the careers of more recent electro-maestros like Planet Patrol and Afrika Bambaataa.

Joey Carvello: Like Baker, Carvello made his name in Boston’s 1970s disco-ball heyday, and transformed in the following decades into a largely behind-the-scenes mover-and-shaker in the music industry. Carvello is also behind the better beats of artists like Pitbull, Lil Jon and Snoop Dogg and, at present, you can find at NYC’s Mobile Mondays, where he’s a resident DJ (and, for the record, there’s a strict rule: they also only play 45s). 

DJ Misbehaviour: While she began as a London club-star, and got (almost) famous at spots like Santos Party House and the Roxy, DJ Misbehaviour is now, like Carvello, a resident DJ at Mobile Mondays. These days, she’s best known crafting party playlists for the likes of BBC America and Vibe magazine. You can also catch her in Central Park at some of those infamous roller discos. A quick scan of the crowd at the AMNH affirms her celebrity among that set, as there’s a few misty-eyed head bobbers grooving on the fringes, all of whom move very much like they are more used to dancing with wheels on.

This year’s One Step Beyond season will conclude June 10 at the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. Slated for the show: DâM-FunK, Waajeed and Shawn Dub.

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