Best (and worst) nightlife events of 2011

Eleven great parties, and one really sucky one.

Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo Photograph: Bennett Sell-Kline for

The best

1 Electric Zoo 2011 Sure, some people (us included) bitched about the emphasis on mainstream acts and DJs—and the last-minute cancellation of Plastikman was a bit of a bummer. But that hardly mattered to the 85,000 entranced dance-music fans who packed this year's edition of the burgeoning festival, with the sounds of house, techno and dubstep taking over Randall's Island for three sun-soaked days. And how often do you get to experience a sorta-DJ set from Snoop Dogg?

2 All Day I Dream One of the nicest surprises of the year was the success of this sunny-afternoon-on-a-Bushwick-rooftop soiree, with the U.K. vet Lee Burridge (at the top of his game) doling out some of the best melodic electronic house around, and nary a drop of rain to spoil the fun throughout the shindig's four installments. Fingers are crossed that we're in for more of this party in 2012.

3 The Ninth Annual New York Burlesque Festival If it seems to you that Gotham's burlesque scene is as strong as it's ever been, you're right—and that was reflected by the sprawling ninth edition of this still-growing jubilee, with a bevy of the city's (and the world's) burly-Q babes and boylesque barnstormers strutting their stuff over four glorious nights.

4 Warehouse and loft parties The rise of alternative-space shindigs has been one of the best trends in NYC nightlife over the past few years; it's a reminder of clubland's outlaw past, one that's hammered home by the occasional visit from the local constables. Plenty of the expected players (Blkmarket Membership, Mister Saturday Night et al) had a piece of the action—hell, even the venerable Body & Soul got in on the act this year. But ironically (and sadly), this was also the year that alt-party standard-bearer theDanger called it quits, and Rubulad—arguably the forefather of this kind of affair—is, as of press time, raising funds via a Kickstarter campaign in order to procure a new hideaway to host their amazing events.

5 The Bunker Sure, there are lots of excellent techno wingdings around nowadays, including ReSolute and the aforementioned Blkmarket Membership. But the Bunker, about to turn nine years old, got there first—and it's still one of the best, attracting the likes of Ben Klock, Sandwell District and Claude Young to Public Assembly's two rooms.

6 718 Sessions Like the Bunker, 718 Sessions, helmed by Body & Soul veteran Danny Krivit, is nine years old. And also like the Bunker, it's better than ever. The monthly tea dance is a throwback to the glory days of NYC clubdom, with a racially and sexually mixed crowd getting down to Krivit's joyous sets of soulful house and classics. The get-down celebration hasn't been based in the 718 area code for years—its home base is Manhattan's Santos Party House—but it's so much fun, we don't care that Krivit's never bothered to change the name to 212 Sessions.

7 Verboten This was the year that Verboten came into its own—and if you're looking for the reason why, a quick scan of the lineup, filled to the brim with top-of-the-line DJs and producers, will give you the answer. Seth Troxler, Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, Damian Lazarus, Matthew Dear—these are the elite of the electronic-dance-music kingdom, and they (and many other shit-hot notables) worked their magic at Verboten over the course of 2011.

8 Mister Sunday Asset No. 1: the bucolic-meets-postindustrial outdoor setting of Gowanus Grove. Asset No. 2: a great, amazingly varied slate of music that took in everything from deep Detroit soul (Moodymann) and glittering rhythms (the Horse Meat Disco boys) to beautifully restrained techno (Levon Vincent) and garage experimentalism (Four Tet). Asset No. 3: residents Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, who spent 2011 moving up the DJ food chain to become stars in their own right.

9 All Night Rong: DJ Harvey Proving that there's still room for an open mind in a club-music world devolving ever further into microgenre obsession, Harvey utilizes an obvious but rarely used ploy—play good music, whether it's disco, rock, house, techno or some sublimely weird whatever—to get the party going.

10 Susanne Bartsch's parties Old-timers speak of her '80s-era affairs—Bentley's, Savage and the Copa—in hushed tones. Several nightlife aeons later, Bartsch and her crew (including fellow scene lifer Kenny Kenny) still toss some of the most amazing parties around—in particular, her weekly Sunday nighter, Vandam, attracts the fabbest of the fabulous, dressed to kill and ready for action.

11 Dig Deeper Dig Deeper's hosts and resident spinners, DJ Honky and Mr. Robinson, have hit upon a simple, brilliant plan: Search out the best (yet often largely forgotten) R&B and soul performers from days of yore, put 'em on a stage and let them rock the hell out of a crowd. And needless to say, that plan works—even in jaded old NYC, it's easy to get teary-eyed when a great artist like Marva Whitney or Lee Fields is on the microphone.

The worst

DJ Pauly D at Pacha This is the part of our annual year-end roundup where we generally rant about how New York, once rightly considered the world capital of clubbing, has devolved into a take-no-chances, sell-lots-of bottles playland, where anything like creativity takes a backseat to separating financial-industry types   from their cash. But there was one particular event that won the lowest-common-denominator stakes in a rout—the night Pacha invited Pauly D to rock the decks. Truth be told, the Jersey Shore star was probably no worse than plenty of other spinners of meathead beats we've heard over the years. But Pacha, you've got one of the world's top clubbing brands—why sully that with this level of inanity?

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