We hit the town with seven of-the-moment late-night regulars who are making going out in the city cooler
By Miles Raymer|
New York City nightlife is a constantly changing, beautiful beast. So to spotlight some of the NYC's buzziest scenes—envelope-pushing queer parties, rock-and-soul ragers, new high-art affairs—we tagged along with a handful of personalities who are making the most of the city that never sleeps. Discover their nights out (and after-hours tips) below. Want to get in on the fun? Check out the best clubs in NYC and the 101 absolute best things to do in NYC. And if you're planning to pull an all-nighter, may we suggest digging into the top 24-hour restaurants in NYC.
Dani Miller, left, with Nadia Lee Cohen Photograph: Serichai Traipoom
Who: The frenetic frontwoman of punk outfit Surfbort
Her scene: The best and scuzziest rock bands have always come from New York. Now is no different, with a new wave of acts like Surfbort combining punk aggression and classic-rock decadence.
Her night: “My bandmate Sean Powell and I live together, and we’re always together when we’re on tour, so when we’re home we usually disperse a little. He doesn’t go out to parties or dinner that much, unless it’s something really special. But he likes Mission Chinese, so we meet up there with Nadia Lee Cohen, this awesome director, and her boyfriend, Josh Landau, who’s in this band Easy. Josh is usually a little drunk when we get there, and he just orders everything on the menu, so it’s a giant feast. We have these drinks called MSG margaritas that are bright blue, then we all go to The Roxy to hang out with a really cool DJ named Alix Brown. She used to be in a bunch of different bands, and now she’s, like, the queen DJ of New York. She plays everything—lots of 1960s and disco stuff, but I’ve also seen her do punk nights. Whenever she deejays, all our friends in bands come hang out. It’s hard, sometimes, to see people when everyone’s got shows and tours, so you just enjoy the special moments when you do meet. No matter what you do, your night should end with dancing.”
Her nighttime must: “I like starting the night by walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. I love seeing the beautiful, crazy city that you’re about to get into. It’s like taking a shot at the beginning of the night.”
Surfbort is touring North America with the Black Lips.
Who: A model, stylist and actor who hosts the likes of Papi Juice and Holy Mountain
His scene: Queer Latinx people helped to build NYC’s dance scene back in the disco days, and buzzy parties like Papi Juice prove that they still run things today.
His night: “I’ve hosted Ova the Rainbow so many times. This time around, at Spectrum, it’s plastic-themed. So there’s Saran Wrap and plastic and some latex and some harnesses and some funky shit. There are some up-and-coming designers, some fashion people. I see my ex-boyfriend, who looks great. My friend, DJ Joselo, is playing Latinx bops, good trap and just ass-shaking music. When everyone starts getting on the same wavelength, I decide to get into the crowd and get lost a bit so I can enjoy the whole experience. Then Bailey Styles performs. She’s a trans artist, model and muse, and she ends her show by stripping out of a bedazzled thong and bikini while lip-synching a rock & roll cover of the new Kanye song. I’m really impressed. For anyone to get up onstage and get naked in front of everyone takes nerve. She goes on around 3am. Just as I think the party is about to wind down, her performance gets everyone all riled up again. Finally, around 4:30am, I feel like my night is full enough, so my sister and I go to a deli for sandwiches. My favorite part about hosting parties in Brooklyn is taking a car home to the Lower East Side so I can see the Manhattan skyline while we cross the bridge. It always makes me feel like it was a really good night.”
His nighttime must: “Papi Juice is one of the few parties for queer people of color run by queer people of color. Plus, the music is always good.”
Who: A radical queer artist and activist making statements with cosmetics
Her scene: Dwelling at the intersection between the nightlife scene, the art world and the fashion industry, the creative collective behind the roving party Bubble_T is elevating club-kid culture to high art.
Her night: “Each time I do my makeup, I try and make it unique. Tonight, I put on a lot of white eyeliner all over my face, inspired by how waves are drawn in ancient Japanese art. Bubble_T is deejaying the after-party for this big foodie event in a warehouse across from Elsewhere. I’ve been collaborating with them ever since I hosted their Halloween party last year. They were just starting out as a collective, and they’ve blown up since then. We try to make it in time to see my friends perform a dance scene they choreographed, but I miss it because the L train is running late. There aren’t as many of the people that I usually see. The foodie event is pretty normie, so there are a lot of people in business suits and button-ups. It’s really different for me. Being around things like this makes me thankful for when I can be around the people that I feel comfortable with at Bubble_T and other queer-POC–centered events. It’s definitely a culture clash: This queer party collective API ends up deejaying at an event for really cis white straight people. But they’re all for it. All the drag queens are screaming and having the greatest time. We take the bus home, and there’s some drunk people on there from the same party. They’re arguing about Trump and Canada and eating ass.”
Her nighttime must: “Mood Ring is my favorite bar, just because there’s a different thing going on there every night. Also, it’s astrology-themed.”
Who: A blogger and musician who works the door at Bushwick indie mecca Market Hotel
His scene: Brooklyn isn’t quite as synonymous with quirky indie rock as it was at the decade’s start, but tuneful, intelligent tracks still abound in the borough’s remaining DIY spaces.
His night: “I got my job at Market Hotel by accident, just by being around a bunch. I end up seeing shows now that I wouldn’t necessarily have gone to. It’s definitely been expanding my palate. Tonight, I stop by Market for a bit, then go to Littlefield to see Adam Schatz from the band Landlady playing improvisations and collaborations with a bunch of guests and interviewing them. It’s a weird podcast kind of thing, but it’s not actually a podcast. Jeremy Malvin from Chrome Sparks plays throughout the night, and Stuart Bogie from Superhuman Happiness—who also plays saxophone for Arcade Fire—does a solo clarinet piece. This drummer, Matt Jaffe, does a thing using MF Doom samples. Adam Schatz is pretty well known from the Brooklyn indie singer-songwriter circuit. He used to play at the Manhattan Inn. He’s been putting on these shows for a while where he collaborates with a bunch of musicians. It’s for people who like weird, experimental music. I’ve always had a thing for singer-songwriters, but I kind of fell into this scene by accident, partly through Landlady. When the artists involved with it aren’t performing, they’re in the audience supporting each other. It’s very professional, but it feels more like a cool hang that you’re allowed to be a part of.”
His nighttime must: “Regalo De Juquila. It’s open until 3am, so it’s perfect if you’re someone who works late nights. And the carne enchilada tortas have never steered me wrong.”
Who: A stylish vinyl junkie whose throwback dance parties have become a staple at rock clubs worldwide
His scene: Toubin’s cult-favorite dance party, Soul Clap, has expanded into a retro-flavored mini empire. But thankfully, he still makes it back to NYC for his divey residency Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down! at Home Sweet Home.
His night: “I do a lot of touring, but Home Sweet Home on Fridays is a gig that I try to make it home for every week. I’ve done more than 500 of them over 10 years. I play a specific kind of music, which I call ‘maximum rock & soul,’ and not everyone’s familiar with it. The beauty and horror of the room is that you just don’t know what it’s going to be. Sailors come in, bachelorette parties. People still come in and complain about the music. It really puts your set in a different context. I play two-minute songs on 45s from 10pm to 4am, and I have to switch them out and adjust the pitch by hand; I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom. I’ve learned to talk and play at the same time—New Yorkers are multitaskers by nature. Tonight, this garage-rock band called the Detroit Cobras comes through after their show, and Lenny Kaye, who played guitar in the Patti Smith Group, was doing something around the corner, so he came over and hung out in the DJ booth with me, which was a thrill. I wind up giving him a Coasters record. Around 2:30am or so, I put on some old Jamaican soul, but Mary [Ramirez] from the Cobras asked me for some Detroit music, so for the last hour and a half I just play Detroit stuff—the Stooges and early Bob Seger—while they dance. I have a gig the next night in Seattle, so after I wrap up at the bar I head to JFK for a 7am flight. That’s what I usually do on Saturday morning.”
His nighttime must: “I always send people to Decibel. It’s an Osaka-style sake bar crossed with CBGB. I got to NYC in the ’90s, and it was already there.”
Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down! is Fri at Home Sweet Home. Toubin’s 13th Annual Haunted Hop Halloween Spooktacular is Wed 31 at the Knockdown Center.
Who: A former DIY fixture now working A&R for legendary indie label 4AD and running its new digital imprint, b4
Her scene: New York’s always at work on pop music’s next chapter, and right now that means artists and labels that ignore genre conventions and push the envelope in the underground scene.
Her night: “Since starting my new label, b4, my life revolves around music. And most of my musical discoveries come from nightlife and putting myself out there for whatever I might stumble across. I meet up with a DJ-producer friend named Debit who’s an artist from a collective based out of Mexico called Naafi. We start out at an intimate tequila-mezcal speakeasy in Williamsburg called La Milagrosa and catch up on what she’s been working on and all of our life drama. We end up at Kinfolk for Jon Bap. I don’t even know how to describe his music because he’s so multitalented! There are lots of jazz elements and solos from his drummer—who’s only 15, which is wild. I usually go out to shows about two to three times a week. It’s still fun for me even though I’ve been scouting bands and working in the industry since I was 18. Most of it is for work now, but I still genuinely love seeing live music.”
Her nighttime must: “I’d recommend going to H0L0 in Ridgewood if you’re looking for a late-night spot with a bar and a taste of the underground music scene. My best friend is throwing a rave there called X-TRA SERVICES on November 9.”
Who: The pop-loving DJ behind monthly divas-and-drag bash Heaven on Earth
His scene: The downtown scene’s high-low mood is full of contradictions, like a nondescript dim-sum restaurant packed with glammed-up partiers.
His night: “It’s the one-year anniversary of my party Heaven on Earth. It was only supposed to be a one-off party to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Britney Spears’s album Blackout. Then it became a monthly party where I do different pop stars or pop moments—like, at Christmas, I do All I Want Is Mariah, or, a couple of months ago, I did a Gaga party with a tattoo artist. The party’s at China Chalet, and my crew and I actually sit and have dinner around 8pm before we start putting it together. Around 10pm, the doors open, and I deejay for the first hour. It gets busy early. By 11pm, it’s nearly at capacity. My guest DJ shows up around then, so for two hours I walk around the party and play hostess with the mostess. China Chalet has two rooms: The back room is kind of the dance area, and the front room is where the gays hold court and everyone’s sitting around drinking and kiki-ing. It’s a scene. I think it’s important that I’m also in the kiki room showing face and kissing cheeks. Around 12:45am, the DJ stops, and we have a couple of drag shows. Then I deejay for the rest of the night. Since this was the anniversary of the party, I decide to play Blackout again.”
His nighttime must: “Spectrum. I can get off work around 2:30am and go there and still actually have fun on a Saturday.”