Tee party

The impresario is giving NYC clubland what it sorely needs: a big-deal dance fest.

Photo: Paul Franco

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Ghent, Belgium—a town of 230,000 people—hosts not one, but two international dance-music festivals, both attracting scores of the world’s top DJs and artists, not to mention many thousands of rabid fans from all over the globe. The same holds true for almost any decent-size European burg. Barcelona is the home of Sónar; Lyon, France, hosts the Nuits Sonores affair; and even Novi Sad (that’s in Serbia, in case you’ve forgotten) has its big Exit Festival. The U.S. claims its share as well, led by Miami’s Winter Music Conference and the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. But New York, the city that at one time was hailed by many as the clubbing capital of the world, has bubkes. Sure, there’s the big Ultra shindig held annually in Central Park, and Made Event tosses huge affairs with the likes of Paul van Dyk and Underworld, but there’s nothing even remotely like the sprawling, multivenue, days-long marathons that are commonplace elsewhere.

That may be about to change: Larry Tee, the eccentric DJ, producer, entrepreneur and general rabble-rouser who’s been an integral part of the scene since most clubbers were slurping Gerber (i.e., the late ’80s), is gearing up to launch a new annual event, Dance Music Invasion 2007, which will rule over NYC’s clubland October 3–6. Tee—known to many, for better or worse, as the Svengali behind the showy, campy electroclash movement in the early years of this millennium—is no stranger to festival tossing, having helmed NYC’s Electroclash and Outsider festivals a few years back. But if all goes according to plan, Invasion 2007 might be just the event to restore NYC to its former glory.

“I get to play these festivals all over the world,” Tee says, “which made me painfully aware of how lacking we are here in New York. It’s frustrating and almost embarrassing, since this was the spiritual home for dance music until fairly recently. But dance music is as big as ever, and the time is totally right for this. I mean, I’m totally not shocked that bands like the New Young Pony Club are doing well—look at them! They’re totally fuckable!”

Sexual hotness probably won’t be a requirement for playing the festival—but nor will performing the hipster-friendly, electro-rocky sounds that band is known for. “We’ll focus on stuff that’s really cool, but we won’t ignore the superstar types, either,” Tee says with egalitarian grace. “The idea is just to bring everybody together, and the way to do that is by having all kinds of music. We’re not ruling out soulful house or psy-trance or anything. I mean, there’s a whole lot of music that I don’t necessarily know about or relate to, but the point is to kick the New York scene open to the rest of the world, and I’ll definitely use the tools available to help do that.”

Putting together a major event like Invasion 2007 is not a simple task. In typical clubland, seat-of-the-pants fashion, precious little about the festival was locked down a mere month prior to its unveiling. A handful of venues—Pacha, the Sullivan Room and Hiro Ballroom among them—were on board as of press time. Similarly, the confirmed lineup of DJs and performers was a bit sketchy, though Tee appeared unperturbed about the festival’s haziness so close to the start date. “You know, summer is not the best time to organize something like this,” he says. “Even the promoters and bookers are going, ‘Well, you try to reach so-and-so when they’re in the Mediterranean!’ I’d rather hear them say yeah, they’ll be there, and they’re bringing Madonna with them. But I’m not worried. I can guarantee there will be at least two handfuls of names that will make people go, ‘Wow, I absolutely have to catch that!’ ” (Updates will be available at dancemusicinvasion.com.)

He’s probably right; though not much is written in stone, the fact that Tee is the man in charge will go far toward making Invasion 2007 work. Listen to Tom Dunkley from GBH, the crew that will be coproducing the Hiro Ballroom night: “I respect Larry totally,” he says. “He’s the guy that helped many of us to understand the music that we focus on a lot nowadays. He’s been around since the beginning, he knows everything, and he understands a lot about music. So when we heard he was doing this, we jumped right on board.”

And after all, this is New York City, and that still counts for something. One artist confirmed for Invasion 2007 is Christopher Just, the Viennese electro-techno veteran responsible for the late-’90s club hit “I’m a Disco Dancer (And a Sweet Romancer).” “Everybody in the world looks toward New York,” he says, “and if something is happening in New York, everybody will know it. This can be a really big thing for the city, and a big chance for New York to go to the front of the scene.” Which is exactly where NYC should be.