New York had a rough decade. The '00s were bookended and defined by calamities in the Financial District that had global ramifications. Far less tragically, the city's cultural scene underwent significant shakeups. Here's the first part in a look at those transitions, and verdicts on the people and movements that will define NYC in the '10s.
Music: Manhattan and The Strokes vs. Brooklyn and Grizzly Bear
Hometown boys The Strokes were the rock music sensation of 2001, with an easy-on-the-eyes lineup, wacky onstage antics (the dudes made out with each other!) and a boarding school pedigree/conundrum (could they still be "real" after attending Swiss private schools?). The New Wave/garage rock reviving music was nothing to sneeze at, either. And it recalled NYC musical icons like Television, The New York Dolls and (in a bit of a stretch), The Velvet Underground. Being based in the media capital of the world is a major boon to any promising New York band, but The Strokes had the local musical press wetting its Vans.
Ultimately, The Strokes, like a post-millennial Gretchen Mol, were victims of their own deafening hype. The band's album sales declined and the center of musical gravity in New York shifted seemingly overnight from the Lower East Side (represented by The Strokes and partners in grime like Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) to North Brooklyn (every indie band to make it big in the last 5 years not out of Montreal). Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas even pulled the ultimate act of New Yorker treason by moving to (and actually liking) LA. And while the solo careers and side projects of Casablancas and bandmate Albert Hammond Jr. have been cheered on by critics, the Borough of Kings has brought a slew of successors (TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear, The National, The Dirty Projectors, MGMT etc.) to the indie throne.
Nightlife: Bungalow 8-Style Bottle Service vs. Hipster Speakeasies
When Amy Sacco opened the diminutive Bungalow 8 right across 27th Street from notorious '90s rave mecca Twilo in 2001, few would have guessed how quickly hyper-exclusive bottle service boutiques would supplant democratic dance megaclubs as the city's signature nightlife option. Whether the change was a good thing for NYC nightlife or drove the final nail in the coffin Rudy Giuliani had prepared for it is up to you. What's undeniable is that Sacco's template was copied all over town, particularly in the Meatpacking District and West Chelsea. It was the era of excess (Bungalow 8 gave you the option of arriving via helicopter on its roof) and the orgy transformed 27th Street (Marquee, Cain, BED, Home, Guest House) in particular into Bourbon Street-on-the-Hudson.
The backlash was inevitable. In the second half of the decade, cocktail-focused "speakeasies" like Milk & Honey and spiffed up dive bars like Paul Sevigny's low-ceilinged Beatrice Inn became the relatively subdued destinations of choice for the cool kids. Post-recession, bottle service became even more taboo, at least in name. Hot spots such as Avenue (from Noah Teppenberg, owner of quintessential BS club Marquee) continue to get suckers to pay $500 for a bottle of mediocre vodka, but calling it "table service." It's tough to say which nightlife option will thrive in the next decade. At the moment, the A-List is downright schitzo, hopping from the fancy-schmancy Boom Boom Room to the faux-grungy Cabin Down Below in the same night! Sacco and Sevigny, titans of the opposing tribes, will likely go head to head in 2010, as Bungalow 8 and Beatrice are expected to relaunch. Rest assured, though, that high-low (and just plain high) celebs like the Olsen twins and Lohan will make appearances at both.
Winner: To Be Determined
Movies: Woody Allen, New Yorker vs. Woody Allen, Expatriate
No offense to Martin Scorcese (whose caterpillar-roofed gaze shifted away from NYC in movies like Casino, Cape Fear and The Last Temptation of Christ), but for decades Woody Allen was the definitive New York filmmaker. However, the director's routine had grown a little stale by the time it entered the '00s. So it was with mixed emotion that New Yorkers embraced 2005's Match Point as one of Allen's best movies in over a decade, despite it being set entirely in London. Had it been sanitized, de-quirked New York that had put Allen in a rut all along?
Sadly, the answer appears to have been yes. Consider the Rotten Tomato ratings and grosses of Allen's European vacation movies (Match Point: 76%, $23 million; Vicky Cristina Barcelona: 82%, $23 million and an Oscar for Penelope Cruz) to his New York misadventures (Whatever Works: 47%, $5 million; Melinda and Melinda: 53%, $3.7 million). Next Year's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, filmed in London, will help us determine whether Allen's winning streak abroad will continue into the '10s. A cast including Anthony Hopkins suggests it will, but then again, Antonio Banderas is also involved. On the bright side, Allen's movies still boast incomparable real estate porn, no matter where they take place.
Winner: Woody Allen, Expatriate
(Main Photo Courtesy of Imageshack)