New York Heathens Get Spiritualized with Synagogue Techno Rager

by BILLY GRAY · January 25, 2010

Members of New York's techno semi-underground are accustomed to falling off the grid for their midnight to noon dance parties. But a soiree over the weekend surprised even some vets of the scene when, for one night (and morning) it transformed a downtown synagogue's basement into the most rollicking club in the city.

The cognitive dissonance began with an intimate frisk from the bouncer beneath a giant Star of David and beside a glass case brimming with Judaica. A friend and I arrived at 1:30, well before the shindig kicked into high gear (it wasn't scheduled to end until 11am) and found the basement sparsely populated, with some origami-esque ceiling hangings and a laser projection against the wall to distinguish this event from the venue's typical post-temple coffee hours.

TechnoIt took awhile to shake the feeling of being at an exceptionally precocious 13-year old's bar mitzvah (who had scratch to fly in DJs from Berlin, London and Santiago). But my initial reservations subsided as assorted hipsters and Eurotrash quickly packed the room. And unlike most gatherings of stiff, timid and self-conscious white people in New York these days, everybody danced.

A full bar helped lower inhibitions, although organizers lacked the good humor to add Manischewitz to the more traditional offerings. Adhering to the unwritten rule at this sort of techno bash, everyone smoked, although the sacred setting shamed black-lunged revelers into disposing of their butts in empty drinks as opposed to on the carpeted floor, for fear of being struck down.

Of course, an impeccable roster of minimal, house and techno talent did light up the floor.

This party's unorthodox (I think it was technically Reform) setting offered further proof of the ingenuity that the increasingly stratified NYC party scene demands of people who can't afford (and, if they could, wouldn't want) to partake in the glitzy bottle service or tired and contrived neo-speakeasy mainstream. As Time Out put it in its nightlife year in review:

"There has been one interesting development on the nightlife front: As the gulf between the commercial, bottle-service scene (wasn’t the recession supposed to lay waste to that world?) and clubland’s underground becomes ever wider, members of the latter camp have been taking matters into their own hands and tossing parties in alternate, ofttimes secret venues, generally featuring very cool music makers and a bit of that old outlaw vibe."

Further from the law, but closer to God!