Electronic Dance Music has found new life in Brooklyn’s club culture.
In the past decade, Brooklyn has emerged as a hub for locally sourced and international electronic music, simultaneously functioning as an alternative to Manhattan’s elite party scene, industry experts say.
Dropping the pricey bottle service and reservation-only tables, indie venues — many in Williamsburg and Bushwick — are delivering today’s top-charting DJ-fueled dance tracks with a laid-back vibe suited for a new generation of fans.
More than a dozen venues in Brooklyn host popular weekly DJ nights, offering up EDM, and its dubstep, house music and techno subgenres. And while the January closure of a cult favorite, Output, has sent fans searching elsewhere for a house and techno music sanctuary, plenty of options remain.
“The whole club scene has recently been usurped by the Brooklyn scene, and it just keeps getting bigger,” says Chris Alker, a NoMad-based DJ who’s held lectures on house and dance music at Yale. “Clubs like Brooklyn Mirage and Elsewhere are bringing in big acts and a lot of people, and we’re getting more international talent.”
Following the post-disco “electro-funk” era of the ’80s, a ’90s rave movement brought electronic music from artists like Daft Punk, Black Box and Bizarre Inc from Europe to big cities in America. New York was no exception, as clubs such as Limelight and Palladium surged in popularity.
While the early 2000s saw a drop in the music’s local appeal, the past decade has welcomed a resurgence of the house music community. In 2008, the city welcomed a three-day music festival, Electric Zoo, dedicated to the genre.
“When I first came to New York, house music was still going on, but there weren’t a lot of new clubs opening . . . it seemed to be dying down,” said Alker, who moved to the city in 2004. “In the last 10 years, it just sort of exploded. EDM brought the second big wave of electronic music in America.”
Local DJs and bookers credit the recent popularity in part to the lack of crackdowns on clubbing, as well as the de Blasio administration’s repeal in 2017 of cabaret laws, which had prohibited dancing in bars that lacked a cabaret license.
“New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, if not the most diverse city in the world,” says Alker. “House music doesn’t have words most of the time. It doesn’t matter if you speak their language — everybody understands house music.”
For John Barrera, who books house music shows at Elsewhere in Bushwick, the time has never been better to find both local and international talent celebrating the genre.
“As a house music lover, a dancer and a clubgoer, a lot of the booking that I’ve done has been when I’m at a club and I’m like, ‘wow, this DJ is cool,’ ” says Barrera. “I’m always thinking about how to make things a little more unique.”
Here are some of the best places to check out (outside of Manhattan) for your dance music fix:
With four music spaces and a seasonal outdoor art gallery, there is bound to be something for everyone at the warehouse-turned-music space. Local DJs play free sets on weekdays, while bigger concerts and house music parties fill the space on weekends. (599 Johnson Ave., elsewherebrooklyn.com)
Knitting Factory (East Williamsburg)
The music hall that was once a neighbor to CBGB in Manhattan — now relocated to Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn — houses an eclectic mix of DJs playing dubstep, nu-disco, disco-punk and more on weekends. Local acts and up-and-comers take the stage before the records start spinning. (361 Metropolitan Ave., bk.knittingfactory.com)
Bossa Nova Civic Club (Bushwick)
Complete with faux palm trees and fluorescent hot pink lights, this tropical-themed bar serves up a refreshing mix of dark techno and house music every night of the week until 4 a.m. The hidden Bushwick gem boasts a lineup of local DJs with a cult following, such as Synthicide, Alex English and Auspex. (1271 Myrtle Ave., bossanovacivicclub.com)
Schimanski (North Williamsburg)
Featuring two dance floors and a high-end Alpha Dynacord sound system bumping house and techno music, this recent addition to North Williamsburg is not in its first incarnation — the nightclub, once known as Verboten, was bought by former Pacha NYC owner Eddie Dean in 2016. (54 N 11th St., schimanskinyc.com)
This versatile Queens venue is known to host a variety of nightlife activities — from Sunday summer barbecues to an indoor house music dance floor to unique programming (try a blanket-fort vinyl listening session or a lecture on Netflix’s “Stranger Things” by an American History professor). Featuring a full kitchen menu and several bars both indoors and outdoors, Nowadays provides an alternative to your average New York club. (56-06 Cooper Ave., nowadays.nyc)
Avant Gardner (Bushwick)
With three distinct venue areas and a total capacity of 6,000, Avant Gardner is a regional hub for big-bass house and dance music. Hosting a variety of international and national headlining acts, the recently-expanded concert hall now includes the outdoor area titled Brooklyn Mirage, complete with massive tropical plants and video projections. (140 Stewart Ave., avant-gardner.com)
TBA (North Williamsburg)
Opening in 2012, this converted car garage space hosts a versatile playlist, which includes everything from Top 40 to house and techno. With a custom-designed lighting system and projection mapping, the Williamsburg hot spot is refreshingly intimate — at a capacity of 100 people, TBA serves as a cozy venue for house music fans who would rather pass on large warehouses. (395 Wythe Ave., tbabrooklyn.com)
House of YES (Bushwick)
Located in a former ice warehouse and laundromat, House of Yes showcases circus and cabaret acts as well as dance and theater performances, all while resident DJs spin ‘90s and house music. Guests are encouraged to come in creative costumes based on the theme — past themes have included Ancient Aliens and Tiki Disco. (2 Wyckoff Ave., houseofyes.org)
Good Room (Greenpoint)
Two distinct rooms for dancing the night away, the Good Room (featuring a large dance floor, fog machines and house music) and Bad Room (a smaller dance floor with ambient lighting). Resident DJs have included New York names such as Justin Strauss & Billy Caldwell, as well as resident parties FIXED and The Carry Nation. (98 Meserole St., goodroombk.com)
Analog Brooklyn (Gowanus)
For those seeking a traditional no-frills club atmosphere, Analog Brooklyn is the place to be. Featuring an immersive sound system with heavy bass, a massive dance floor and an ’80s and ’90s house music playlist, the Gowanus nightclub has hosted internationally known acts such as Kaskade and Tycho. (177 2nd Ave., analogbkny.com)