Off the corner of E 11th Street sits Webster Hall, one of the most iconic North American concert venues, situated in the East Village of New York City. The establishment was built in 1886 by architect Charles Rentz, with its working capacity serving a multitude of functions reflective of society at each point in time. In the 1910s, Webster Hall was the epicenter for the left-leaning social and political movements, but by the 1920s the nature of its events had shifted and the venue became home to outrageous masquerade balls during the prohibition era. Its name and ownership changed hands many times over the years, but fast forward to 1992 when Webster Hall was restored under the leadership of the Ballinger Brothers.
Webster Hall has prospered in recent years under the emergence of their weekly parties hosted on Friday by Girls + Boys and on Saturday by This Is Gotham. In this context, they’ve been able to build a community unlike any venue I’ve seen in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. However earlier this year, Webster Hall was sold in a $35 million transaction to AEG Live and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. The venue has now closed its doors reportedly for 18 months of renovation, after which it will reopen as Spectrum Hall. Per general manager Gerard McNamee Jr, it’s the end of Webster Hall “as we know it.”
Last Saturday, August 5th, Webster Hall hosted its final club night with Skrillex & Friends. On the bill was an all-star cast featuring performances from the Girls + Boys and This Is Gotham residents, Deux Twins, and Ekali. The biggest surprise of the night was none other than when Boys Noize hit the stage, joining Skrillex for the better part of a three hour Dog Blood set. We knew the event was going to be a once in a lifetime experience, but perhaps what made it so incredible was the overwhelming sense of community felt the moment you walked through the door.
Let’s Rock N’ Roll. Look and read on below for NEST HQ’s sneak peak into the experience. All photos provided courtesy of our friend, Scotty Hawk (additional photos as credited), and words by Cassie Sheets.
We arrived at Webster Hall shortly after doors opened, to no surprise the line already stretched around the block. As we’re exiting our cab, the driver yells “hope you all have tickets!” as we step into a sea of individuals with about half of them sporting some form of OWSLA gear. However, we make our way inside relatively quickly and thankful for the separate guest list line. We then made our way upstairs to the Grand Ballroom, a 1500 capacity room including the lush balcony space. It was about 10:20 PM and the floor was already about a quarter filled up.
On stage the residents from the weekly Girls + Boys and This Is Gotham parties were switching off, and let me tell you they were really bringing the vibe. It was the kind of night where you arrive early and stay late. A big shout out to our resident techno expert Dischetto, who was spinning back-to-back with TJANI not too long after we entered the room. I had been looking forward to meeting Jade and seeing her spin for awhile now, and it’s always a good time when you get to support your friends. Let’s hear it for the rest of residents including Alex English, Dali, Hiyawatha, and Mike Chach.
Around 11 PM, the Los Angeles-based duo Deux Twins took control of the floor. The energy of the room was HIGH, and there’s no going down from here. As TJANI handed off the decks, many of the residents were hugging each other, friends, and family as they celebrate a tremendous night. The stage is growing packed with industry personnel, from artists to management to the writers, everyone is dressed in the usual all black and knew this wasn’t a night to miss. One of the greatest things about Webster Hall is that it brings these individuals together. It provides a space where they can catch up with friends and make new ones, discuss projects and ideas they’re passionate about, and create a community through positive interactions. It’s real inspiring.
But, back to the state of the music. The Deux Twins were laying down a bass-heavy set riddled with hip-hop when you least expected it. Skrillex is often known for bringing along emerging talent and placing them in the spotlight for the world to observe. If you remember, even from the very beginning, OWSLA doesn’t typically sign ‘big names’ but rather focuses on artists who are making a lane of their own. Pay attention to everyone they’re putting on. The girl’s are heating up the room as midnight approaches and Vancouver-native Ekali will take the stage. It’s getting hot, but the night is just getting started.
It’s minutes to midnight when Ekali makes his way downstairs. He’s dressed in all black from head-to-toe with an eye catching denim jacket. I’m standing on stage and I notice someone next to me light a cigarette. I look up and suddenly I’m aware of the dense mixture of fog and smoke overheard. The balcony is overflowing with fans eagerly awaiting, hands in the air off the edge cheering. The main floors appears to be approaching 95% capacity as Ekali transitions into his first track.
It’s 12:15 AM and absolute mayhem. Ekali has transformed the Grand Ballroom into an undeniable dubstep wasteland. He has a remarkable stage presence, demanding your attention as he commands the room with ease. He knows exactly what to play and when to play it. He can read the crowd and knows exactly how to react. Not many other artists exist in this caliber. At one point during his set, he plays a REZZ track out and the crowd goes absolutely wild. I’m talking like arguably as wild as they go when Skrillex plays out his own classics.
By 12:30 AM Webster Hall is a sweatbox. Ekali has stripped of his denim jacket down to a classic black OWSLA sleeveless tank. It’s apparent the producer rose on the forefront of the SoundCloud bedroom producer wave, as he shares numerous unheard VIP edits and remixes. When I spoke to him backstage earlier this year at Dreamscape Festival, he mentioned he had been signed to OWSLA which comes as no surprise. Next Friday, August 18th Ekali will share the first single “Babylon” featuring Denzel Curry off his forthcoming debut OWSLA release.
It’s 1:00 AM and Webster Hall security is frantically working to create a path for the OWSLA boss and his team. Ekali pays tribute as he closes out with a remix of Skrillex and Diplo present Jack Ü with “Mind.” Skrillex takes the mic and the whole crowd from the balcony to the stage to the floor goes absolutely wild. He instructs everyone to pull out their phone and take their pictures now. Flashes. Flashes. It’s blinding. The energy of the room is electrifying. Moments afterward, he asks everyone to put their phones away and give themselves to the music. The majority of attendees generally comply with his request which is a pleasant surprise.
Earlier in the night, I had overheard Skrillex was on his way to the venue and wanted to play an extended set. We don’t know this at the time, but when he takes over the decks at 1:00 AM he will hold them for the next four and a half hours for an unprecedented performance. The energy levels are through the roof, and honestly, I’m slightly worried the floor is going to collapse. It’s unreal. Skrillex let’s loose with JOYRYDE‘s “Hot Drum” and the crowd goes 0 to 60 real quick with the automotive, oil-burning bass house groove. There’s no rules as the OWSLA boss plays out any and every sound imaginable, with no regards to genres.
It’s 1:20 AM and Skrillex starts to play out his own originals with “Would You Ever” featuring Poo Bear. Attendees from every corner of the room sing-a-long to the newly released anthem. As Skrillex hops up onto the decks, the CDJs stop and freeze up. He looks down aware and annoyed of what’s happening but continues to build hype on the mic. Fortunately, one of the girls from Deux Twins is standing nearby and hits the play button before most people have even realized what’s happened. Crisis Averted. The tracklist for the night is incredibly versatile as Skrillex plays out plenty of his own originals with “Breathe,” “Kyoto,” and “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.”
It’s 1:40 AM and a wild DJ Sliink appears as Skrillex plays out their latest collaboration “Saint Laurent.” Standing just behind them, OWSLA photographer and fan favorite Jas Davis goes b2b with a bottle of Fireball and Skrillex sends the pair into the crowd to start a mosh pit. In the middle of the madness, the German wunderkind Boys Noize appears and joins Skrillex behind the decks. It’s 1:45 AM and time for the main event. I’m talking Dog Blood.
The mood of the Grand Ballroom immediately gains a darker tone as even the overhead lights fade out for their performance. The pair open up with “Next Order” from their debut release in 2012. The new-age terror band continues to play out a mixture of electro and techno and I can’t believe what I’m witnessing down on the floor, as the die-hard dubstep fans are getting down to some menacing techno tracks. The night chugs along with other Dog Blood classics like “Chella Ride” and a minute-long clip of new material that’s been teased around.
It’s around 4:30 AM and Webster Hall is still packed out. Skrillex begins to take control of the energy of the room and starts to add more dubstep in the set. Boys Noize however is still present and gives his stamp of approval on each selection. The second wave of energy strikes and the crowd is losing it. I’m exhausted and cranking back Red Bull after Red Bull at this point, but at the same time I’ve never felt better. It’s one of those moments where you look around and realize how truly incredible life can be.
It’s 5:30 AM and the night finally begins to settle down. Skrillex and Boys Noize conclude their set with Justice‘s “We Are Your Friends.” In those final moments, it really hits you standing beside your closest friends chanting the underground anthem. The Grand Ballroom is still near-full as we all share in this special moment, never to be one any of us will forget. I see friends laughing, crying, and smiling as one of the best nights we’ve ever shared comes to a close. Boys Noize hands the decks over to Dischetto as the Webster Hall residents prepare to close out the party.
In those final moments, I can’t even begin to describe how incredible I felt. Chanting “We Are Your Friends” surrounded by people you love into the early morning light is a really surreal experience. Everyone was so connected. The Webster Hall residents held down the decks until 6:45 AM until security cut the music for one of the most epic night’s New York City has ever seen. As I left Webster Hall, the sun was just beginning to rise and I felt beyond inspired.
It’s the end of an era as Webster Hall shuts its doors for good, but it’s most certainly not the end. While the unpredictable and energetic club nights will end, the memories and friendships we’ve made will carry on. This is only the beginning.