Last Friday on the Bowery, as early as 9 o’clock, a sizeable crowd of well-heeled New Yorkers had already formed in the large, open lobby of the New Museum, festively illuminated in a soft pink. The occasion was the second annual Next Generation Party, a fundraiser for the contemporary art center’s forthcoming, 2015 triennial, which follows from last year’s The Ungovernables show and 2009’s Younger Than Jesus exhibition with a smattering of up-and-coming young artists from all over the world, particularly ones with strong ties to New York City. Despite the loud music and high-stakes ticket price ($125 for members of the museum, and even more for everyone else), the scene felt calm and chipper, a gauntlet of refinement on par with everyone’s stunning outfits and the fancy cocktails being poured out for free.
Judging from the bill—headlined by Brooklyn electronic duo Teengirl Fantasy and nu-rave producer Physical Therapy—, the guest list—which included everyone from Chloë Sevigny to Mykki Blanco, and for whatever strange reason, was advertised to the public— and the sheer number of people I recognized from #Top8, UNO NYC and Thunderhorse parties, the event seemed destined to put an institutional stamp on a very particular New York subculture marked by its triple affinity for net art, globe-trotting EDM, and fashion’s catching up to sci-fi in a way that’s mildly ironic but officially just plain acceptable fun. Fans of the internet era camp aesthetics of DiS Magazine, who provided “red carpet service” for the event, could get their photo taken with a gaggle of folks dressed in all-white spandex, but they could taste sophistication in a cocktail “designed by” Yusef Austin (the “Cocktail Architect”), which, in my glass, combined Hendrick’s Gin, pine liquer and rosemary salt.
Sling-shotting up the elevator to the museum’s seventh floor, which includes a balcony and an awe-inspiring view of the city, revealed a contrasting blue shade of light upstairs, and a slight intensification of club ambience. Still, probably because we were very much still in a museum, the whole vibe was more gala than rave: most people milled about talking, acknowledging the music but rarely focusing on it. The lineup—which also included winking pop star/internet sensation/possible human art project Lauren Devine, and 2 Pretty, the duo of Colin Self and Lane Kay—was mostly culled from a varied spectrum of indie dance music that pays honest homage to euro house, trance, and Top 40 pop, but loose dancing and glazed-eye vibing were hard to find.
That’s not necessarily a complaint: it also made greeting, joking, connecting, and collecting business cards that mostly say “designer” or “curator” really easy and fun. But it was a bit of a shame that it detracted so much from the music. Teengirl’s brisque, groovy set of thriller-pace techno was in their usual format, with members Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss sequencing and performing synth, keys and drum programming effortlessly on the fly, layering ambient stretches into favorite tracks and subtle re-inventions. It was a special chunk of relieving vibes before the charming but mildly awkward Lauren Devine set that followed. Image is key with someone like Devine, whose Auto-Tune-worthy, romantic pop makes her seem like she’s playing the role of an actual teen girl (of the YouTube starlet variety), and her placement at ground-level—obscured by conversing museum-goers—made her bit even more perplexing. It was hard to see her hyping through the mic, a charismatic skill that’s pretty important to convey when it’s perfectly debatable if you’re lip-syncing or not.
Still, the evening carried on pretty consistently and swiftly, with few real spikes or dips in energy level outside of everyone getting incredibly smashed via open bar. It felt a little odd, as even something as ironic as the Devine performance seemed eerily straight-faced when drenched in Miami Vice colors and “fancy” things like “designed” cocktails. However, it’s hard not to be supportive of the rare chance to unite a host of people who are usually staring into their smartphones and pressed for time, especially when they all look so damn happy.