Rob Fernandez, event promoter and a key architect of the New York nightlife scene, died Friday (July 10) due to heart-related issues in his hometown of New York. He was a primary figure in the city’s entertainment culture for 25 years.
Dubbed the “King of New York,” Fernandez’s inventive parties, keen eye for trends and talent, and generosity to stars, peers and upstarts alike made him a beloved figure throughout the global music industry. He was the music director of Pacha New York, the first North American outpost of the storied Ibiza nightclub. As a partner in RPM Presents, an event promotion company, he brought mega-festival Electric Daisy Carnival to New York and hosted events with artists like Skrillex, Avicii and Swedish House Mafia, often in iconic venues like Central Park, Radio City Music Hall and Barclays Center.
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Fernandez started his career as a doorman at Sound Factory Bar in the ’90s, a seminal nightclub in the early days of the New York house music movement that featured DJs Little Louie Vega and Frankie Knuckles as weekly residents. Dark, handsome and a striking 6-foot-4, Fernandez instantly made an impression on the insular club scene. But he soon broke out to promote his own parties, showing an incredible talent for giving the market what it didn’t know it wanted yet and bringing together the perfect blend of people on the dance floor. His club night Phab featured hip-hop for a gay crowd; a combination of creativity and risk that would define his entire career. In the early 2000s, under the banner of Rob Promotions, he cultivated several long-running weekly parties that came to define the New York underground, like Subliminal Sessions at Centro-Fly with DJ Erick Morillo and Be Yourself at Vinyl with Danny Tenaglia.
Fernandez was a master of theme and concept. Asseteria was a Sunday night carnival of gender fluidity and tribal house music — perfect for a crowd whose weekend was still in full swing (or who didn’t need to be at work on Monday). DanceHereNow, at the intimate Cielo on Thursday nights, leveraged the club’s small size to host up-and-coming DJs, beloved legends and mega-stars (like David Guetta) yearning for a chance to get close to a crowd again, for one night only. Even an in-between Friday night at Pacha could take on a special vibe, thanks to a wild flyer design, clever pun and carefully selected lineup by Fernandez.
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When the EDM movement came calling in the late 2000s, with its new faces, sounds and audience, Fernandez didn’t blink. He brought the same philosophy to promoting big-name headliners: that the people in the crowd still meant more to the party than who was in the DJ booth. By doing so, he formed a bridge between dance music’s underground past and newly commercial present, maintaining its original values of inclusion and subversion. It was a singular feat by a singular man.
Fernandez is survived by his son Rian, mother Sharon, sisters Kim and Laurie, and Rian’s mother Viviana.