The club Flash Factory, which opened last weekend on West 28th Street, has been promoted as a sort of Manhattan Strikes Back for the city’s night life: “Everybody’s been freaking out that they have to go to Brooklyn all the time,” Michael Satsky, one of the men behind the new endeavor, told The New York Times. “Finally we built something for them,” he added. This is an amusing and provocative conceit – a club for people who don’t like the subway or fear Uber-ing over bodies of water – that attracted some jibes on Twitter, especially from dance music critics.
While the club’s owners were unfazed by the response on social media, Winter Storm Jonas was a different matter, pushing the Flash Factory’s opening back until Friday night (Jan. 29th), when it kicked with a set from Tiga. The venue comes off as a gothic-leaning cathedral for dance music: wood paneling everywhere, carved arches, ornate light fixtures, crosses, and stained glass – one pane even contained an image of the Sacred Heart. (Which saint watches over the dance floor?) Befitting the stern religious theme, the seating in one bar area was made up of pews — which also encourages people to dance, or at least stand, rather than sit on something so uncomfortable. According to The Times, gutting the space and giving it a worship-ready makeover cost a cool $7 million.
The heavy holy overtones extend to the dance floor itself. Tiga played ensconced behind a concrete altar, a massive slab with a cross planted firmly in its squat, imposing middle. There was more stained glass behind him, creating a visual representation of a longstanding trope in house music – the beat-obsessed pastor, eager to elevate his congregation to a higher level of consciousness. The sacred iconography channels previous episodes in New York club history, like the venue Limelight, which set up shop in a former Episcopal church in Chelsea and thrived in the ‘90s.
From his pulpit-bunker, the DJ/priest looked out over a long rectangular dancing area – reminiscent of a rock club, or the Williamsburg outpost Verboten. The sound mainly travels one way, front to back; though there was a bank of speakers at the rear of the floor pumping in low end, this was not the full-body sonic dive that you find in Output, the north Brooklyn spot that is known for its premier sound system. A man wandered the dance floor with a laptop all night, presumably testing the speakers, or maybe just looking for good wi-fi: he wouldn’t say. On the back and far side of the dancing space was the VIP area, slightly elevated and marked as important with sturdy wooden balustrades. In a deft touch, glass panels also sloped over this part of the venue, as if it were a greenhouse.
Tiga’s set included his own music – “Bugatti,” a sneering ode to opulence that’s entirely appropriate in Manhattan, and “Planet E,” a fizzy collaboration with Hudson Mohawke. (Both will appear on the producer’s next album, No Fantasy Required, which arrives in March.) He also incorporated a version of the always reliable “Bigger Than Prince,” a confidence-enhancing techno anthem from Green Velvet, and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” a knowing nod to the late ‘70s, when Manhattan clubs were the stuff of legend. Flash Factory’s owners are betting they can make it that way once again.