Review: Steve Lawler @ District 36 10/29/11 by Spencer Callahan


NEW YORK – Beneath the darkened clouds on a frozen night in Manhattan, the booth of District 36 was emitting a scorching heat of deep house thunder. Steve Lawler, Brit DJ and owner of the VIVa MUSiC label, started up his set at 2:00 by wishing all a “Happy Halloween” and saying that D36 is his favorite place in NYC. What happened next was three hours of simply amazing dark beats and techno.

He got it going with one of his own tracks with Roland Clark, “Gimme Some More (Masonori Mikami Remix)”. A beautiful driving beat with some great vocals for the beginning of the night. We knew to cherish our vocals when we got them since Lawler is a darker techy jock that keeps them at bay. Seeing the massive cluster of househeads adorned in their costumes ranging from Slash of Guns N’ Roses, to an Emperor complete with slaves, made for an incredible vibe in every corner of the space. Check out the vibe in this video I took:

By 2:30 the upstairs was completely overrun by dancing devils, Playboy Bunnies, and even Deadmau5 (or at least his admirer)! Soon, Lawler played Julien Perez’s “Butterfly Conflict”, Arado & Marco’s “Get Reverse”, and Samuel Dan’s “C’mon”.

With a steady flow of Halloween-conscious tunes going, I started to think for a second about what it would’ve been like to see this type of crowd every night during the 90’s. It makes for so much fun when you can talk to people in costumes while they’re in character and in the intimacy of D36’s layout, along with the great music we got to hear all made for an unforgettable Halloween party! …But as I was saying: Steve decided to take us deeper underground with the next few tracks I can remember. Lawler’s edit of  “Upside Down” and Fabio Neural’s “Don’t Speak” got the job done, and after these I couldn’t ID any more tracks.

His team holed up in the owner’s VIP table overlooking the dance floor and threw out about 20 black t-shirts with the words; ‘Sex, Drugs, and Lawler” in white plain lettering. Many people wore them while others used them as impromptu sweat towels. I always think it’s great when DJs bring something extra for the crowd because let’s face it, free stuff will always get you some love. Finally, after I had given up vying for the commemorative item, I found myself right next to the booth so I went in, got some up close shots of the DJ (working hard, playing hard) , and hung out for a bit. But what really made me excited was when I turned my head to the crowd. Over a thousand people all in full Halloween regalia. It was an insane view and an image that won’t soon leave my mind.

After 3 hours of floor-stomping, heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, yet sexy sounding beats, I was, well, beat! But as we tried to leave and went downstairs the music only got better! District 36 is doing everything right. From the GSA sound system to the astonishing light show, right down to the underground vibe they’re desperately holding on to. Having DJs like Steve Lawler, Danny Tenaglia, and Jonathan Peters may not seem like underground given the marquee attached to the names, but you just have to be there to experience it. On Saturday, it was just one of those nights.

Some feedback I heard around the club was that people wanted him to go deeper and darker, while others said that it was darker than they had hoped so the difference is taste, essentially. Those same people that were dissappointed were also comparing his set to something heard on KTU. These people are considered “Genre Snobs” and should be avoided at all costs. I know a lot about EDM and when an hour goes by in a club when myself nor my counterpart, Swedeheart, can ID a single track, chances are it’s not on KTU or on any big label for that matter. The overwhelming majority of people I talked to really enjoyed the set, as did I and I can’t wait for the next time he brings the VIVa MUSiC PARTY to New York!



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