Dancing, With Purpose, At Paragon

“Things definitely haven’t been as easy as I make it seem on Instagram,” Arielle Lana LeJarde writes in a recent blog on her substack “Heads Know.” A longtime music writer on the dance beat, she distinguished herself at sites like FADER and Resident Advisor; it was her story at the latter last year that located suspicions that a police crackdown on clubs like H0l0 in Ridgewood and the recently-opened SILO in Bushwick was part of the city’s supposedly-dormant “MARCH” taskforce. Within a year, Eric Adams would be appearing on the floor of Paragon himself in order to announce that the aforementioned MARCH taskforce would be disbanding, after all. 

Sometime later, Paragon would be hosting one of the first few nights LeJarde has been putting on as “Heads Know,” which doubles as the name of her solo producing outfit. (As she tells it, she got put on Paragon’s radar after “a tweet of mine went viral and they posted me on the Bossa Instagram,” another club run by the local night scene impresario John Barclay.) The first few of these quickly landed the attention of a glowing write-up in Forbes subtitled “An Event Brand Showcasing Underground, Underrepresented And Rising Artists Through Diversity And Inclusion.” 

I went to one a few months past, on a cool, windy Thursday night in the early spring, also taking place at Barclay’s Paragon, Barclay’s newest, post-pandemic nightclub outpost made very much in Bossa’s smoke-filled mold. LeJarde had programmed a thematically-fitting double-header that night; an MF Doom affiliate named Daedelus would program a tribute to the 2004 album Madvillainy and, before him, a different West Coast producer named Daddy Kev would recreate the sound of “Low End Theory,” not the Tribe album, but a decade-long series of club nights Kev used to run in Lincoln Heights. The combination felt unavoidably historized, a conversation between two contemporaneous scenes, evoking not exactly nostalgia but close examination of a moment before it was quite past, studying it for parts. 

Under the rotating, purple lights and between the plumes of smoke, some thirty or so people had arrived for this, many by themselves or in small pairs. They had space to linger and in their bodies could be seen shifting, shimmying; a slow-motion shuffle informed by memory. Paragon’s layout gave it all a certain dignity. You could see its appeal to Eric Adams, the self-conscious mayor who likes to party. It was good to see that LeJardes was giving this a certain kind of curatorial thought, informed by things I could look up online. At the center of the small back room was an elevated staircase, around which were two small balconies, modestly filled. The Brooklyn-sized grandeur, slotted into an old, underused cocktail bar, reflected a sturdy, bemused, resilience, an image that could not quite fit in any era but the present. 

There are other ways of dancing with purpose, of course. Another series of locally-produced shows I’ve been following with some passive interest is “Raw Cuts,” an events brand started by a DJ named Chris Patrikis and a pair of producers named Erez Davids and Mason Hargrave. They first got my attention when they were circulating a clip of Diplo spinning turntables while waiting for an L train at the Jefferson Street station and their publicist quickly informed me about big plans to continue doing things like that. Their latest clip comes from a dance party they threw inside a laundromat on Knickerbocker Avenue last week, featuring the work of a bearded DJ named Will Clarke, regularly on the touring circuit. Passing it by, as anybody could have, it came across as undoubtedly successful as a loud, funny thing to look at, but a sort of desperate purposelessness abounds.  

Coming up, further adventures in thoughtful raving are set to continue on the last day of the month, where LeJardes’ latest “Heads Know” show is set to take place at SILO, that other newish Bushwick club that manages the magic trick of looking far larger than it is. Per an instagram post, this latest show will feature  LeJardes herself behind the boards, as well as“some of the best DJs from around the Asian diaspora,” in a cheeky farewell to the end of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Heads will know. 

Photos taken by Andrew Karpan.

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