In nightlife, there is a certain kind of party that prides itself on not letting you in. Sometimes, these parties are genuinely sick. Other times, they suck and just want the illusion of being sick. Regardless, even if you pretend not to give a fuck, making it through the door at such a function is always a cheap rush. You're flooded with that feeling we're eternally chasing: a sense of belonging.
The idea behind strict entry policies is that if you want to have a really good party, you can't let every average bro in, especially douchebags who are likely to harass everyone else in the joint. Berghain is the most obvious example of this school of thought; its stony-faced guardians weed out basics at the door while privileging freaks, queers, and POC. The club also champions a certain egalitarianism—the head of security there once told me that "anyone can get into Berghain, but not everyone can"—and even celebrities like Conan O'Brien and Felix Da Housecat have been slapped with the dreaded "nein."
On the other hand, getting into VIP celebrity haunts like Vegas' Hakkasan and NYC's 1oak is all about status. These clubs are like microcosms for society at large, where the factors that determine your place in the cultural pecking-order are boiled down to their most superficial: Who do you know? What are you wearing? How much money do you have? Who are you fucking?
As a music journalist, I'm grateful to be afforded certain privileges that people outside of The Industry often are not, like access to the guestlist, relationships with DJs and publicists, and countless weekends of experience charming bouncers.
Unfortunately, earlier this week, when I showed up at Seth Troxler's "Need I Say More" afterparty in Detroit, none of this meant jack shit.
@stroxler just walked us into the party. Skipped a two hour line. Once he walked us in, announced that the venue was at capacity. Next time you're in New York brother, I got you. #detroit #movement #movementdetroit
A post shared by Daniel Saynt (@danielsaynt) on May 29, 2017 at 8:38am PDT
Before he became the hard-partying Vinnie Chase of the tech-house world, Seth Troxler lived in the suburbs of Detroit. At 15, he landed a job as a techno buyer at local record store Melodies and Memories, counting Theo Parrish and Mike Huckaby as co-workers. While working at the store, Seth met Ryan Crosson, who'd come in to buy vinyl, and later Lee Curtiss and Shaun Reeves. Together, in 2011, they founded the label Visionquest, releasing early records from folks like Benoit & Sergio and Tale of Us, and becoming known for slow-rolling, expansively oceanic tech-house.
In 2006, the crew started throwing a party at Old Miami, a veteran's bar in Detroit's Midtow, during Movement. The annual rager, which everyone just calls "Old Miami," never fails to elicit a knowing chuckle whenever it's mentioned in conversation.
Every raver seems to have a crazy Old Miami story. A friend told me he accidentally spat a hot dog at a stranger only to have her pick it up and eat it. Another briefly closed his eyes on the dancefloor and got a trash can thrown in his face. Yeah, that kind of vibe.
In addition to its dependable ratchetness, Old Miami is known for one other thing: a painfully long line at the door. The party kicks off at Monday at 7AM, the exhausting home stretch of Movement festival weekend, and the lineup is never announced in advance. Still, hundreds of people are willing to wait for hours under the blinding sun for a shot at getting in—perhaps a testament to the success of Seth Troxler as a brand. One girl told me that when she got close to the entrance, someone paid her $50 to cut in line with her.
So on that Monday around 3 PM, I find myself squished between too many people in a taxi—including a 20-year-old bisexual boy who is wearing sequined sunglasses and looks like Paris Hilton—speeding towards Old Miami. I've been assigned to write a review of the party, and my heart starts to beat faster as the bar approaches in the horizon, the words OLD MIAMI painted in bright red letters on its white-washed brick wall.
There are at least 150 people snaking down the sidewalk and around the corner in front of the bar. Everyone has been partying for at least two days and two nights, and it shows.
Bearded Euros (still) wearing fedoras and scarves around their necks, muscle men in tank tops with slogans like "Detroit Hustles Harder," and girls with glitter butts and wristbands stacked seven-layers deep all stand dead-eyed under the blistering sun, nodding along out of sheer force of habit to the robotic drum kicks leaking out of the venue.
The wait is so long that a girl I know even left at various points for beers and BBQ at Slows, a popular local restaurant. I take a deep breath and walk up to the door, telling the stout, bearded door guy that I'm here to write a review of the party—and that I have a Twitter DM conversation with Troxler where he'd said I shouldn't have a problem getting in.
But the venue is slammed, and the bouncer brushes me off, curtly telling me to get away from his area. I ask if I can just have a word with Seth. A frazzled-looking bearded white guy leans out the door and barks, "I throw this party with Seth, and he doesn't have a list. You're not getting in."
Then, suddenly, I see a flash of a curly brown Afro, and Seth's face pokes out the door. He gestures towards a lanky black man standing behind me in a white hat and sunglasses. "How many people are with you?" Seth asks. The man behind me motions towards his crew, and all of them slide past me into the party. "That's a famous DJ," whispers the 20-year-old excitedly into my ear. "I would let that man fuck me sideways!"
I make my way towards Seth and tap him on the shoulder, but he doesn't seem to see me. Later, he tweets this.
The bouncer barks at me again to go away, and I feel the burning gazes of everyone in line staring at my miserable attempts to explain my situation. Suddenly, I become acutely aware that I've become my worst nightmare: a thirsty rave thot tapping a celebrity DJ on the shoulder, trying to plead my way into the Alpha and Omega of tech-house parties.
I give up and tell my friends that the story has been cancelled. It quickly sinks in that none of the planning that had gone into attending the event—including the emails and DMs from Troxler assuring me that I'd be OK at the door—really mattered.
In fact, all the social weight and self-validation we place on being admitted to a party is pretty meaningless, because ultimately, it comes down to factors that have little to do with you. In this case, I had bad timing—the venue was near capacity, the bouncers were doing their job and didn't give a shit about mine, and I happened to be standing in front of a celebrity DJ when Troxler was at the door.
Unpredictability is both the beauty and the bane of nightlife. When you throw yourself into a party's chaotic milieu, it's impossible to know who you will meet, or what will be thrown at you, including trash cans. This thrilling sense—that anything could happen at any time—is what keeps me coming back to the rave. And even when one door closes in your face, another opens.
Following the let-down, my friends disperse into cabs, and I wander down the street with the 20-year-old who looks like Paris Hilton. After walking for a few minutes, we pause on the sidewalk of a pleasant, tree-lined neighborhood lined with a school and family homes. I wrap my arms around him, and we make out under the afternoon sun to the hooting yelps of children playing across the street.
Michelle Lhooq is on Twitter