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Inside Vinyl Nights: A Free NYC Dance Event Celebrating Black Music
Welcome to Vinyl Nights, a New York based event that specializes in music from the 1970s to the early 1990s. It’s taken place at The Bowery Electric and other venues in the past with great success. This year, every Thursday from July to the end of August, it’s held at Bella Abzug Park by the Hudson Yards Vessel.
Totally free to the public, Vinyl Nights celebrates everything that makes New York City great, but beyond that, it honors the musical genius of Black artists across the eras.
If there is anything to be learned from 2020 to now, it is that life is unpredictable. Whatever structure we had in our day to day was abruptly uprooted by COVID-19, making even the most simple tasks complicated. Our relationships with others were similarly impacted; suddenly all plans hinged on the results of your latest COVID test, and whether that restaurant or bar you had in mind was open. If you wanted to paint the town red, you were out of luck because all the clubs were closed. As is often the case in times of crisis, people have tried to keep their spirits high through music. And if you know anything about Black people in particular, you know what a saving grace music has been for us.
Let’s discard humility for a moment here. The creative talent of Black people is beyond dispute, and our contributions to music can’t be quantified. The list of specific genres pioneered by Black people is endless. Funk? Ours. Rhythm and Blues? Oh, yes. Disco? Hi there. Hip Hop? Take a guess. Even in genres that aren’t typically associated with Black people, we find a way to make a mark of some kind.
The DJs hired to spin at Vinyl Nights are not only proficient at their craft, they know how to engage the crowd. Sure, they might throw in some Teena Marie, The Bee Gees, and early Madonna for just a touch of diversity, but it’s The Brothers Johnson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dynasty, Chaka Khan, and other Black artists who make the party lit.
While it’s been many years since those artists first came on the scene, their music is timeless, so younger people can connect with it just as much as the older folks do. And when the music shifts to A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, and Big Daddy Kane, everybody is getting down, even if they’ve never heard of those artists before. It’s truly a beautiful thing to witness.
From 6 PM to 9 PM (some DJs will stretch to 9:30 PM if they can get away with it), throw your cares away and bask in the joy of being alive. Bubbles and beach balls fly, and that pungent scent in the air is either incense, weed or both. The dancing is as eclectic as the music.
Look out for folks doing the Hustle, The Mashed Potato, The Running Man and dances that are, shall we say, unique. Breakdancing tends to make an appearance as the sun goes down, and when the DJ throws a Reggae curveball at the end of their set, revelers ‘buss ah wine.’ Dance circles show love to the person doing their thing in the middle, whatever it is. A Black woman shakes her tambourine on time with the music for a little razzle dazzle. There are no surprises there. The groove is in our blood.
If you aren’t one for dancing, that’s OK. You can bop your head at least while you sip a little something. If you’re older, reminisce about how clubbing used to be before smartphones, and if you’re too young to know what that was like, use your imagination. Which is better? Well, that depends on who you ask.
Vinyl Nights rocks Bella Abzug Park between 34th and 35th streets, at the midway point of 10th and 11th avenue. If you get lost in the area, just follow the music. For more information, follow Mobile Mondays on Instagram @mobilemondays or Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen @hudsonyardshellskitchen