Times Square has been cleansed, redefined, reinvented to a point that the Yogi Berra quote "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded" may apply. The Liberty Theatre at 234 West 42nd street has been converted by designer Ray Trosa into an entertainment complex that grabs the attention of serious New York clubbers as well as the usual suspects.
An ambitious new production, Lucent Dossier, has been launched under the direction of Liberty's marketing guru the infamous Mark Baker. Mark has been the owner/operator and spiritual leader of such venues as Lotus, The Double 7, Buddha Bar and Mansion. He was the promotional director of Life and has been involved in spectacular events globally. He's been doing his thing for 25 years and is a valuable source. Nightclub Confidential checked in with Baker on his Liberty Theatre venture and the state of NYC club life.
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): Mark, tell me about this year new production at the Liberty Theatre in Times Square NYC.
Mark Baker: From day one, we have always tried to be theatrical and spectacular with the events we produced at the Liberty. The space lends itself to a theatrical base and we know we have something special here. We don't want the ordinary; we're always looking for the next big thing. Ray Trosa got to know the Lucent Dossier team and has spent the past year exploring the possibility of bringing them to NY and bridging the theatrical culture with electronic dance music. Let's be honest, NY nightlife, as I mentioned a year ago, has become rather mundane and predictable. The rest of the world, including Ibiza, Vegas, London, Brasil etc. are embracing the festival culture and using performing arts to enhance the nightlife experience.
We started doing this at Mansion years ago. We were just ahead of our time. Ray's discovery of Lucent takes it to another level and enables the burning man culture to meet the New York club audience in an incredible setting...the Liberty Theater.
NCC: What is the current state of NYC nightlife and what’s next?
Baker: NYC Nightlife has become a business model, not an organic experience. The norm of banging people on the head for bottles, teasing them with B-models and generally not providing anything unique or original is coming to an end. People are demanding more from their nightlife experience and want value for their money. As the world’s top DJs demand so much money and regular clubs can no longer afford them. Therefore, they need to come up with new marketing strategies and experiences to survive. I can definitely tell you that performance art combined with EDM DJs is the next big thing. After Liberty, just watch TAO's Hiro's Ballroom and EMM's Finale will be next. Everyone else will follow.
NCC: What is the Liberty Theatre? Is it a venue, a club or something which needs a new name?
Baker: The Liberty Theater is somewhere between an event space and a nightclub. But really, it's a unique venue that will host a weekly interactive nightlife experience called "Lucent Encounter". It's a first. People are going to be blown away.
NCC: Are the big Vegas clubs taking over and how does a stand-alone operation survive?
Baker: What's happening behind the scenes is that venue owners are collaborating to enhance their buying power and compete in the highly competitive market of DJ booking. With so many new festivals worldwide, only the big Vegas clubs and their outposts can afford the DJ fees. That goes for NY operations too- without a Vegas outpost and big financing behind them it's becoming increasingly difficult to compete at that level. I see a movement for smaller, independent lounges and clubs going back to their roots and the crowds they cater to.
NCC: Is bottle service as we know it now finished?
Baker: I think people are beginning to demand more value for their money, and a better experience generally for those big ticket tables. That's why the Lucent experience at Liberty will do well. It gives great value for the money and a great nightlife experience as a whole. People are also money-conscious and saving their money for the festivals.
NCC: Is Times Square a viable late night adventure?
Baker: I think the days when 14th Street or even 23rd Street were “borders not to be crossed” are over. With so many venues all over town, people are prepared to go everywhere and the newly renovated Times Square is the heart and soul of NYC, and pretty spectacular as it really represents the best of New York glamour and razzle-dazzle.
NCC: Tell me about Ray Trosa's design. Was it difficult combining that design with modern technology?
Baker: Ray's done an amazing job of keeping a landmark building intact, keeping within the tight restrictions he's been given, yet creating an incredible space that functions as a viable nightlife venue as well. We just added the city's best light and sound system, and one of the biggest DJ booths in New York. We were getting a lot of requests from the big DJ's to put the booth on the main floor and increase the size of it. You can't imagine the cost and the requests from the top DJ's these days.
NCC: What’s the burning man culture and how is it affecting nightlife? Are they commercializing?
Baker: This year, the burning man culture blew up big time and it finally had not only the bohemian "burners" but world traveling, big spending socialites. It's definitely a huge culture. It will be interesting to see how long it will take before the age-old feud between "commercial/non-commercial" argument arises. There are some great DJs and performers from the culture. Again, let's see how money and sponsorship affects everything. You are already starting to see die-hard burners like Robot Heart performing in Brooklyn etc.
NCC: Who are your clients and are they repeat clientele?
Baker: Our clients come from all over the world and we've assembled a large team of producers/hosts from all walks of NY nightlife elite who bring their best to the table. Brasil, Russia, South America, Europe and Asia - a melting pot, just like New York.
NCC: How do you market in Times Square? The costs must be staggering.
Baker: Yes, it's a big undertaking and a huge production, but I think people will appreciate the grandiosity of it all. After all, this is New York City and we are meant to be the greatest party city in the world, right? Go big or go home.
NCC: What are you doing with yourself besides this project?
Baker: Of course, the Double 7 is still the hot spot, and I spend a lot of time there, and producing D7 events worldwide in Cannes, Monaco, Paris, Montreal, etc. I've been really focusing on Asia recently and have some big news coming up which you of course will be the first to hear. I'm also heavily involved with the Juice Press, and Onebeat TV which you will be seeing in the near future. Life is hectic and wonderful, and very healthy. It gives me the energy to work a 20 hour day on a regular basis.
NCC: What other events have worked for you at the Liberty?
Baker: As you know, we opened the spectacular Liberty Theater last Halloween with the monster success of Gangs of New York. We were able to pull together the very best leaders in nightlife to work together, and the results speak for themselves. This past year, we have operated the Liberty as a special events venue hosting events including Victoria's Secret, Food and Wine, Dress to Kilt and many more. But at the same time throwing club-style events like Wonderland. As they were so successful, we are now about to launch a spectacular weekly event featuring Lucent Dossier and the word's top EDM DJs.
NCC: How are events are booked and marketed?
Baker: Our in-house corporate event director, William Curran, an event veteran, organizes all our corporate events. Our reputation is growing as the premier event space in New York. The venue is totally unique and beautiful, and has a great history. We have been getting a lot of press.
NCC: How does it operate as an events space?
Baker: The venue has three main areas - the front restaurant, the main room and the raised staged area. We are able to host events from 50-1500 people. It's a very flexible space.