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The Three Lives of Lit Lounge

Lindsay Lohan at LitOlvier Zahm In 2009 Lindsay Lohan, looking somewhat stressed, showed up at Lit Lounge.

“The new Lit.” The expression has been used countless times to describe a club that might just be as cool as Lit when it opened a decade ago. Many of the venues that have vied for “new Lit” status have come and gone, but the original gallery/bar/club hybrid, improbably, is still going strong on Second Avenue. It’s still the best place to splash your beer all over the place while dancing to Britpop and punk at 3 a.m. It’s had its slumps, to be sure, but these days Lit is enjoying what can only be called a flare-up.

You might say Lit has had three lives. Its first golden age lasted for a few years after it opened in February of 2002. Then things slowed down around 2006 when the cool crowd moved on to the newly opened Beatrice Inn. But when that club was shut down in 2009, some of its DJs moved over to Lit, bringing a new generation with them.

The First Golden Age 2002-2004
Dave Murphy used to run around downtown and now, at the age of 36, owns Towne Deli in Summit, New Jersey. “Mondays were the big night in town,” he recalled. Lit was always the last stop after you made the scene at Max Fish, the Lower East Side’s perennial art bar, and Pianos, another cool newcomer.

Big Ups at Lit Lounge, New York, NYAdrian Fussell Big Ups performing at Lit Lounge last year.

“Bjork was at the Monday Pianos party one night, in some furry outfit, just sitting at the bar looking like a giant mouse,” said Mr. Murphy. “This was right after we’d seen somebody get shot in the foot outside Lotus. D.J. Clue laughed at the guy, who was bleeding from one foot and hopping on the other. That night ended in the cave at Lit.” Mr. Murphy recalled watching a member of a well known band from San Francisco snorting cocaine off of one of the couches in the cavern-like basement.

At the time, two local music scenes were converging and about to go national: dance pop and retro rock.

Electro-clash, a punk-techno hybrid that drew inspiration from Germany, was at its peak. Fischerspooner’s single “Emerge” was played at clubs as often as Rihanna’s “We Found Love” is today. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem was DJing at Meatpacking District lounge APT, honing the DFA sound that sprung to life in 2003 with The Rapture’s ubiquitous single “House of Jealous Lovers.”

Lit was essential in helping this music find an audience. It was also one of the first clubs to embrace Euro DJs like Soulwax a.k.a. 2 Many DJs, and Erol Alken, who were inventing the mash-up, where the vocals of one song are played over the music of another song.
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First Person | A Hangover from CMJ

Pianos at Ludlow and StantonClint Rainey Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street.

As I was making my way down Avenue A last week, a young girl in combat boots asked me for a light. I stared at her, confused. It was obvious to me that before she left the house that morning, she had remembered to smear her eyes with liquid liner, wrap her hips in enough metal belts to refurbish a John Deere machine, and carefully paint each of her nails a different shade of black – but she forgot her lighter?

“Here,” I gave her a neon pink Zippo I’d had since the last time I was hounded by Marlboro promoters at ACE bar.

“Thanks,” she said, and after using it threw the lighter into the dark depths of Tompkins Square Park, provoking the muffled sounds of an annoyed rat. Maybe she thought it was a large, cold, match. Read more…