The Pop-Up Party's Ephemeral Bliss

Have you ever eaten tofu on the dance floor? One thing about a pop-up club night is that anything goes, it seems. Refreshing!

outlaw came onto my radar through a friend. It’s a New York-based pop-up series with a decidedly queer, techno bent and a top roster of DJs like Juliana Huxtable, Sauscha, and x3butterfly. This friend and I have traded flyers for MOREMOREMORE, Bound, and other events, outlaw being the latest… a little pricy, but the 3D projections! The dancers! As a last hurrah before a quiet holiday season, the economics make sense.

We arrive in line at 12:45 after swimming in a pool of fruity, boozy slush at a gay bar nearby. Someone approached us there and asked directly, “Are you going to outlaw?” I guess the word is out.

Club Eat and an associated gang show up. They’re ushered in while we wait. The line is kind of long and the wind off the water is picking up, but for nightlife royalty and the creator of such replay classics as “Powder,” I nod along and take it in stride. It gives us time to think.

When local heavyweight clubs close or decline (fire, economics, TikTok invasion) one has to wonder where you can turn to for a juicy, full-throttle experience. The beauty of a one-time club night is that it’s gone almost as soon as it arrives, leaving behind a breathtaking array of details in a brief, digestible burst. 

Observing the various subcultures in line extends my internal dialogue. I recall K-Hole’s report “YOUTH MODE,” an expansive survey on today’s youth culture and its kingmakers. The report reads, “once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals and have to find their communities.” I wonder how each of these people behind me found themselves here tonight. 

Finally, we’re ushered in and the vast hall comes into focus. Partiers sit underneath dramatic curtains stretching yards and yards into the cavernous ceiling. Here, the sensation of sitting under a mushroom, a longtime fixture of children’s television or a younger self’s daydream, could be realized in full-force. Excellent.

The venue is the largest film studio in the city (per the flier). By the end of the night we count four rooms, an expansive bar that’s almost like a club area itself, and two unexpected interactions that bore dialogue, as follows.

1. An acquaintance from a recent party: (Leaving the bathroom) “Oh my god! Are you Kobi’s friend?”

2. A long-forgotten peer from time spent living in Paris. He works in fashion casting and dances wildly, hovering nearby but never quite joining the group: (Music thumps) “Are you still doing street casting! What was the Instagram account again!”

My friend and I circle the tightly-packed columns in one of the side rooms, arms out languidly as we take content shots and eye the entertainment – a stripper sliding down a pole, a techno-goth couple bobbing lazily together, and me, running out of beer. We leave for the bar. 

Within me, there’s an inherent personal obsession for this type of experience. It’s dormant until I’m shoulders deep in a packed crowd in the dark, bobbing along to something or other and getting truly lost in myself. I close my eyes and drink it all in. These nights are such a pure, rich expression of human experience that stretches the boundaries of sensory consumption: the pounding music, liquors and stimulants, dramatic outfits or barely-there garments that would never be seen in the light of day… there’s nothing like it. 

Traveling between rooms and experiencing colorful potions, deep bass, and unique ensembles, it’s clear that outlaw’s producers have captured a wild and thoughtful synergy. The space is a blackhole of weathered brick and bland floors; a blank canvas that, through the sensual lighting, hypnotic bass, and hidden corners, emerges into a scene of debaucherous joy for one night only. Out of nowhere, I look up into the crowd and realize that I’m reaching one of those seminal moments: locked into the truly satisfactory joy of being present and satisfied (even for a moment) amidst the chaos of the night. 

Perhaps the power is in the temporary. As Melissa Rich recently shared in her NYLON party column, “Maybe the goal isn’t to keep the same parties around forever, but to let them blow up and perish naturally, leaving room for a new, fresh party ready to change your life every time.” I won’t go so far as to say that this party changed my life, but when I look back on clubbing in my youth (when does that even end?), it’ll certainly be a special part of that stable of experience. 

The opportunity of a pop-up is to finetune a synergy of temporary, perfect details. These are all selected and pressured, like different grains of sand, into a diamond of an evening just like outlaw. The lights twinkle, people dance and kiss and dance some more, and the world turns on its axis to the beat of the thumping bass. Bliss.