Last Friday at 10 p.m., ridiculously early by nightlife standards, there was already a line up outside House of X, a new Manhattan club designed by the creators of House of Yes and hotelier Ian Schrager. .
Michael Becker – a self-styled ambiance ambassador, hired by the club to push patrons to become more cowardly, freer, and spookier – brought a flood of guests into the underground nightclub. Mr Becker, 39, wore a leather crown and a glittery red collar over a black harness that revealed a slender torso during his day job as a fitness instructor.
“Oh thank goodness,” said club fan Davide Fikri Kamel, 30, looking at Mr Becker. “I thought I would be the only one to be transgressive tonight.”
He didn’t need to worry. The smooth opening of House of X was not lacking in Bacchic behavior.
The evening included: dancers swinging in harnesses tied to their hair; a dominatrix putting out a cigarette on a man’s tongue; and a figure in roller skates whose head was concealed by an ornate lampshade.
Crazy antics like these would be a perfect fit for House of Yes, the club’s sister in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. But would they work on the Lower East Side?
As party girl Emily Benjamin put it at the start of the night, “How do you take something so Brooklyn and take it to Manhattan?”
Kae Burke and Anya Sapozhnikova opened Yes’s original home in 2007 in Ridgewood, Queens. After a fire, the space moved to a warehouse in East Williamsburg in 2008 before moving to its current location in 2015.
House of Yes’s emphasis on circus arts, live performances, and scintillating hedonism made it a haven for Burning Man festival enthusiasts, known as ‘Burners’. House of X – with its bespoke cocktails, plethora of velvet, and location under the Public Hotel – is decidedly more chic than its predecessor. Still, the spirit of the burner is cooked.
“Let’s just say that some of the trippy character of space may, in fact, be influenced by Burning Man,” Ms. Burke said.
One of the trippy details is a spiral staircase decorated with silicone molds depicting faces, hands and, um, other parts of the body. House of X looks like a brighter version of its nightclub neighbor, the Box. But unlike the Box, which presents itself as a theater, the dance floor is at the heart of House of X.
At 11 p.m. – still very early by dance club standards – the ground floor was packed and moving. A client with a gray beard and a neon-hued animal-print suit enthusiastically twerked to the limelight. It was not clear whether he was an ambience ambassador or a civilian club fan. Mr. Fikri Kamel (the one who feared being the only transgressive guest at the party) danced in white spandex shorts with two prominent holes in the buttocks.
For party animals looking for a more tactile experience, there’s a room made entirely of teal-colored fur. Well, almost entirely: there are a few golden frames with wall breast prostheses and phalli.
Once the guests took off their shoes, they were invited to enjoy the fur floors, fur pillows, fur sofas and plastic slinkies strewn about. The room was comfortable, quiet, and had a temperature 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the club, leading to some thinking about what the texture and smell of the fur might become a few weeks after opening.
Outside the Fur Room, at the start of performances, it became even more difficult to tell the hired hosts from the enthusiastic guests.
Was this woman in the sequined bra and panty set an ambassador of the atmosphere? Was that club kid wearing the eggplant emoji cardboard helmet a “VIP activator”? Was this man with the gray beard going to spin around the stripper pole or hug him all night, like a subway commuter?
The highlight of the evening came when singer Hannah Gill took the stage holding a leash attached to Ms Sapozhnikova, the club’s co-owner.
A mannequin suspended above the dance floor began to move, its head a rotating disco ball, its limbs animatronic. Hanging plastic cherries rose and fell as Ms. Gill sang a song that consisted mostly of the name of the automaton: Cherry Babe.
The show was reminiscent of the animated moon and spoon shown at Studio 54 decades ago. But Mr. Schrager, who opened Studio 54 in 1977, insists his influence on House of X is minimal.
“The smartest thing I could do would be to leave them alone and let them do their thing, which I have never done before,” Schrager said in an interview with Zoom earlier.