Beretta Music Showcase
July 8th, 2012
Better than: Clubs built after 1974.
The righteous guitar tone of ZZ Top's "Got Me Under Pressure" was just barely audible as our taxi made its way towards Interstate 80. Our driver had the windows down, one arm hanging out the side, sparks occasionally shooting off the tip of a lit cigarette. Collectively, we had just entered the strange four-hour deadzone between last call and 6 a.m. Exiting on Seventh, signs of life came from a row of on-duty bail offices and a 24-hour donut shop. Our destination for the evening: The EndUp.
First opened in 1973 as a popular gay discotheque, The EndUp has endured a bizarre run in its near 40 years of operation. In that span it's managed to survive AIDS, insane power struggles, an overzealous police force, and even its own clientele (a crowd known for its self-imposed insomnia).
By the time we arrived, an ambulance and four squad cars were causing a scene across the street. Flashing red and blue lights strobed polyrhythmically, casting an occasional colored filter on the club's wooden signage. There was no dominant language; phrases of Chinese, French, Russian, Persian, and Spanish filled the morning silence. A limousine rolled up and a pack of girls in skin-tight skirts got out, their thighs and stomachs flapping discernibly through the fabric. In the front seat, the driver pulled a hoagie out of his mouth and yelled to nobody in particular, "If you ain't got no place to go, I guess you can go here." He took another bite and disappeared down Harrison.
Then we were inside, and I was handing $40 to the door girl while two kids argued with the bouncer behind me. Moments later we would be posted at the club's circular bar ordering water, the drink of choice by a seemingly unanimous consensus. The room was laid out and decorated similar to the depiction of nightclubs in movies from the 1980s. Beams of bright red paint shot across the club's dark surfaces to create science fiction grids. I looked over and saw a pack of sleazy characters with leather jackets and slicked-back hair leering through the crowd searching for an easy pickup.
Across from us, a whole roomful of dancers stayed on beat while Joshua Harrison spun through a hypnotic set of modern techno. Strobe light arrays, hidden in the ceiling, shot off and flashed like a waiting paparazzi mob. This was amplified by the amount of mirrors in the room: nearly every wall was either covered or connected to a reflective surface. The dispersion of images throughout the room, and the lowkey DJ booth, encouraged a focus on dancing and mingling that's altogether lacking in many other clubs. At the EndUp, people dance with one another, as opposed to dancing straight ahead towards the performing artist.
Outside, on the patio, we grabbed some air amidst a crowd that was about as energetic as the dancers inside. Here, they smoked cigarettes, took space, and did moves to the sound bleeding out from inside. Others, less enthusiastic, recovered on benches and chairs under heat lamps. More still smoked in an upstairs perch, looking forlorn while riding out their evening to its eventual conclusion. An overgrown waterfall in the back lent the proceedings an aura of surreality. Next to it, a dim sum cart handed out plates of pork buns and chow mein.
Back inside, things began shuffling around. Harrison finished his set and relinquished control of the room to a duo called Reference set up for live PA. Sporting two laptops and control interfaces emblazoned with stickers, they swapped out from the DJ and reconfigured the room towards more homespun techno. Hunching over their gear, they rapidly cut faders in and out, creating human-sounding percussion lines in static rhythm tracks. Faceless and percussive, the music hit the ground running with a booming kick and synthesizer flourishes.The spectacle of the performance drew people away from the dancefloor towards the duo's semi-awkward setup in one of the club's far corners. A small cloud of girls in hair-buns formed in front of the mixer, shaking back and forth as the music ramped up into more melodic territory.
"Whoa, can somebody give me a hug?" A short guy in a soccer jersey with bloodshot eyes and huge pupils had come over and was dancing around. He said again, "I just reeeally want a hug right now." I looked over in time to see him released from an awkward hold. With tears in his eyes he said, "Life. It's the best thing."