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Club Shelter Review

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The days of free house parties and illegal raves have definitely gone. The vibe however has not. Shelter is New York City’s premier house night and undoubtedly the home of underground house music. Filling the void that the garage left in 1987, the last 12 years has seen Shelter establish itself as NYC’s hottest dance party and houses an unmistakable vibe synonymous with the early days – the club closes when people stop dancing and this usually takes the party through till Sunday afternoon. Based on a concept of no attitude, no dress code and no pretence, the focus is all on the music. The name ‘Shelter’ came about as DJ Timmy Regisford and record label owner Freddy Sanon wanted a place where people could feel welcome, regardless of their sexuality, colour or background and that’s exactly what Shelter has become – a home for music lovers.

The first people through the door don’t waste time waiting on the edge of having a good night, instead taking it full on and hitting the dance floor hard, totally feeling the groove, proper housers. As the club fills up the music changes from deep jacking sounds to soulful grooves and uplifting vocals that most people are familiar with, then another jacking beat comes back in with sporadic orgasmic screams belting out and cutting through the crowd as a catalyst for getting down. Accapellas are laid over dubs and the live sax is jamming on stage. It’s all going off, at 6am the main room is still totally packed out, spilling onto the stairs and down to the bar on the floor below. Resident DJ and Shelter founder Timmy Regisford drops the Juan Atkins remix of Inner City’s “Good Life”, the place goes mental, hands are in the air and the entire club is singing along to the track (even the security), people are literally bouncing off the walls while b-boys hit the deck in a fury of windmills and mini-flares, as the beat drops people get down any way they can, jacking their bodies and dancing really hard oblivious to what’s going on around them, still singing as the DJ cuts the tune and drops it back in again. The club has been fitted with the old sound system from legendry club Twilo and while it kicks out a truly fat bass line it holds the top end as well as any sound system I’ve heard, which makes a refreshing change from the usual sound unfortunately synonymous with underground music. The classics ring out, one after the other as Shelter exemplifies what house music is about, not 4x4 beats or even something with definite restrictions or barriers, it’s about the party and the vibe. Whatever it takes to get people moving, all the best DJ’s have always kept the crowd guessing, changing the tempo or dropping in an obscure beat. As the late NY legend Larry Levan said, “every night’s gotta be different from the last”. This has never been more true, too many Houser’s have forgotten their roots, something that the Shelter crowd refuse to do.

I get talking to Robbi whose birthday it is, he has been working for Shelter for a few years, promoting records for their label and nights for the club. He’s telling me about how it’s better now than it ever has been, how the Shelter family just keeps on growing and how they’re crowd’s changing. Like the city of New York itself, a Saturday night in Shelter is a multicultural melting pot of people only with a common fetish for good tunes. He tells me about new DJ’s who play at their nights like Frankie Felicano and Sting International, the necessity of keeping it live with performances on stage by singers, musicians and percussionists. About the summer nights out on the roof terrace that the club has and the last time Grace Jones performed live. About Timmy Regisford’s twelve-hour sets and the mayhem when he plays Stevie Wonder at the end of them. He introduces me to a guy from a record label giving out promos of a future release who tells me about their association with Shelter and how it’s the perfect testing ground for their records. He gives me a record that turns out to be a deep jazz inspired house track on a Latin tip. I wonder whether any of these guys are making any money but it doesn’t seem to be that important. It’s all about the music and everyone seems to have the same energy and enthusiasm that’s been lacking from the UK scene. Even the party island of Ibiza, home to clubs like Es Paradise, Pacha and Space has been tired of late. Perhaps they should take a trip to 20 West 39th Street for a reminder of how to have a party.

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