In two years of broadcasting, The Lot Radio have placed themselves at the heart of New York City’s dance music underground
Nothing good happens until someone gives a shit.
On his hands and knees fiddling with speaker wires on the floor of Brooklyn Bazaar, Francois Vaxelaire definitively gives one. The founder and owner of New York City’s beloved online radio station The Lot Radio has been at it for a couple hours now, working alongside the station’s bare bones team to set up five sound systems in five rooms of the mirror-filled Greenpoint kitsch palace Brooklyn Bazaar. Tonight marks the two-year anniversary of The Lot Radio’s first broadcast and Francois and co. have one more speaker to go and a party to throw.
“We never want to contribute to the noise,” Francois says frequently to justify everything from the station’s lack of brand partnerships to the choice of venue for the night’s anniversary party. Since the beginning, Francois has wanted The Lot to serve as an amplifier for the already prevalent noise of the New York scene. Three and a half years since Francois came across the trash laden triangular lot, The Lot Radio has come to mean a lot to a large group of people.
Open daily from morning to midnight, the radio station and kiosk bar have grown to provide a rare daytime home for the city’s otherwise disparate music scenes. Roving party crews like Darker Than Wax, Discwoman, and Working Women, once relegated to a couple nights a month to share their music with an audience, now have the option of a regular, weekly home for two hours. Paul Raffaele and Barbie Bertisch of vital New York institution Love Injection Fanzine speak strongly about the benefit The Lot affords them to play anything they want without the limits of a club environment. Every Saturday morning, the two show up bright and early for their 10am slot – and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, there’s also an exciting string of out of town guests, including international DJ stars like Nina Kraviz and Hunee as well as living legends Cerrone, George Clinton, A Guy Called Gerald, and Kevin Saunderson. “The second time Four Tet came to play he reached out to us,” said Francois. “At that point, I knew we were doing something right.”
Come mid-afternoon at the Brooklyn Bazaar and The Lot crew stop to catch their breath. The sound systems are set up. Signs are printed and hung. Pauline Le Mell takes to Instagram to announce the special guests for the evening: breakout Brooklyn clubland star Yaeji and multimedia artist and DJ Juliana Huxtable. The Lot only has two full-time employees, Francois is one of them, and he only really started paying himself in the last year off the profits of the kiosk. Pauline Le Mell is the other. A former booker and producer for the now-defunct Lot predecessor East Village Radio, Pauline embodies a number of roles: station manager, director of programming, coordinator of daily operations, social media manager, event producer, and catch-all liaison for everyone from labels to artists.
Then there’s Programme Director Chris Cherry, currently fielding a particularly egregious guest list request in the Bazaar diner. A veteran of Ridgewood DIY venue Trans-Pecos and a DJ in his own right, Francois credits Chris for keeping the station’s ear to the proverbial ground. Meanwhile, resident DJ and Programme Director Lloyd Harris – aka Lloydski – sinks into a shiny booth next to a pinball machine in the diner. Lloyd was out working last night ’til 6am, yet impressively still made it to the venue by noon to help with setup. “This is like the office Christmas party,” He says with a yawn.
The line-up for the party consists of “regulars and friends,” a modest description for a group of more than 50 DJs across five different rooms and 10 hours. However, the night begins in the Great Hall upstairs with Barrie, Lionlimb, Future Punx, and Gift Wrap – four rock bands opening up the largest space in the venue amongst a schedule of DJs. Quick to emphasize the importance of the station’s open format programming policy, Francois says The Lot’s second year “has been about moving away from being thought of as a dance music station.” With this motive in mind, Pauline had the idea to book bands from the rosters of the indie rock labels like Captured Tracks and Bayonet Records, all of whom have regular shows on The Lot, for tonight’s party.
Downstairs in the ballroom, a wooden dancefloor and semi-ornate setting provided a fitting home for a line-up of DJs more prone to soul than menace. Yuki from A-1 Records set the tone early on with The O’Jays’ I Love Music. Barbie Bertisch and Paul Raffaele of Love Injection delivered a condensed version of their dancefloor history lesson via boogie. Label and record store owner Tom Noble of Superior Elevation came after, playing a lovely set that proved this digger can bang.
Downstairs in the cellar lounge, mirrored walls, warped with time, reflected a funhouse-mass of bodies and fog as Nasty Nigel went back-to-back with Maachew Bentley. By 2am, the sleazy cellar club reached a peak as a shirtless JX Cannon of Sweat Equity slammed DJ Assault’s ludicrous classic Raccoon. Elsewhaere Yaeji played a dark, dramatic set that eschewed the sweetness of her solo productions in favour of the cool aggression of a song like Randomer’s Freak (Dub).
Talking just before he took to the stage in his Whatever/Whatever alias guise, New York dance music luminary Justin Strauss told me how he hates to miss his weekly slot on the station. It’s been 40 years since Strauss made his debut at punk opry Mudd Club, Strauss has seen a lot of New York’s dance music communities come and go. “It’s just really special… Francois brought this whole sense of community. And obviously no one is getting paid for it but it’s done for the love of the community.” Strauss says. “They got the right people. I’m very happy to be a part of The Lot family.”