This September a new, experimental music festival, Sustain Release, comes to New York. Showcasing the cream of the crop in dance music alongside emerging artists about to break, we've got a seven-part special today going in deep with the creators – get up to speed here.
John Barclay is the charismatic, slightly out of the spotlight leader behind a lot of very vital and risk-taking Brooklyn activities. In the early 2010s when DIY club culture was still considered novelty, he was the first to find & open 285 Kent before it was known as that: he cleared it out, painted all white and packed it with sweaty dancers, and at a blowout event with Tim Sweeney, cops hauled him away and he sold the lease. He later leased a gigantic brick grain silo in Greenpoint, threw warehouse parties with Geneva Jacuzzi flying on ropes, and for a couple months ran a huge freaky party called Trip House in a dilapidated but decadent 3 story Victorian in Bushwick. He's now the owner of Bossa Nova, a fully legit bar in Bushwick that's super small, intimate and full of fog and flashing lights, where great DJs can be play powerful sets incognito to an extremely energized audience. Its a stable home to an underground community that's used to shutdowns and constant reconfigurations. In addition to hosting a stage at Sustain-Release, he'll also be performing with his band DUST on Saturday night.
Sustain Release: How did you get involved in setting up parties/spaces in NYC?
John Barclay: I’ve been throwing parties since high school but I got my start in NYC about 9 years ago during the tragic climax of the electro-blog-house movement. The music was really bad but it was a lot of fun and def cooler than my full-time job in midtown as an advertising coordinator.
About 5 years ago I teamed up with my friend Josh to open the beta version of 285 Kent, which, while we operated it, was strictly underground raves. Eventually the cops showed up and arrested a few of us on obscure charges (all dismissed btw) so we handed over the lease.
Sustain Release: Trip House was crazy.. what was that all about? What was the absolute highlight... and low point.
John Barclay: Trip House was this mega 10,000 sq ft, 16 bedroom, Victorian Mansion that me and Chris Goldstein got a hold of in deep Bushwick. We only had it for a short time, making investing or renovating futile, so it just turned into this psycho garbage hell monster themed acid fun house. It was like if a bunch of kids staged a coup against all the parents and teachers and stopped doing their homework and just ate pizza, jumped on the bed and partied non-stop. Goldstein is pretty nonchalant so I had to manage the whole place and it turned me into this frantic hallucinating mom.
One night I was tripping my face off and my friend Louise mistakes the results of a fog machine for a real life fire and she starts screaming to me in this French accent “Fi-Ye! Fi-Ye!” so I’m like hyperventilating trying to run up these stairs to get to the fire extinguisher and prevent at least 600 people from burning alive. I actually pushed men and women out of my way like really hard because I thought people were actually dying and when I finally get upstairs there’s nothing but a $40 Spencer’s gifts fog machine puffing and about 100 people staring at me, completely terrified of the madman I had transformed into. It was pretty embarrassing. The highlight was probably how cool everyone thought I was.
Sustain Release: Why did you decide to open Bossa, what was your goal? Why not just keep doing warehouse parties? In what ways did the experience surprise you.
John Barclay: I had always wanted to open up a bar with some sort of dance element and eventually was able to convince investors it would be lucrative. I wanted to do something more consistent than I could do in warehouses. I wanted to give people a place they could regularly count on for good dance music. I guess I’m surprised I’m not a multi-millionaire by now.
Sustain Release: What was one of the funniest, weirdest or best experiences at Bossa so far..
John Barclay: One night this giant dude is out in the street arguing w his girlfriend and he starts to kinda wrestle with her. At that precise moment this guy comes walking by dressed exactly like The Crow, like same face paint and everything, and is like “Hey! Let go of her!” So the giant guy and his friend go after The Crow and then I yell something stupid at the big guy and he runs up to me, punches me in the ear and takes off with his girlfriend. The crow shakes my hand and continues on his journey and I just go back into the bar. A bunch of rappers have been here which is pretty weird to me: Rick Ross, Drake, Foxy Brown, ASAP crew, Dj Khaled. Kinda odd for a techno bar.
Sustain Release: What does Sustain-Release mean to you, given what you've been working on?
John Barclay: Sustain-Release is essentially techno summer camp. It is going to be overwhelmingly fun and enlightening, the peak of a good Brookln rave but instead of lasting 2 hours it will last 2 days. I cannot wait.
Sustain Release: What's next for you?