Last night, we attended Michael Musto's Disco Extravaganza at 54 Below, a heart-filled effort to revive the disco era decades after its death under mysterious circumstances. (Did it die out naturally like the dinosaurs, or did those "disco sucks" schmucks commit foul play?) It was a lot of fun, even if the prominent stage in such an intimate space confused some attendees about whether they should be dannnncing, yeah!, or watching the performers. Holding it on the site of the original studio 54 was as good a way as any to conjure up the ghost of Disco Sally.
The evening began on point, with the bow-tied doorman bluntly but amusingly informing those who'd arrived with extra plus ones—even the esteemed photographer Patrick McMullan—that there was no way they were getting in. He was a one-man velvet rope!
Inside, McMullan and others were snapping photos of those attendees who'd arrived in '70s wear. For anyone keeping score, the main drawback to polyester boogie shirts that haven't been worn since 1978 would be the smell.
Nobody was giving blowjobs in the corner, coke dust wasn't raining from the roof and we didn't find any money hidden in the walls, but the 90-minute set list was satisfying, featuring the cruise-ship-ready stylings of Elektrik Company (great singers, great at shaming us for not dancing), the incomparable Orfeh (who blew us all away with her "Come to Me" and "Don't Leave Me This Way") and a rockin' and ramblin' "Y.M.C.A." by original Village People person Randy Jones.
Musto himself, did a carbs-in-cheek, fatphobic (wait, that's an anachronism if we're back in the '70s) send-up of "I Will Survive" but was singing, seriously singing, on "Macho Man" and "Last Dance" (he noted he'd be a disco queen like Donna Summer, except gay-friendly, then asked, "Too soon?"). I'm not saying his vocals were a revelation, but he sounded better than Ethel Merman on her disco album.
It was cool enough hearing those songs performed live, and then Tish & Snooky—original backing singers from Blondie and Downtown legends who were in the Drop-Outs and the Sic F*cks before opening Manic Panic—really lit a fire under us with their "Freak Out."
Steve Rubell would've been proud. And horny. And in need of some blow. After the fold, check out some of the musical highlights...