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Paragon Wants to Take Brooklyn Nightlife Out of the Dark

In nightlife, lavishness is more important than ever. Plus, more links for your weekend.

9:58 AM EDT on April 7, 2023

The bar at Paragon. (Courtesy of Guarionex Rodriguez Jr.)

After Bossa Nova Civic Club reopened by the Central Avenue M train station last year, the situation for Paragon, the second club by Bossa Nova owner John Barclay, seemed a bit awkward—it was only steps away from Bossa, and it wasn't clear what the club's place would be when its older sibling returned. But as the summer approaches, Paragon is just the type of club New York needs, and it's my favorite club to go to right now, defying the austere intensity and evil vibes that have become dominant in the Brooklyn club ecosystem.

Paragon's design seems to insist that going out in New York should feel escapist, dreamy, and good, rather than like participating in a bleak art project about living in the post-internet era or whatever.

"So much of nightlife in New York City right now is based on what has happened in Berlin in the past 20 years," Barclay told the New York Times last year. "Stark, black-and-gray boxes that feel—for lack of a better term—very masculine, and just kind of bleak." So what, I asked Barclay recently, should a New York club be like? 

"NYC dance culture is much more culturally, sonically, and visually lavish," Barclay told Hell Gate. "It's a constant explosion of stimulation, cultures, sounds, and flavors. We want our establishment to reflect that, from the programming to the menu to the interior design." Of Paragon, he added, "It's meant to make you feel like a princess." (In an email, he told me, "I have a lot of respect for Berlin nightlife, their polished audio engineering, their minimal design aesthetic. It's great, but it's great IN BERLIN. It's not for NYC.")

There are random moments at Paragon that beggar belief, like when the enormous disco ball behind the DJ winks at you like the eye of a god, and hands are reaching out from the balconies on either side, and the lights fade from blue and orange to cyan and pink to, for a split second, a deep forest green. At moments like that, you're like, man, where the hell am I?

And Barclay, blessedly, has allowed the space to be used to stage events that take advantage of that psychedelic lavishness—in the past year, Azumi O E has performed Japanese Butoh, and at Dweller, Ahya Simone played a harp to ravers  in the middle of the floor.

The beauty of electronic music is that it requires more proximity between performers and audience than a lot of other forms right now—at Paragon, there are no great gulfs between the stage and the audience. 

"It's a bizarre cocktail of locals, tourists, ravers, goths, artists, yuppies, young brats and old-timers from just about every demographic you can imagine," Barclay said of the typical crowd, describing it as "our own little utopia.” 

And more utopian links for your Friday:

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