Discover what makes Cielo survive and thrive in the underground house music world.
With historic clubs closing around the world, it’s always worth celebrating another year that an underground electronic music venue continues to bring good vibes and good music to the people. When that venue has been keeping the legendary house music scene of New York City alive for 14 years, that’s even more reason for celebration. On Saturday January 21st, Cielo will be hosting an epic anniversary party featuring what they do best: bringing top quality music from local and global talent to an enthusiastic and authentic crowd. Since 2003, Cielo has been succeeding through their dedication to the best of what the music has to offer: a supportive community, unlimited passion for the music, and an unrivaled sound system.
With residents Sleepy & Boo and legendary DJ Jody Wisternoff providing the soundtrack to their party, Cielo’s anniversary celebration will be a showcase of all that has made them such a successful and long lasting home for house music.
With a legendary dance music history, NYC must be a uniquely challenging and rewarding scene to be a part of. How do you feel Cielo continues to keep that underground spirit alive, and what do you think are the greatest challenges and benefits of doing so?
New York is one of the greatest cities in the world for dance music culture and history but it has become a very challenging place to run a nightclub. We’ve always put music first at Cielo, and we’ve always made Cielo a home for music-lovers, dancers, DJs – the real aficionados who want to hear house music the way it should be presented. The music that lasts, the most important and authentic international artists always emerge from the underground, so we’ve always made that a key part of our programming. When Cielo opened, there were no other venues like it in Manhattan at the time. For people who wanted to go to a boutique nightclub, Cielo was the only option. We were the first club in North America to have a Funktion One sound system. And great DJs from all over the world loved playing here. So that’s what Cielo was known for from the beginning, and that is what has driven us for all of these years. We have focused on the long term instead of trying to chase after something that won’t last very long.
What qualities do you think have enabled Cielo to continue to thrive in the NYC nightlife?
We believe in consistency. It’s been a really important part of Cielo’s longevity.
We’ve always put quality music first, along with world-class sound, and we have not deviated much from that idea since day one. The design and look of Cielo has not changed much, aside from a few key upgrades over the years. So people know what to expect when they come to Cielo. And we have worked with a lot of DJs and promoters for many years now. François K was doing Deep Space here every week for 13 years. Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge have been doing Roots on Wednesdays for almost 13 years In addition, we’ve always been welcoming to new DJs and new sounds. Cielo is a place for all kinds of dance music.
Do you feel the industry and scene has changed since the beginning of Cielo? What has remained the same?
Yes for sure. There’s been a lot of changes. 14 years is an eternity in nightlife, but Cielo was planned to have a long run. The goal from the outset was to build a club that would be a long-lasting anchor for the New York music scene. Obviously a lot of nightlife has shifted to Brooklyn now, and some of the DJs that used to play Cielo have gotten much bigger. There’s more competition now for bookings than when Cielo started. But there’s always going to be a place in New York for a club like Cielo, and that’s why we have not deviated much from our original mission. It’s become an international destination for people who want to come to New York and go to a nightclub, as well as a venue that is dedicated to our local scene.
What inspired the lineup of Jody Wisternoff and Sleepy & Boo for your 14th anniversary? What can the audience expect?
Every year for our anniversary party we like to do something different. We always invite artists that are a good fit with Cielo’s mission and philosophy. Jody Wisternoff is someone who has played at Cielo several times before, and musically, he is a great fit with what we do. His work with Anjunadeep is a very modern and contemporary evolution of deep house, which is a sound that has been associated with Cielo since we opened. So he’s someone who represents both the past and the future of house music. Sleepy & Boo are residents of Cielo, and have been DJing here for a long time, both as headliners and support DJs. They have a great relationship with Jody, and in fact they were the first DJs who brought him to Cielo for a guest appearance several years ago. I think the audience can expect a really good night of music and celebration with some top quality DJs.
Sleepy & Boo are staples of the underground NYC scene; whether bringing the vibes from behind the decks or behind the scenes, the duo always keeps the groove in the forefront. As residents of Cielo and hosts of Illusion nights at the club, it was a perfect fit to have them open the gates for the 14th anniversary party. I had to get their perspective:
When did you first get involved with Cielo? What was your first experience like?
We’ve been a part of Cielo for quite a few years now – the first time we ever DJed there was when we opened for Mark Farina on a Thursday night. That was back in the Fall of 2006. We were really excited, because to play at Cielo meant playing on New York’s best sound system at the time. It was quite an honor, and to be honest, it still feels like that. And since that first night we’ve DJed at Cielo countless times now, and we have so many great memories; all the experiences really stand out to us. We’ve headlined for our own residencies, and we’ve DJed along with some amazing guests – Chris Liebing, Joris Voorn, Kaskade, Danny Howells, Gui Boratto, James Zabiela, so many more. What’s great about DJing at Cielo is that every time is unique, every time you meet new people, you see old friends, and you get to play your music on that amazing Funktion One sound system. And for DJs that’s always a thrill.
What do you enjoy most about DJing and hosting your “Illusion” nights there?
Illusion is our second multi-year residency at Cielo and to be able to have our own night there for several years now means a lot to us. Technically, it’s such a great club to play in. The sound system is top notch, and always has been. The lights are amazing, the room’s acoustics are excellent. So when you get into that booth and you’re ready to start DJing you know everything is good to go and you can just get right into your set. The people that come to Cielo love to dance, and as DJs and producers, we get excited thinking about how a certain track will sound there, or knowing we can try out some of our own original tracks in our set before they go out to labels. Our Illusion night reflects where we are at musically and philosophically – the idea that our reality is created by ourselves – and it’s really satisfying to be able to put our own night together, curate the openers, and really present a unified vibe from start to finish. There’s not a lot of places in New York where you can do that with such a great venue at your disposal.
Check out Jody Wisternoff’s latest episode of Intensified & get in the groove: