From House to Home: Reflections on NYC’s Cielo and Output

Lauren Krieger

The dance music community can often feel like family – sharing the same love, experiencing the same emotions, and listening and learning from the same sources. For some, their communities are spread across the globe, but for others, they will find their families are close at hand. And of course, every family needs a home: a place where they can return to, a place where they feel comfortable and loved for who they are. And when conditions are just right, a perfect venue ends up creating that home, that place where you can meet kindred spirits and form lasting bonds while experiencing the best that the electronic music community has to offer. As Tara Brooks shares, “When our music and our community come together, magic happens. And the vibes, and the love, and the energy is something you can’t get every day.”

For a group of dedicated DJs, producers, and music lovers in the Underground New York City scene, this home was Cielo.

It was my home for years. I worked there, I played there, I met some of my best friends there.

Reka Nyari

Opening its doors in 2003, the Manhattan club became an anomaly in the industry, a “club for clubbers” where the focus was 100% on the music and those who dedicated their lives to it. Created with the community in mind, Cielo followed in the footsteps of the origins of the NYC disco movement of the ’70s, where the connection between people was paramount to their success in the scene. With so much love put into the creation of the club, it was inevitable that love was felt when you were there.

When you think about the staff at Cielo, it was really constant, consistent. People stayed there for a long time. I initially got that job only for a couple of months, and it’s 13 years later and I was still there. It just draws you in, it’s this wonderful family community. I have forged some amazing relationships, just from that club. I think Benny said it once, “it’s like a group of misfits”.

Mary Trimble

A perfect venue made you feel up close & personal with every beat of a song, of a track that brought us all together. Which is what nightlife to me, is all about.

Anthony Lamont

Not only designed to provide a top quality sonic experience for the audience, Cielo and its sister club Output were made with the DJ in mind. This is where the music mattered, and where it would always be the focus of the night. With local regulars rocking the Funktion Ones, the clubs soon became a go-to destination for international DJs who wanted to experience their exceptional events for themselves. The Wild Dark brothers say that “Cielo and Output always brought out the best in us. They were two clubs who really put the DJ first.”

It’s like an anomaly in the nightclub industry, Cielo. It was this little club, a tiny little intimate club where most of the huge house DJs, the top DJs in the world played at Cielo for a fraction of their fee. They loved the intimacy of the room.

Mary Trimble

The right energy and the right music brought together at the right place and at the right time, created that feeling of home which kept family members returning night after night. Kevin Williams shares, “Cielo was my home away from home. The staff was totally family to me. Brooklyn’s my home and Output was my living room.” When suddenly that home was gone, it left a hole in the hearts of all who became connected to it. In December of 2018, Cielo announced it was closing, and with it went the memories of 15 years of the connections formed and communities grown within its walls.

What will be missed more than anything by me, is the communities that were formed around these two clubs, and the people, and the relationships that you make when a venue is open for so many years. You form bonds, you form friendships, you look forward to seeing people so that you share this common bond, which is the music. And for me, that’s the biggest loss… these communities.

Benny Soto

Soon after, it was announced that Output would be following suit. Located in Brooklyn, Output opened a decade after Cielo, and soon became a sanctuary for a new generation of the community who together made it their home. With the world becoming more obsessed with “being seen” rather than seeing, Output had a strict no photos / videos rule that set the tone from the beginning. They found that other clubs were more concerned with celebrity appearances than creating experiences, and Output set out to do the opposite. According to Phillip Jung, “It was only 6 years, but I think it changed the whole scene.” In their closing announcement last December, the clubs writes: “When OUTPUT launched in 2013 it was Brooklyn’s first full-sized licensed venue dedicated to House and Techno. The mission was to establish a proper home for the music-focused underground which had been displaced by Manhattan’s wealth and celebrity-obsessed nightlife, one that would hopefully do justice to the city’s long history of leadership in the global club scene and measure up to the top international destinations of the day.”

It was where people could connect and be completely free from social media, and their phones for a night out and really go back to how our scene first started, which was all about the music, and all about the dancing. And from 8 hour to 10 hours on some nights, it was a place to completely escape from the regular world. Both places will be missed, but I think leaving on a high note for both places is probably the most honorable thing we can expect from such legendary nightlife spots, and I am blessed to have spent time in both of them and shared some amazing experiences and memories.

Kaz Qamruddin

While not related or intending to close simultaneously, the changing local landscapes and an intention to stay true to their purpose without sacrificing ideals meant two house music homes were suddenly gone. Leaving an emptiness in their wake, Cielo and Output’s family and fans were left missing what had been an important part of their lives for many years.

There’s no other place in New York that really celebrates house music, the way Output and Cielo do… where else would we go now?

Reka Nyari

To honor the closing of Output, John Digweed played a marathon NYE set with an opening by Tara Brooks. It was a fitting end to an era, especially for Niki McNally whose career was influenced by Digweed and his business-savvy, technical expertise, and dedication to the music. Niki felt a draw to do something herself to honor the memory of these landmark venues, and she was inspired to dedicate her time, energy, and emotions to tell the story in the best way she knows how: through music.

Niki’s DEEP show Reflections has been her go-to avenue for expression for several years, always featuring a theme that is close to her heart in a unique and meaningful way. Feeling heartbroken by not being able to attend the closing parties at both Output and Cielo, Niki was driven by a desire to contribute to the memories created by these special places.

Reaching out to the clubs’ families, she connected with people like Mary Trimble who has been on the scene since the ’70s and has seen clubs come and go, to Benny Soto who has been a part of Cielo since the beginning and hosted the renowned DANCE.HERE.NOW parties along with Anthony Lamont. DJs, investors, socialites, and staff were reached out to give their comments on what Cielo and Output meant to them; their audio recordings captured for posterity and edited to become a part of a Reflections mix that would represent the importance and value of these magical places. What better way to capture the essence of a club than through a DJ mix?

Putting her passion, emotion, and energy into this project, Niki has created a mix that will not only capture the words and thoughts of what the underground New York scene is all about, but will be a tribute to the best of what electronic music has to offer. Community, connection, and creativity unite people everywhere. And even if you’ve never been to Cielo or Output, you know the feeling that a place like that creates, the freedom that comes from expressing yourself on the dance floor or behind the decks, enjoying the rhythm and melodies that unite us.

It’s a beautiful thing to remember, meeting most of your friends in a moment, in a dance, listening to music. Cielo, what magic. What magic I made there, what magic was made there. What memories… so sad to see it go, but so grateful it existed.

Benna Douglas
Benny Soto

The positive thing about these clubs closing is that we can create new opportunities and new communities and we can create new experiences for new people with new sounds, so it’s definitely not over. The beat goes on.

Benny Soto

While it feels like the end of an era, those who were most affected by the loss of the venues still remain hopeful for the future of the NYC underground scene. As Kaz Qamruddin shares, “Long live Output, long live Cielo, and I look forward to seeing what New York has coming up next.”

And of course, the memories can never be taken away. The words of those who provided their thoughts on the clubs were full of fondness and appreciation for the memories such as Mary Trimble saying, “I will always remember Cielo, and I think Cielo will always be remembered.” and Delicia Glam’s words, “One thing is for sure, we will hold onto those memories and those experiences they’ve had in our lives”. Taimur Agha also shares, “It’s something that I won’t forget for the rest of my life and I’m happy to say that I’ve been part of it.”

While all things must change, the love for music and the friendships and family it creates will always remain the same. Through music, we realize that no matter what happens, or wherever life takes us, we will always be able to listen again and find ourselves at home. And so, the beat goes on.

Tune into this special episode of Reflections live on April 11th @ 12PM EST [convert timezone] and listen on demand anytime after the premiere with a FRISKY Premium Subscription & on our Mobile Apps.