When they arrive at You Are So Lucky, the mysterious three-day spectacle this weekend in which “125 artists, musicians, and performers are taking over an abandoned gothic manor at the edge of the city,” the first thing attendees will see are the sprawling 33-acre grounds of a 72-room Gilded Age mansion overlooking the Hudson.
In some ways the venue itself is the headliner, said renowned underground party impresario Will Etundi, one of the organizers. “The grounds are incredible. Grass at your feet, the open sky, a sweeping view of the Palisades,” he said. “It feels like you are in a fairy tale, with old mansions, trees, old statuary, rock formations….You are right on the edge of New York City but it feels like you are a few hundred miles, and a few hundred years, away.”
Canadian music act Bob Moses will play with the mansion as backdrop. Behind the crowd will be a tent village with hot tubs and massages – “something fun and warm and a little decadent.” At night the mansion will be illuminated against the skyline. And that’s just the outside.
Although You Are So Lucky promises a “landscape of music, performance, and spectacle,” including live music from Wolf + Lamb, Chaim, and others, the event has far greater ambitions than a mere concert. Created by the same people behind last year’s decadent Halloween party, this one will again transform Yonkers’ Alder Manor into an immersive cabaret-style event with “experiences” produced by House of Yes, The Box, and Shanghai Mermaid.
You Are So Lucky is the culmination of a cultural movement that first started almost 20 years ago, said Etundi. “During the late ’90s and early 2000s there was this incredibly fertile underground arts scene in Bushwick,” from which came the Brooklyn warehouse scene and cabaret venues like House of Yes.
Etundi is best known as the man behind the TheDanger series of sensational and usually illegal pop-up warehouse parties. In a nod to the anarchistic spirit behind the events, they were known as “temporary autonomous zones.” One typical party included “[a] hot tub, circus swings, art and film installations and ten simultaneous live acts,” noted Untapped Cities in 2010. “As usual, it was a glorious mess and nudity was encouraged.”
“It was about just creating our own reality,” said Etundi. “A ‘sub-New York’ way of being within the city.”
You Are So Lucky is the heir to that creative impulse. Created as a central organizing entity for the somewhat amorphous underground arts scene, it will be a “home to all of us underground producers and underground artists to create something special that lasts.”
Among the party’s driving personalities is event producer Kevin Balktick, whose separate outfit Winkel & Balktick is best known for throwing a Day of the Dead party at Green-Wood Cemetery and turning the former Pfizer plant into a “a massive carnival party palace.”
Once guests enter Alder Manor this weekend, they’ll navigate “four levels of experiences.” The basement level is called the Dragon’s Den. It’s “not like any basement you’ve ever seen,” explained Etundi. Built originally as an elaborate replica of a Ming Dynasty palace, the 20,000-square-foot space is filled with “unrestored, decrepit, but gorgeous original woodwork and paintings, all from 1912 when the house was built.”
On the ground floor upstairs guests will drink cocktails while listening to live jazz. The upper floors are dedicated to an “exploratory” cabaret act by House of Yes called House of Truth – “a little bit dangerous, a little bit sexy.” Then, hidden away in the former servants’ quarters, is “Pretty Box” by The Box – an installation project where each small room features a private performance from a different artist.
The artists and acts overlap, but the run of show for each day is slightly different: Friday is “an extravagant dessert-dinner” for members and supporters of You Are So Lucky. Saturday is the major public event, with all the headliners and main talent. Sunday is a “thank you” for members and staff – a lamb-roast brunch with a Wolf + Lamb performance.
The plan for You Are So Lucky going forward is two events a year – a Halloween party and a mid-summer event. Etundi wants these to be “a more sustainable institution for everybody – legal, aboveboard, but keeping that raw spirit alive.”
Currently the events do not accept corporate sponsorship; instead You Are So Lucky draws the bulk of its support from a “member base” of about a thousand people, who previously paid for membership packages ranging from $155 to $1,500. Tickets for Saturday’s festivities range from $88 to $188.
Although Etundi wants You Are So Lucky to be financially self-sustaining, turning a profit is not a priority yet. “Right now we are really building this as something we want to feel as artful as possible and as uncommercial as possible. We are still holding onto our uncommercial renegade roots…No sponsorships, keeping ticket prices [accessible], getting all the artists paid a market rate.”
You Are So Lucky has a small full-time staff of four – but about 250 people are working on this weekend’s party. The performers include dancer Katherine Crockett, Anya Sapozhnikova and Kae Burke of House of Yes, and singer Daisy Press.
Four or five thousand people are expected this weekend. For those who miss it, of course, Etundi and his gang of merry jesters are already planning Halloween.
Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to a location that will no longer be used; references have been removed from the story and headline.