Sunday, January 28, 2007

Flaming Cheese

The past few weeks we've been hearing more and more about Esko Lounge (Downtown)- the newest, upscale nightlife spot in Metro Detroit. Saturday night, with a little guestlist help from DJ Tom T, one of us was finally able to make the stop. Here we go with the full-on review...

Esko Lounge is another typical, trendy club in downtown Detroit. If you've been to Elysium Lounge (Downtown) or Plan B (Downtown), you should know what to expect. If you haven't, well, you should try it. Despite what is going to be a generally negative review of the club, we want to encourage all our readers to get out and experience everything this city has to offer.
Getting to Esko Lounge is pretty easy. It's a short distance away from the Woodward Ave roundabout, just down Michigan Ave. The biggest drawback to its location is there isn't much else around. Without any safe curbside parking nearby, you're forced into picking between a $10 lot and a $10 valet; factor in cover at the door, and it can make for a costly night. On a side note, coat check was only $2 or $3 and not mandatory.

When I dropped in just before 11p there didn't seem to be a line. As with most clubs, things get busy around 12/1230, so I'm expecting that lines probably started forming outside of Esko just before midnight. But even when I arrived, the valet guys were already scrambling around without any visible order. I'll come back to that ordeal later.

Inside Moves
I really enjoyed the layout at Esko. A giant bar fills the majority of the space, while the reserved couches+tables are roped off out of the way. Be careful when walking up to the bar, especially if you've got heels, because there's a small wood trim on the ground that's easy to trip over. The DJ booth sits up on high in the back corner, overlooking a decent sized dance floor. The walls were decked out in custom-painted MIO Flow wallpaper tiles, and the place is fairly well lit. Unfortunately, someone decided it would also be cool to put up a giant screen and project a really lame video of people dancing. Later in the night the video was killed and the screen sat empty. I'm not against using video in a club, but bring in a real VJ. Otherwise, put up more wall tiles.

By 1230a, things started to heat up. Literally. It got so busy that it wasn't only difficult to move, but it was getting tremendously hot. Guys and drunk girls were stumbling and bumping into everyone, forcing more than one drink to spill on the woman next to me. Esko Lounge should substantially decrease their capacity.

Black is Back?
Everyone I saw Saturday night was dressed fairly well. The problem was most guys looked identical. The number of black sport coats on guys was overwhelming, as was the amount of gel in their hair. We all know you can't really go wrong with a nice jacket, but if you know everybody is going to be rockin' the Express blazer, why not go for something different? Considering I had no problem getting in with mashed up jeans and a short shirt, I'm fairy certain Esko's dress code policy is pretty much wide open. If you're a guy, wear something else. And no, that doesn't mean you can wear your favorite striped button up shirt.

If you're a woman, find some color in your wardrobe if you have any desire to stand out. By far and away the most appealing of the opposite sex where those in whites and/or color. Save the little black dress for when you have a date and aren't with a dozen friends or going out to be seen. Avoid tank tops with jeans, unless you're a celebrity.

The crowd fits the same general bill as the other clubs I mentioned earlier; guys from their mid-20s to mid-30s, women from 21 to 35. Most guests fell into one or two ethnic categories, with blacks and whites in the minority. I really hope this changes. Metro Detroit is cluster fuck of races and nationalities, and it would be a pleasure to see a more diverse crowd. Although, part of the general lack of diversity could be attributed to the fact roughly SIX birthday parties were happening Saturday night. Thanks god I didn't see flyers advertising this, like I have so many times before. On the plus side of things, there wasn't as much smoking as I had expected. All of us at Exclusive Detroit hope the trend continues and that ash trays get tossed into VIP rooms or thrown outside.

Put Your Hands Down
The music at Esko was great in the beginning, but as the crowd picks up, it inevitably turns to the standard dance tracks and playlists found everywhere else. It would be nice to hear some of the newer tracks coming out Ministry of Sound+Hed Kandi, and even some older Data Records releases that have yet to be played here. Detroit needs to stop waiting for tracks to hit, and start making them hit. Being able to read the crowd and play to them is fine- but if the crowd isn't informed, the music will never make any progress. DJs should stop listening to what the crowd wants, and take a chance in giving them what they need. There are too many great tracks to hear the same ones over and over again every weekend. If I have to wait for a Hed Kandi DJ to come to town just to hear some of these songs, something is very wrong with this city and Fedde Le Grand might want to reconsider the lyrics of his latest offering.

Up until 1ish the night was going well. Ignoring all the typical problems that plague every club in Detroit (because most clubs are identical), I was having a great time and more than pleased I got off my ass to make the drive. But then some guys stood up on the bar. Dancing? No- because that would have been fine. They were blowing fire or whatever you want to call it. They weren't flipping around bottles on fire, or playing catch with them. They weren't even dressed up. To anyone in the crowd who was amazed, I'd recommend you stay away from Zack's Restaurant in Plymouth. Because if you're thrilled by someone spitting a little bit of paraffin onto a flame, you're going to have a heart attack when someone places an order of Saganaki. OPA!!!

Left in the Cold
When I jumped out to leave, I was standing with 10 other people; six of whom were waiting for a valet, and 4 of whom were begging for change. Cars and SUVs were everywhere, but no valet in sight. I don't mind the homeless really. They've saved parking spots for me, watched my car, and cleaned my windshield with dirty water. But if you're the owner of Esko Lounge, you can't allow them to be standing outside your doors- especially if your valet crew is going to be so damn slow. By the time I finally got my car back, half of my CDs were under my feet. Apparently their valet drivers like to accelerate fast and stop on a dime... because that's the only way my CDs could have slid from my console.

Esko Lounge, for all it's problems, shows a great deal of potential. I can't comment too much on the bar staff since I ordered only two drinks... (but, they did seem kind of slow and unorganized). If the parking/valet situation was better, the crowd was a little less dense, and the music had a wider variety of sounds, Esko Lounge might just be the premier venue in Detroit.

ps. If you're wondering why it's called "Esko," I can't tell you. When I looked up the word on wikipedia, all I found was this.