Doing It Right

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Inspired by Ibiza, DJ Nicolas Matar Opened Cielo. Ten Years On, It Remains the Jewel in NYC Nightlife.

New York City – A full decade ago, Manhattan nightlife was enduring another of its periodic shifts. The legendary Twilo had closed —and, relatively speaking, Arc and Centro-Fly weren’t far behind.

In between those shut-downs, the city’s DJ/dance-club scene essentially had morphed into two extremes. The purists loved the rawer black-box spaces, like Arc, which sported a music-first attitude and a kick-ass Phazon sound system. But the financial realities of NYC saw the transition to glitzier venues, like Centro-Fly, which placed more emphasis toward bottle-service customers. Top jocks played both kinds of spots, but the vibe was changing to a more upscale scene. Not everyone was pleased.

The next phase, in retrospect, made plenty of sense. But, as is often the case, it took a DJ to get it right, and he did it by combining the best of both worlds.

That’s what Nicolas Matar did when he created Cielo in 2003. Located on Little West 12th Street in the Meatpacking District, the 250-capacity Cielo offers tasteful décor with unobtrusive bottle-service areas, while delivering a well-curated lineup of DJ talent playing on one of the tightest Funktion-One sound systems you’ll ever hear. Just descend into Cielo’s dancefloor and feel the sweet spot—you’ll quickly understand what all the fuss is about.

Like many before him, Matar took his inspiration from Ibiza, where he DJed at the original Pacha from 1993-2001, years before it became a major global destination. But he took the island’s pure house-music ethic and parlayed that into something special on Manhattan’s West Side.

As it celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Cielo continues to host some of NYC’s best DJ residencies—Deep Space with François K, Roots with Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge, Vibal with Tedd Patterson, and Paradizo with Matar and Willie Graff among them. Additionally, diverse global talent—from Damian Lazarus to Cosmic Gate—continues to grace Cielo’s DJ booth.

So, just as Matar was kick-starting another club in nearby Brooklyn—OutPut in Williamsburg—we connected with the Cielo DJ/owner and reflected on how a DJ’s touch helped transform New York’s clubland.

DJ Times: I read that your father was a Studio 54 regular and you had a nightclub in your basement. What do you remember about that time and how it impacted your interest in DJ/dance culture?

Matar: In the late ’70s and early ’80s, my father built a small nightclub in our basement in Washington, D.C., inspired by his frequent trips to New York to party at Xenon, Studio 54. My father would occasionally throw parties for his friends and play disco records. This exposure to disco/soul/funk/jazz in the formative years definitely influenced me musically and laid the
foundations for my future career in dance culture.

DJ Times: Do you remember a couple records that you loved from that era?

Matar: Sure—Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker,” George Benson’s “Give me the Night,” Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” Teddy Pendergrass’ “The More I Get” and Grace Jones’ “La Vie En Rose.”

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