September 19, 2007

Pixel: Ithaca’s Version of a Club

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Smashed between a barbershop and Subway on Dryden Ave. is an unsuspecting alley that leads to a parking lot, the back end of the 317 Eddy apartment complex, and one of the best clubs in Ithaca, the Pixel Lounge. Featuring hip-hop and electronica DJs nearly every night of the week, Pixel is the perfect spot to dance when the music moves you and drink some top-shelf liquor in between dollar draft night and Group Therapy. If those two don’t do it for you, the spot offers a twist on darts and pool with a full arcade of old-school games like Miss Pac Man and Street Fighter and a constant stream of movies on projection.
The lounge’s décor is really quite striking. In what must’ve once been a drab concrete building, owner Jim Frenette has commissioned local and New York City graffiti artists to spray freely on the outside walls. Frenette also encourages local artists to bring shows to the bar’s inside walls, and in the rotation right now is a series of thought-provoking stencils by Christian Taranto who also works the door some nights. A DJ table sits waiting to be scratched in the back corner, and on the DJ’s left hand side is an enormous screen on which old kung fu, anime, and noir movies are constantly projected. With a minimum of color and mood lighting to boot, Pixel is as enjoyable as it is partially because it’s so uniquely appointed.
Last week I headed up from my house on Stewart Ave. on a few different nights to try to get a feel for an average week at Pixel. As much as I appreciate any club that’s willing to take risks in the music it features like Pixel does, I wouldn’t recommend expecting a wild night until at least Thursday or Friday. Open hip-hop night with DJ Double A and Cypher: Dissident on Wednesday was nearly empty if you don’t count the 4-year-old that accompanied his father to the bar. Rather, my night is Saturday night, when CD Nutz brings in a crate of electronica and trance records. Although I believe it’s on the upswing, electronic dance music really hasn’t hit America yet in the way it’s taken over other parts of the world, and in Ithaca especially it’s almost impossible to find a club that’ll play it.
Not so on Pixel Saturdays – CD Nutz in my mind is definitely as skilled in his precise control of the dance floor as the European DJs I enjoyed this past summer at the Fusion Festival, an insane four-day party with electronica playing for 96 hours straight in the German countryside. There’s just something about the combination of a repetitive drone of drum and bass plus slight melodic variations with a toy piano or small ensemble of voices that makes the music infectious.
Besides these two elements that literally envelop your entire body in the music, a good DJ can also control your emotions with a well-timed break of silence or melodic theme change. CD Nutz is always on point when it comes to all these elements, and with a great bar backing him up, Pixel has brought everything important to a great night out under one roof.