I first met Larry Tee while I was sulking through a late-’90s NA meeting. He had burnt out with all the other legendary club kids, but he was irrepressibly cheerful and bent on giving addicts pep talks. He played me a demo of his new sobriety anthem, “Lullaby,” up at his East Village studio. Bobbing his bald head up and down as he tweaked the bass, he explained that the glory days of drug-fuelled insanity in the clubs were over: If he didn’t stay clean, he’d never make a comeback. I nodded politely and relapsed on my way home. Tee stayed sober, migrated to Williamsburg and concocted hipster Electroclash. Ah, the power of staying clean.
Friday night at Webster Hall, Tee was busy reinventing himself again. Spinning tracks from his new album, Club Badd, he was pumping his fist and hugging a few holdovers from club scenes gone by. Mostly the crowd skewed young. A girl in an ultra-short zebra-print dress greeted the term “Electroclash,” with a ditzy grin. “What’s that?” she asked.
Bridging the generation divide was blond electro songstress Roxy Cottontail. As she rolled her red-crinoline-skirted hips along with the echoing house beat, I asked her what she thought the kids were on tonight. She looked out at the main dance floor, where management had plunked bottle service tables down. Rolling her eyes, she said: “Alcohol.”
After his set, Tee made it clear he didn’t make it this far by looking back. In his high-pitched Southern accent, he said he hated bottle service but wasn’t depressed about it: “I’m a jaded fuck myself. The temptation is to say [the clubs] suck. But there’s a lot of good music.” I told him that a lot of the kids in the crowd never even heard about his last big thing. Letting out a trilling laugh, he said, “That’s perfect!” His eyes magnified behind comically thick glasses, he continued, “It’s not a bad thing for me if they don’t have any references.”