MANHATTAN, NY—The last Saturday of each month serves as the occasion for a gathering of the metro area’s lively steampunk community. The drinking, dining and listening event, dubbed “Chronologie,” is the brainchild of impresario Sir William Welles, who together with in-house manager Guvnor Michael Fratz, has been hosting the theme party at Lillie’s Times Square since the summer of 2012. Each event strives to promote a theme. This occasion it was The Nutcracker Sweet, a pun referring to both the seasonally popular Tchaikovsky ballet and the distribution of sweets in the form of free cookies and cupcakes to the guests. The consistent, but by no means mandatory refreshment, is absinthe, the drink of the Age Of Steam, banned during the past century in the States until a very few years back, now favored as the naughty drink of the new millennium.
Welles also serves as the DJ, treating Edwardian-attired nostalgia buffs to an eclectic mix of the wide-ranging and multiple steampunk styles, which includes everything from industrial beats to early 20th century ragtime. At any given time, the crowd of antique-costumed New Romantics may be grooving to depression-era swing, synthetic jams or Fred Astaire’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” A very modern, electro-alternative version of “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairies” was included in the playlist. The minor key, banjo and violin-driven syncopated rhythms of steampunk icons Abney Park most closely fit the musical sense of the evening.
The establishment, Lillie’s, is an architectural jaw-dropper of high Victorian style with sky-high ceilings, stone columns, framed artwork, sculpture, sconces, candelabras and a balcony, which sometimes serves as the stage whenever there are live performers.
The menu is interesting, the food excellent, and the prices reasonable. Not everyone at Lillie’s was there for Chronologie. Most were just “civilian” Times Square tourist imbibers and diners who enjoyed gawking at the top-hatted, begoggled and anachronistically attired insiders. A survey of the ultra-sociable Chronologie attendees turned up a mix of actors and actresses, promoters, artists, literary types and just plain entertainment seekers. There were a number of goth-scene crossovers in attendance, including Welles himself, who hosts dark-themed events around the city and puts up the elaborate events website, New Goth City, plus a widely read Facebook page under his own name. Multi-talented and highly recognizable goth celebrity Voltaire was briefly the center of attention by sincerely impressed, photo taking Japanese tourists.
Chronologie, while certainly not the only opportunity for denizens of this retro-futuristic crowd to gather, looks like it may serve as the flagship event for the greater NYC steampunk community. Everyone in attendance seemed to be having the time of their lives, eager to share their enthusiasm for this esoteric craze and to network with others interested in exploring the scene further.