Berlin hosted the launch of a new John Varvatos fragrance on Tuesday with special guest, Badflower. No, Berlin isn’t 2A, the defiantly extant 80’s booze-hut on the corner of 2nd and Avenue A. On the subject, its post-modern label and design overtones and famous—or notorious—sweeping vantage of the neighborhood’s rhythm, has a rich legacy in overlooking the 80’s vibrant drug trade across the street. Ironically, that is exactly the tableaux that entrepreneur Jesse Malin wanted to retain with his newest iteration, Berlin, which is hunkered down below 2A. Malin, the nightlife wunderkind that helmed other venues south of 14th street, wanted to retain the same anti-monochromatic and gentrification sentiment with Berlin, which opened in early August. And after descending a narrow staircase, a dark prince awaited on a pedestal — John Varvatos’s Dark Rebel — and for being such a badass, it was polite in receiving the paparazzi.
Berlin is a perfect underbelly for his dark highness, as the second room opens up to a grotto verging on vampiric but with a Casablanca and neo-noir appeal. Or the space can be imagined as if you were in an underground World War II French bunker with chandeliers. The low, curved red brick ceilings also included a manhole adornment adding to the experience. Right below, bottles of the black magic and a sampler were splayed out over an expansive wooden bar looking onto an intimate performance stage dressed up with blue velvet curtains and stark dramatic lighting, very, well, “Blue Velvet.”
The man of the hour, John Varvatos, finally snuck into a packed house happily buzzed on its second drink. He took the stage and spoke about the inspiration behind the fragrance. He related the cologne’s theme of darkness to light to Detroit’s slow economic convalescence—Detroit, being his hometown. But in keeping in tune to his infatuation with rock and roll music, he associated the fragrance’s masculine and exotic tonalities to the transgressive, lone wolf, rock and roll icons and to all other contrarians. For being such a tight space, Varvatos was still very social, as my girlfriend and I even managed to get a Midwest orientated conversation and handshake in.
Anthony Sonetti, Alex Espiritu, Josh Katz, Joey Morrow, Badflower
Dark Rebel’s bottle looks like it came out of a vampire chronicle filled with dark potion. The exterior is laced in leather and the glass resembles a chunk of obsidian and a crown-like cap fit for a dark lord. Defiant but mysterious, its goth mock-up isn’t a cheap thrill. The scent is an erotic, audacious, and unorthodox rendering that expresses the inner animal. The fragrance opens with golden Jamaican rum and oak barrel-aged Kentucky bourbon, which syncs with the warm spices of davana essence, clary sage enriched essence, and Ceylonese cardamom absolute. The cologne wears into the skin as the top accords absorb into its wild heart infused with exotic dragon skull flower, sweet woody tonalities, nutmeg, cracked leather, and black pepper. Akigalawood Mexican blackened vanilla beans, cade essence, castoreum, balsawood, and dark, redolent tobacco leaves round out the alpha base, which lingers like an attitude.
JOHN VARVATOS Dark Rebel-mosphere
And Badflower was instrumental in sounding off the cologne’s dissident ethos. Badflower is a nascent rock band based in L.A. for the moment but will soon be streaming everywhere. Their sound is very 90’s, thank god, with no industrial sound additives. And they carry themselves with self-assurance in that they don’t care how they’re rubber stamped or put in box and self-awareness that their sound has a different halo. Badflower is no doubt 90’s alternative rock as if it had survived the era’s demise with the last living strain and has been wandering the earth since. Their lyrics embody grunge with angst-fueled themes of confinement, alienation, obsession, rage, and love. Distortion and audio feedback effects hang in the air with ambient and twisted riffs as tones vacillate from sleepy power ballad to rage bender. Led by frontman Josh Katz, with Joey Morrow on lead guitar, Alex Espiritu on bass, and Anthony Sonetti on drums.
Before they end up on all your playlists, check them out at badflowermusic.com.