For 20 years now, Alan Tibaldeo, better known as Alan T, has worked the crowd at the NE 11th Street club, first overseeing the VIP section and, more recently, as the lead doorman.
He's hard to miss, invariably dressed in vibrant garb, wielding a megaphone and the pizzazz of showman who isn't there merely to scan your ticket. He keeps it fluid, enthralling impatient ravers with endless stories from his career. Whether you're entering or exiting, a chat with Tibaldeo can make you forget you came to Space to dance.
Now 55, Tibaldeo has been an architect, visual artist, and larger-than-life cultural icon. (And in 1996, he lent his persona and his vocal to a dance-music anthem, "The Door.")
It's been three months since Tibaldeo last manned the door at Space, but he was in high spirits when New Times caught up with him by phone earlier this month.
"I've been cooking the house down," Tibaldeo says, explaining that his subscription to a farm-to-home delivery service has been running him ragged. "It makes you really have to cook and get inventive. I was making a stew at 2 a.m.!"
When he's not in the kitchen creating sustainably farmed feasts, Tibaldeo is offering a service wherein producers can contact him via Instagram and commission him to make them a vocal track. "I've been hammering them out," he says, explaining that the remote nature of the transaction actually makes the process run more smoothly. "It's very approachable — it's like hiring a plumber to unclog your toilet!"
He says he has received requests from DJs on the LGBT scene and the straight electronic underground scene, including England's leading techno DJ, Nicole Moudaber.
"We've been going back and forth," he says. "She's super-focused on catching up on projects."
In April, producer Jesus Montañez tapped Tibelado to work on the deep and inherently tribal track, "Extasis Drama." And during the initial peak of the pandemic, he collaborated with the Israeli DJ and producer Guy Scheiman on the timely "Stay the F%ck Home," an EDM-style PSA in which Tibaldeo repeatedly shouts, "Stay the fuck home!" and tweaks a lyric from "The Door" — "Fierceness is always welcomed" — to a more coronavirus-appropriate "Social distancing is always welcomed."
To his surprise, Tibelado's work is popping up in some unexpected quarters. In April, Belgian duo Joyhuaser dropped the track "Fierceness," which was featured on the yearly compilation album from the immensely popular Swedish techno label, Drumcode. The melodic and hard-hitting techno cut samples Tibelado's vocals from "The Door."
"When the original was released, we were only youngsters," Joyhauser's Stijn Vanspauwen and Joris Cielen tell New Times via email. "Here in Belgium, we remember the a cappella was being used a lot in DJ sets, more like a vocal tool. It was only after releasing 'Fierceness' we realized it's quite famous in America. We received a lot of messages of people recognizing the vocal and praising the use of it. It's nice to give it some sort of revamp in that way. It's still relevant nowadays; you definitely notice that."
Vanspauwen and Cielen have never met Tibaldeo. But they hope to.
"We now keep in touch through Instagram quite frequently," they say. "He invited us to Miami once the pandemic blows over. He's a really nice guy, and we can't wait to go to Miami and have some beers with him."
When that might occur is anyone's guess. Because maintaining social distance is nearly impossible at a nightclub, Tibaldeo doesn't foresee venues reopening soon.
"I think it's the last straw on the table. It's the last of the Mohicans," he laments, though he acknowledges the rationale. "People should be respectful of their circumstances. Some people are really going through it."
When the time does come to reopen Space, he says he'll be less "smoochy" and refrain from group selfies.
"I miss the camaraderie. Social distancing in a club is the antithesis of what it's meant to be," he says. "I think human interaction — whether it wears you out or not — is something that keeps us going. It's how we're made. We don't have to be like Bianca Jagger-social, but we're meant to have interaction."