How private micro-club Envy’d Lounge gave the club scene in a southern town of North Carolina life
The charming southern town of Charlotte, North Carolina is known for many things, among them its scenic beauty, “whole hog”-style barbeque and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Soon it may also be recognized as a destination for underground dance music, and here’s why
Visiting Envy’d Lounge is a lot like living a lucid dream. On one side of the door exists a pumping, state-of-the-art nightclub equipped with a 15,000-watt VOID acoustics setup, lasers and LED panels, which cast a glow on the 125-person-capacity venue. But on the other side of the door is a picture of suburban paradise, complete with three fully furnished bedrooms, a living room dressed for movie night, and an open concept kitchen where friends convene and sip from drinks they’ve mixed themselves.
The sensation that comes from stepping seamlessly between the contrasting environments is jarring but invigorating. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s better just not to question it. The private micro-club is a fantasy brought to life for anyone who has grown tired of overpriced cocktails, late-night commutes or strangers with attitudes. It’s modern, yet unpretentious. It’s popular, but intimate. Envy’d Lounge feels like home, because, well, it is.
“My friends live all over the country,” says Envy’d Lounge founder, Kory Sasnett. “I figured I could pay for plane tickets and hotel rooms to visit them on the weekends, or I could just find a way to get them to come here instead. That’s a big reason why I decided to build a club inside my house.”
A two-story family residence set inside an affluent Charlotte subdivision is an unusual place for music fans to catch acts like Green Velvet, DOORLY and Weiss, but it happens — usually on Saturday and Sunday nights, and only for a select few who are lucky enough to score the invite. So how does one secure a spot on that coveted guest list? Well for one, they need to know the guy in charge. “I get emails when people see the venue on artists’ tour schedules.
“The reason I do all of this is because it makes my friends happy. When I see people roll up and they are genuinely excited to be here, it gives me goosebumps”
“Here’s the thing... it’s not that new people can’t come,” Sasnett says with the right amount of hesitation. “I just really need someone to vouch for them first.” It is his private property, after all. Over the past three years, Envy’d Lounge has seen several iterations, and has welcomed more than 85 artists. “The Mija and Golf Clap show was a big game changer, because Golf Clap really didn’t like the sound,” Sasnett says.
“The audio from the mixer was being processed through a home-theatre system, which caused a delay in their headphones. They said, ‘You have to go buy speakers and a brand new setup if you want us to play,’ and I said ‘Ok.’ I went to Guitar Center immediately, bought all the new shit and installed it the same day.” He says the upgrades have continued to evolve ever since.
A certain personality is required to make this kind of project work, and Sasnett has got it. He’s trusting, flexible and loves a challenge. And despite his outspoken disdain for the spotlight, the North Carolina native has a remarkable way with people. The genuine smiles and southern charm certainly don’t hurt his cause.
“I have no interest in learning how to DJ. Honestly, I don’t like that kind of attention. I’m not even into public speaking,” Sasnett admits without hesitation. “The reason I do all of this is because it makes my friends happy. When I see people roll up and they are genuinely excited to be here, man, it gives me goosebumps.”
Aside from the local “fam” that Sasnett has met through Charlotte’s burgeoning nightlife scene, most of the Envy’d regulars share a common piece of history. He met many of his loyals aboard an electronic cruise festival called Holy Ship! while slinging homespun merch he created in homage to the event. Though he no longer designs custom hatpins for Insomniac’s sea-bound event, he has since returned to host a curated stage with his fledgling label.
By day, Sasnett manages construction projects for a high-end commercial real estate firm. But after hours, he plays the role of label boss for his self-launched imprint, NV’D Records Inc., spending his free time boosting the profiles of emerging house and techno artists like HOT POT, Middath and duo Warung. When he’s not pushing new releases or preparing for stage takeovers at festivals like Your Paradise in Fiji (where NV’D Records Inc. will have their debut this December), he plans monthly house parties and gatherings at a nearby lake.
He insists the time and energy he ceaselessly pours forth is not in pursuit of money or fame. “I don’t even know if I have an end goal,” Sasnett says after a long pause. “Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment that comes with pulling off crazy shit. It’s just what I like to do, even if it means I’m purposely stressing myself out. It’s always worth it.” To execute an Envy’d event is no easy feat. When we attend the July edition, it’s alongside 80 other attendees, many of whom have trekked from cities like Chicago and New York City. The day kicks off with a D.I.Y. lake fest where artists play one after another on board the NV’D Records Barge, a bass-blasting tritoon boat that Sasnett outfitted himself. Groovy house music sets the tone, with names like Miami-based DJ/producer E.R.N.E.S.T.O and Brooklyn synth-pop artist Hundreds Thousands adding a healthy amount of bounce to the affair. Sasnett, dressed in all black despite the sweltering 93-degree weather, is hard to pin down as he makes the rounds accommodating performers.
He’s also running tech and organising ferries for friends from the mainland to the public venue. After the beach party, it’s back to the house to prepare for a proper nighttime rave at the Lounge. “I honestly don’t get to experience much of the music,” Sasnett shares. “Sometimes I’m so busy it’s like I’ve missed the show altogether.”
Thankfully, tonight’s headliners are always happy to record and share their sets with Sasnett and his fan base. Cory Wythe, aka glitch-hop producer and guitarist Marvel Years, is celebrating his fourth visit to Sasnett’s spot. On this occasion, he plays two live sets with Gerry Gonza, a house producer and drummer who currently holds the record for longest set performed at Envy’d Lounge — at 11 hours.
“I played a show in Charlotte three years ago, and Kory invited [my team] over for an after-party at his house,” a wide-eyed Wythe remembers. “He took us upstairs to show us the DJ setup he’d mentioned, and when I saw it was actually a legit club, it totally caught me off guard. I thought, ‘Ok, I want to be a part of this in any way I can.’” Since that night, Wythe has performed at many of Sasnett’s events, including Microfest, an annual three day anniversary celebration at Envy’d Lounge featuring performances from 25 artists from that year’s rosters. He also journeyed to Shipfam Island, Sasnett’s private, unsponsored festival that took place at a Croatian resort in 2018, featuring Dirtybird label head, Claude VonStroke, as well as Latmun and Dr. Fresch.
Tonight though, Gerry Gonza and Marvel Years team up for a live set that shows off their skills as adept instrumentalists and DJs. The two liken their Charlotte visits to being on vacation, which may explain their seemingly effortless collaboration. “My sets here have been the most experimental I’ve ever played, and it’s because everyone who comes to the Lounge is so open to it,” Wythe says. “It helps me in the long run as a musician too, because I’m not forced to try something for the first time in front of a crowd of 1,000 people. I’m doing it in front of my friends.”
Envy’d Lounge is breaking down the fourth wall between performers and their fans, one show at a time. “I want to create an experience where the artists are just as excited to be here as the attendees — where there are no boundaries, and no security because there’s trust,” Sasnett says, taking time with his words. “I initially [started throwing parties] just so I could have that. I wanted to get to know my heroes in a way that felt personal. Now everyone who comes to the Lounge gets to have that same experience.”