Originating in NYC, 1 OAK gets its quirky moniker from the phrase “one-of-a-kind,” which is how the brand markets their parties — as a “one-of-a-kind experience”. Well. Sure.
But the main thing is 1 OAK is a known celeb hotspot and is frequented by A-listers like Rihanna, Madonna, Jay-Z, Migos, Skrillex, and even the Biebs. And I mean frequented — not just one-off celebrity spottings like that time Paul Rudd turned up to party at a random club in Shanghai that no longer exists. At 1 OAK you’ll often get surprise guest DJs or live performances, and the clubbers come. To. Dance.
Again. The clubbers come. To. Dance.
On top of the major music industry celebrity clout — and, yeah, their main marketing tool is “candid” shots of these massive music industry figures getting wild in the club — 1 OAK has risen in profile in the last 10 years or so with venues around the world as a hip hop / pop DANCE club alternative to EDM / techno clubs.
Again. A DANCE club.
So, what’s going on with the one in Shanghai?
Well, it’s on Longhua East Road, just around the corner from the World Expo Museum. Umm.
Since this is an international brand just dipping its toes into China for the first time, of course there was a ton of hype around the opening a few weeks back. And while I’d love to say I was above it all — I absolutely was not. Some of my best times clubbing have been at 1 OAK in NYC. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to see Rihanna behind the bar pouring drinks given the current border situation, but as someone who hasn’t been home in two years and is desperately missing Western clubbing, I was allllll aboard the hype train.
Entering the club, I saw the signature 1 OAK zigzag pattern lining the floor, familiar retro lighting, and a neon sign flashing the words “...Ended up at 1 Oak.”
Yes!! This is what I’ve been waiting for!!! Only to turn the corner and... oh...that’s...it?
Once you leave the entry corridor and are facing the actual club, there isn't much to the space. It’s not a particularly… large venue. Especially in comparison with the recent mega-sized hip hop clubs and lounges that have opened in the past six months. (GRND CNTRL comes to mind.)
All hope of finding a large dance floor at a club not blasting house music with the same two beats all night were immediately dashed when I saw the small space surrounded by tables and a teeeny lil’ square in the back meant for dancing. I guess it was to be expected. After all this is Shanghai. Tables over dance floors every time, all the time. Sad that 1 OAK went this way.
There’s also a stage for performances on the back of the dance floor, however it’s not very raised, so if you’re lacking in the height department like me, you won’t be able to see much of the performances.
An upper level exists as well, but it’s off limits to non-VIPs... i.e. they didn't let me go upstairs when I went.
That’s what you really go to a club for anyway, right?
Cue Ed Sheeran - “Shape of You.”
They’re really toeing the pop end of the hip-hop / pop line here.
Not many people dancing to that one (shocker).
So, my early moments at 1OAK were spent packed like a sardine with everyone kind of awkwardly swaying to some music they weren’t really sure how to dance to. That’s alright, maybe if I wait it out, it’ll pick up. And it did! I knew my patience would be rewarded. It got lively when the DJ started playing “Wiggle” to get people moving.
Only to catch everyone mid-twerk with a jarring transition to Pharell Williams “Happy.”
You can’t twerk to “Happy.”
I mean you can but you really shouldn’t.
Let’s just get some drinks…
Staff walking on the floor only had eyes for those in the VIP booths and spent any time not serving them shoving the rest of us dancing peasants out of their way. Not gently.
I wonder what it’s like being a VIP. Must be nice.
We finally got some after flagging down a disinterested bartender. Our group got the wrong number of drinks. And a couple of the drinks in that order were wrong as well. Not the worst thing in the world, of course… but it all quickly added up to a truly disappointing night. Especially considering this is the sixth iteration of a club that’s been in the business around the world now for 14 years. Sure, we understand it was a party during their opening week. But...staff shoving people? Really?
Expectations were set. And they were not met.
Retrieving coats from coat check should be a simple task but somehow, they managed to blow it here too. With only 6 people ahead of me, I was sure I’d be able to put the disappointing night behind me but alas it took a whopping 50 minutes to get my stuff and get out.
Another Chinese club, just with an international name slapped on it. Again - disappointing…