Last year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Zach Levine and Yair Rubinstein, two Duke grad students from New York who recently moved to Durham. It turns out that they both are amazing DJs and party planners so we joined forces and started planning #FML (named after a popular Twitter hashtag). The name is Zach and Yair’s creation and I think it is genius because the hashtag insinuates that this party has a cybernetic, posthumanist vibe to it – which is exactly what we are going for. Some associated hashtags: #fullspectrum #cyborg #futurism #shots #hype #cyber #666 #gay #cosmos #posthuman #candy #deephaus #nonbinaryeverything.
The venue we chose for our first party was The Vault on Broad St, under Joe Van Gogh. The Vault is a 3000 square feet private event space for the Palace International, a delicious restaurant serving authentic African cuisine. They have been gracious enough to open up the space for several public events centered on POC in the last few months, including an upcoming hip hop happy hour event put on by ZOOCRÜ, an Afro-Zouk night put on by Kizomba RDU & Embodied Dance, and the Perspectives on patriarchy discussion hosted by Art Underground. The event I attended in this space was Gemynii’s BODY POSITIVE art exhibit and I remember walking in and noting how gorgeous the space was, how great the performers sounded and how cute the placement of the bar was. Gemynii’s art is already incredible, but the space made the showing even more magical.
So, when Zach suggested we throw the first #FML party at the Vault, I was #allaboutit.
We brought in Abdu Ali, a phenomenal and forward-thinking touring artist who I am not even going to attempt to box into a summarization. Here’s the bio off of his website:
Rooted in the ghettos of Baltimore, Abdu Ali raps, sings, and chats over unorthodox sounds, creating music that’s green, provoking, and quenching. His work to conquer musical boundaries has put in him in genre categories along lines of afro-futurism to punk to hip hop to “post-apocalyptic” sounding. Ali, has also become known for his energetic visceral performances, spiritualizing audiences as a cosmic, punk, and soulful tempest on stage. Unapologetically black and queer, Abdu Ali is bold, raw, and most importantly life-affirming.
The night of #FML 1.0, Zach coordinated with the space, I rented some speakers, and we showed our two guests the fabulousness that is the NC State Fair. Turkey legs and apples galore! The sun set, and we were ready to rage. We made the space really dark, with the exception of some laser lighting and the bar lighting. Though the space is huge, the dark lighting made its size look less obvious (take note, Motorco).
Yair, aka Big Spider’s Back, started the night off wafting the warm synths of his original productions into the air, creating a polished ambiance that felt more New York than Durham. Since Big Spider’s Back was originally conceived in New York, this makes sense.
Next up, Zach’s DJ alias D.L. Masc took over and created a patchwork of hot remixes featuring dark ambient noise, heavy reverb, thumping club beats and chopped yet still recognizable pop vocals, pushing the club even closer to a New York vibe. A regular attendee of the GHE20G0TH1K party series in NYC, D.L. Masc’s sets are influenced the most by DJs like Physical Therapy, Total Freedom, and Venus X.
When Abdu Ali took the floor (no stage in the Vault, which makes for a much more intimate show), he SERVED. The crowd formed around him, but gave him enough distance to thrash around and hit the floor as he crooned and chanted along sharp, raw, afro-futurist productions that would be impossible to place into a genre – I did hear Baltimore club beats on a few of the tracks, but everything else felt unfamiliar (which I loved).
After Abdu was finished, Kilbourne threw down the highest of high-energy sets. She began with her original productions, which reflect her Jersey roots and aren’t the cleanest productions, but she prefers her mixes to sound “sloppy, distorted, and upset” anyway. Later, she began to play happy hardcore (!) and other 160+ BPM tracks. Zach, Matthias (below), and I had transformed into 5 year-olds and were jumping around on the dancefloor like little rabbits.
I ended the night with Top 40 hip hop and trap music in an attempt to bring Durham vibes back into the space. People were still dancing into the wee hours, which is promising for a city where everything seems to sleep by midnight on weekdays. Durham will never be Berlin, or New York, or LA, where people dance every night of the week…but if we could at least have well-attended dance parties on a weekday I would be thrilled.
Stay tuned for #FML 2.0 in December! We’ll be bringing in more out-of-town guests, and Clarion Content will be the first to know.
PS. Shoutout to Laura Jaramillo who held down the door allll night.
*Photography by Ryan Vu