The Last
Party Illegal

The last Party Illegal?

Say it isn’t so.

It isn’t so.

I, too, thought doom and gloom, when I saw a tweet that said the last Party Illegal was this Friday at The Pinhook.

It is the last monthly Party Illegal, but it is not the last Party Illegal.

party illegal jan 2017

I talked to some of the organizers and core team this week at Mercury Studio and they assured me that Party Illegal is transitioning, not ending.

My conversation with Laura Friedrich aka Queen Plz, Jess Dilday aka PlayPlay, and Patrick Phelps-McKeown aka Treee City was wide-ranging.

It is the end of an era for Party Illegal after this Friday. The Party Illegal has hosted more than fifty amazing parties and hundreds of artists, DJs, and performers. Party Illegal has hosted national and international stars. Party Illegal has given local talent their start. Party Illegal has used its name and its events to raise charity for numerous worthy causes.

It has unequivocally been a huge success.

As Queen Plz put it, Party Illegal has shown proof of concept.

You can hold successful dance parties in Durham. You can hold successful dance parties in Durham that are safe(r) spaces for all members of the community, Party Illegal has always made the extra effort to be LBGTQ friendly and widely inclusive. This is an integral part of the concept they have proven can be a successful model.

The threesome noted Party Illegal was specifically built to be broad. Rather than promoting an individual slice of musical taste or to a narrow audience, like so many parties do, Party Illegal has deliberately attempted to collide musical worlds. Party Illegal uses curation to push the envelope, to burst through supposed-barriers.

During its triumphant four-year run, Party Illegal could never be accused of promoting only one time of music. It isn’t just Hip-Hop, it isn’t just EDM, it isn’t just Trap, or Beats, or any one thing

Queen Plz, PlayPlay, and Treee City emphasized it was a series of deliberate decisions to proceed in this manner. They want to show that what so many promoters and club owners claim to be fact, is indeed, bullshit. Over and over they have been told dance parties are always self-segregating, told that there aren’t enough (or any) female DJ’s of quality, told that you can’t throw a party with queer DJs heading the bill, and on and on.

Party Illegal explicitly uses curation as a political tactic to resist the dominant paradigm. Art is the tip of a spear. Party Illegal offers up an emulatable model for other artistic and cultural organizations.

It should be noted that so much of the work that goes into Party Illegal is voluntary. Volunteer labor, particularly by the founders, but also many others have made the party possible. The Pinhook and Kym Register have played an integral role, too, providing a home space and a supportive financial partner.

It makes perfect sense that Party Illegal would be graduating on to the next thing. They are going to continue to work in promotion, helping book shows, curating bills, and working with the Durham music scene at all levels. The mission of broadening horizons and providing safe(r), diverse spaces remains central. Party Illegal will remain a network with resources. They are ready to be tapped by the next generation of up and coming dance parties, young promoters, local rappers, and DJs.

Treee City mentioned the Jamaican Sound System model as something Party Illegal might emulate to spread the psychology of Durham inclusivity beyond our borders.

The last monthly Party Illegal is this Friday night at The Pinhook, featuring Abdu Ali, Bitchcraft, Neat Freak, PlayPlay, Queen Plz, and Treee City.

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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