It’s early evening at Santos’ Party House downtown, where a homemade fish-tank chandelier is suspended from the ceiling; piles of toys, balloons, lights, and costumes are tossed into a corner; and someone is wearing a gigantic cardboard slice of pizza. The sound system is blasting mashed-up electronic music, and on the dance floor, it’s becoming hard to tell who’s a spectator and who’s a performer. A hard hat with a disco ball attached gets passed around, and girls pour packing peanuts into a fan for a snowlike effect. Suddenly, everyone’s screaming the chorus (“We’re gonna make it, through all this shit!”), arms locked with the strangers on either side.
This interactive dance party is sponsored by the Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, a loose collective of SUNY Purchase students who play easy-to-follow disco sing-alongs and turn their audience into part of their performance. At the helm is senior Neil Fridd, who writes the music and spends more than twenty hours a week working on production elements (he’s the guy in the onesie made of stuffed-animal toys). Working with five pals, he composes electro-indie-disco beats and supplies the props, costumes, and entourage of party starters (many dressed as cats) who mix with the crowd and loosen tight screws. It’s nearly impossible to stand on the sidelines of a Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! show. Well, it is possible, but you’d be missing the very reason people come: to be part of the sweaty disco pileup.
Lately, it seems like the best parties in New York are the ones ripe for social combustion. Girl Talk’s live show has become a Pavlovian cue for American Apparel–clad spectators to rush the stage and gyrate. At the most recent Eyebeam Mixer in November, computer scientist David Jimison transformed the Chelsea art space by hiring actors, dancers, musicians, and face painters to work up the crowd. And at Hobotech, a new, highly participatory Red Hook party, people go nuts with LED bindle sticks and homemade instruments.
The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! released an EP on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label in October, but Fridd revels in the idea that many fans are too busy dancing, wearing costumes, and playing with swords to have any idea who’s in his band. It’s the way partygoers approach each concert that makes them exciting, he says. “It’s not ‘We’re going to see a show tonight to watch people sing about love and heartbreak.’ It’s ‘We’re going to be a show tonight! We’re going to sing about love and heartbreak.”