Get Down On It: Top 10 DC Dance Parties
We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance
And if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.
If there’s one legitimate complaint that DC newcomers make about our mother city, it’s that the hyper-ambitious type-A folks that run this joint have their helmets screwed on a little too tight. And no matter how many tattoos or slacker jobs or blown glass masterpieces the rest of us may have, the high-stress charge of the city’s atmosphere seeps through the cracks of even the coolest local hangouts.
So if any place needs a floor-shaking, booty-breaking dance party, it’s this town. We may not have Brooklyn’s indie music hothouse or San Francisco’s mind-boggling glut of queers, but DC knows how to get down in spite of its Ann Taylor loafers and convention center lanyards.
I consider it a lost week if I don’t take my moves to the floor at least once, and I’ve become something of a connoisseur in my search for that golden trifecta of the dance: a killer DJ, an engaged crowd and a cool spot to host the both. Cheap drinks don’t hurt, either. For your heel-kicking pleasure, I present my top 10 best bets for those nights when the rug is just begging to be cut.
1. She.Rex at Chief Ike’s
I was going to avoid the obvious, but even discounting the gaggle of queer hotties that descends upon str8-laced AdMo every second Friday of the month, this party is tops. Quirky jams, two-for-$5 PBRs and Natty Bohs, and a less-crowded room (with free pool!) for chatting up that girl you "accidentally" rubbed up against on the dance floor. Don't ever miss it.
2. Liberation at DC9
Setting aside the tragic killing that permanently marred the club's image in some of our minds, DC9 hosts one of the city's most reliably awesome dance parties. Liberation is a weekly affair—get there at 9pm on Fridays to take advantage of an early-bird open bar for $15, or show up late for half-price admission and hours of sweaty bopping to indie-ish tunes and their respective videos. If you like to live dangerously (and if you're a WTGG reader, you probably do), hop up on one of the speakers next to the stage to give the crowd a better look at your moves.
3. Fatback at Liv
A rotating crew of seven DJs hosts this funk and soul shakedown every third Saturday. I'm always pleasantly surprised by the eclectic crowd—you're as likely to bump into your tatted-up bike mechanic as you are your insurance saleswoman from Clarendon. Dancing around the DJ booth is encouraged, which makes the whole shindig feel a little more familial. Be prepared to jump into the dance circle if someone (usually me) starts it up, and get there early to beat the inevitable line.
4. Baby Alcatraz at Dodge City and Velvet Lounge
Awaken your phantom nostalgia for the 1960s and get down with the grooviest soul and rock n’ roll with Baby Alcatraz, one of my favorite DC DJs, who spins regularly at sister bars Dodge City and Velvet Lounge. If you’re jonesing to try out some horn-rimmed glasses or watch a bearded hipster do the mashed potato, here’s your chance. Order something strong and simple and enjoy the warmth of old vinyl.
5. Nouveau Riche at U Street Music Hall
Whether your preferred dance attire entails glow bracelets, Adidas high tops, or a leather miniskirt, if you’re a serious electro-dancer, I’ve seen you at U Hall. Nouveau Riche, a collaborative local DJ trio comprised of Gavin Holland, Nacey, and Steve Starks, usually takes the stage on the second Saturday of the month. Find a raver who’s flying solo and get her to show off her moves—this club’s crowd is full of hidden talent.
6. Patty Boom Boom
With a behemoth of a sound system second only to (maybe) U Street Music Hall, Patty Boom Boom’s unstoppable reggae and dancehall beats that blare out onto U Street attract a devoted late-night crowd on the weekends. The vibe is friendly, energetic, and pretty international—I’ve met more African and Caribbean expats here than any other spot in the city. Don’t leave without trying the addictive guava rum punch.
7. Phat Tuesdays at Eighteenth Street Lounge
Feeling swankier than usual on a Tuesday? Check out 2010 DC DJ of the Year Keenan Orr’s eclectic set list at Dupont’s Eighteenth Street Lounge, one of the best people-watching venues in the District. Take a break from the groove on a couch that looks like it belongs in a Newport mansion, or join in the tango lessons, offered for the more ambitious dancer.
8. Moneytown at Little Miss Whiskey’s
Head to H Street on the first Friday of the month for a retro night of funk, disco, and Latin dance tunes. Push your way past the bros and get up on the little stage at the back for more room to cut footloose and gaze at the gaudy chandeliers and blacklight concert posters. Little Miss Whiskey’s sketch of Moneytown says it best: “This throwback throwdown shakes the dance floor with a holy joy.” Sold? Thought so.
9. Right Round at the Black Cat
Thanks to The-Song-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, 80s nights have become a mainstream bar staple—and more often than not, they make me want to puncture my eardrums with a cocktail stirrer. Not so for Right Round. DJ lil’e hosts this 80s alt-pop (emphasis on the alt) night on the third Saturday of the month, and the grungy back room of the Black Cat fills up with nary a side ponytail or cut-off sweatshirt in sight. Whether you hit your prime in the 80s or barely left the womb in time to catch Siouxsie and the Banshees in concert, this party will kick your dancing ass into shape.
10. The Warehouse Loft
If the idea of passing through a deserted alley of abandoned warehouses into an unmarked building while wearing a fringed bikini top and carrying a glowing hula hoop makes you feel queasy, the Warehouse Loft might not be your cup of uppers-infused tea. But if you’re looking for an all-night electronic dance party that feels like one of those underground raves that D.A.R.E. warned you about in the fifth grade, come on down! The crowd couldn’t be nicer (what’s up, MDMA) and there are always at least two rooms of music to choose from, stocked with well-known DJs hired by whatever promoter’s throwing the gig (the Loft isn’t a bar unto itself; it’s a party venue). It’s worth noting that the Loft hosts a monthly fetish party called Bound, into which I once accidentally stumbled while dancing at a Santa-themed rave. You can’t make that shit up.