What “Daybreaker:Dusk” taught me about myself

If i’d thought about it, this night was always going to be a struggle. The idea of being at what Americans call a “Dance Party”, with a group of people I don’t know, a music policy I have no prior knowledge or control over, and sober to boot, is my own personal hell. This was the proposition presented by “Daybreaker: Dusk” , and if i’d told me from the future, what I was about to do, he would think I was insane.

Daybreaker:Dusk is as I mentioned, a dance party, put on by the same crew as “Daybreaker”, who normally reserve their honest to goodness, wide eyed, vegan take on club culture for those kind of people who happily lap it up on a Wednesday morning before putting in 8 hours at a reclaimed cotton dog t-shirt making centre in Bushwick. ie not me. I prefer my parties small, sweaty with a distinctly dark european techno tinge to the music, and my inebriation level to be high to cataclysmic. I’d been invited by one of my soon to be colleagues at a to-remain-nameless New York startup where I start next week. I figured it was a good opportunity to get to know them a bit better, assert that I was definitely cool enough (and not at all uptight…) to work there and so I thought, why not? Realistically I was already onto a losing wicket though as a) I am not very cool; b) I am English and therefore naturally quite uptight; and c) I was wearing beige.

As I headed to the Upper East Side (alarm bells ringing) alone — because I was meeting them there (alarm bells screaming) the pieces started to fall into place — dancing, strangers, no bar (please let there be a bar, surely there will be a bar? surely?) and I began to feel very afraid. The venue was the incredibly impressive Temple Emanu-El, apparently the largest place of Jewish worship in the world — what the religious Jews thought of the whole thing I am not sure. On arrival, there was little to no indication of what would actually transpire during this event. I’d read the blurb on dusk.daybreaker.com so I knew there would be dancing, but that was about it. I couldn’t find my friends (NEE NAA NEE NAA) so I awkwardly tagged on at the back of another group. We were ushered into the enormous main chamber, where apparently, we were supposed to be meditating. There was a girl onstage making a lot of very interesting noises with two large bronze discs, and some windchimes. I started to think “I could get used to this, live performance, impressive room, no dancing” while all around me I could hear whispers “When does the dance party start”, “I thought this was meant to be a rave”. I seemed to be the only person actually pleased about the performance art, and secretly dreading the dancing.

Eventually I managed to locate my future colleagues, the one person I knew, lost amidst a sea of people I didn’t. We sat through some more performances from the sublime (electronic fiddle and beatbox anyone?) to the ridiculous (gospel choir, that everyone talked over) before being led down to the dance floor, or what will henceforth be referred to as Hell. On entering Hell I deposited my coat in an ever growing mound, convinced I would never see that sheepskin beauty again, and was dismayed to see that the party was already in full swing. At the back of Hell I noticed the reassuring sign of a long queue (“That must be the bar. Or at least some food”). Unfortunately it was not the bar, and my very british queuing efforts were rewarded with some pretzel bites smothered in low grade mustard, a juice drink and some “quinoa balls” which tasted like they had been purchased from a pet shop and were for rodent consumption only. I loitered for a while awkwardly before eventually identifying one of my future colleagues, also looking awkward, and like kindred spirits, we stood at the back, talking about everything but how awkward we felt.

This is when part one of the realization begins…

Then I had a thought that shook me to the core. I looked around me, at all the things which were happening which I normally associate with a good night out: people dancing and having a good time, friendships being made on the dancefloor, people losing and then finding each other, people hooking up, admittedly not bad music (although the levels were really off), and yet I felt utterly miserable, alone, and not part of what was happening at all. It made me wonder, do I only enjoy all of these things, and therefore going out when I am absolutely wasted. This was a big revelation for me, clubbing and going out has been a big part of, my life for 15 years. It’s defined my music taste, my friendship groups, and where I choose to spend my free time and money. Did I secretly hate it? This is something I had seen in other people “She used to go out all the time, but now she’s stopped getting wasted all she wants to do is go to yoga and knitting class”, and vowed it would never be me.

I sat there considering this thought, and whether my whole life had been a sham until this point, surrounded by people so much less inhibited than me, also sober but having the time of their lives; when the girl I had been talking to started propelling me towards the dance floor (aka the mouth of Hell).

This is where part two of the realization begins…

Flashbacks to discos at school, where some former sex offender with a mobile DJ booth (DJ Dave) would play backstreet boys and Take That while the girls danced and the boys looked on trying to look cool but really just not wanting to dance, went coursing through my mind. Was I just going to stand there awkwardly amongst the swirling bodies, waving arms and joyous smiles, the last outpost of humility and self control? What would they think of me? Would they think I was “square” or “not fun”? I was just about to a) leave; and b) completely reassess my life choices, probably sell my decks and buy a piano and refuse to listen to anything except the works of John Cage on repeat…when suddenly my feet began to tap and my knees began to bounce. The electronic fiddler was back on stage and to be honest, was absolutely killing it. I started dancing about the same amount I ever dance — essentially a bit of a shuffle with some occasional arm movements (although it felt much less fluid than when I’m doing it at 3am in Output...) But I was actually having fun. Not you know, loads of fun. Not the kind of fun where you think you’re brains going to explode with how happy and high you are, and the fact that Richie Hawtin has been playing for 3 hours and only just introduced a second instrument…but fun. I managed about half an hour of said fun, before I wanted to leave, sober, my shirt slightly crumpled, and with ringing in my ears, but a smile on my face, I left and began the long journey home.

So what did I learn about myself? I learnt that I actually like performance a lot more than I used to, and that for me is really the main event. I respect artists and performers, and I revel in the new and unique. I also learnt that I don’t need drink or anything else to have a good time, but that these things prolong the enjoyment. My capacity for bouncing up and down like a loon whilst simultaneously shortening the period that I will be able to live without a hearing aid, is a LOT smaller without booze. Like 10 hours smaller. But it is still there. I also realised that no one else cares. No one cares if you run up and down, and hug the DJ and hang from the wall mounted PA. Or if you just stand at the back and nod your head in appreciation. They are not judging you because a) this isn’t high school; and b)you’re just not that important to them.

So next time someone asks me to go to an event where I don’t know anyone, I don’t know the music policy and I can’t drink, it won’t fill me with the same terror that it did yesterday. I may leave at 10.30, but people will talk to me, I will find my kindred spirit for that party, and maybe, just maybe i’ll dance.

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