The celebrated queer dance party, ANIMAL, returns to The Dark Room with a post-PrideFest throwdown featuring Baltimore club star Rye Rye.
If you’re planning to leave the house at all tomorrow, we expect to see you at Brown’s Island. The park island on the James River is playing host to the 2019 VA PrideFest throughout the day this Saturday — not that you need us to tell you that. However, that’s not all that’s going on, so you’re going to want to save your energy. Because after Betty Who leaves the stage and things shut down on Brown’s Island, it’s time to head over to The Hof’s Dark Room and dance the night away with ANIMAL!
You know ANIMAL — for the last seven years, it’s been Richmond’s premier traveling queer dance party. From past haunts like Babe’s, Strange Matter, and Fallout to its current home in the Dark Room, ANIMAL has been keeping Richmond’s LGBTQ community moving its feet to sounds spun by founder Conley Thurston Billings, aka DJ Dirt Thurston, and a series of turntable-rocking allies.
But at this special 2019 Pride Edition, ANIMAL’s kicking things up a notch with a special guest — none other than celebrated Baltimore club musician Rye Rye. And Billings is very excited to have Rye Rye in town for this performance. “Over the years we’ve had guest DJs, artists, and bands,” he said. “But it’s been a while since we’ve had such a big artist.”
Billings is definitely a fan. “I have always LOVED Rye Rye’s music and any track she’s featured on,” he said. “I’m always checking to see if she has anything new released.”
That’s been a somewhat difficult search in recent years. Making a splash in both the music and film worlds in 2012 by acting in 21 Jump Street and releasing her debut album, Go! Pop! Bang! on MIA’s label NEET Records in the same year, Rye Rye’s career has slowed down in recent years. But when he was looking to make a big impact with this year’s Pride Edition of ANIMAL, Billings’ thoughts turned toward her nonetheless.
“I knew I wanted to do something special for Pride and I wanted to do something that people could appreciate even after the party,” he said. “I follow [Rye Rye] on Instagram and one day decided to message her and ask her how we could get her to perform at ANIMAL. It was somewhat of a long shot, since I feel like she’s been on the DL as far as touring/doing gigs goes, focusing more so on her family life. Still, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by asking.”
Billings was blown away to receive a positive response. “I can’t tell you how excited — and also nervous — I was when I saw the little response icon on my phone,” he said. “She sent me her email contact and after that I knew I had to try my hardest to really make this happen.”
Sure enough, it’s happening, and everyone who shows up at ANIMAL this Saturday night is going to be in for a treat. This definitely includes Billings, who is over the moon about Rye Rye’s performance. When asked what else folks could look forward to with Saturday night’s edition of ANIMAL, he just went right back to the star attraction.
“Honestly, Rye Rye. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to see her, let alone provide an opportunity for the community to see her,” he said. “And in such an intimate venue! This is going to be an inclusive but exclusive party — exclusive because the capacity is very low, inclusive because that’s how we roll.”
Of course, as he mentioned above, Billings and ANIMAL are always working to achieve the most inclusive dance party environment possible, taking a specific stand against intolerance of any kind on all their event promotion. “Sexism. Misogyny. Racism. Transphobia. Homophobia. And general hatefulness are never welcome,” reads a statement on the facebook event page for Saturday night’s party at The Dark Room. “Respect differences. Always practice consent. If a situation arises that makes you feel unsafe or you witness something that compromises the wellbeing of others, don’t hesitate to alert an organizer.”
ANIMAL’s emphasis on inclusion has been part of what has led them to appear in so many venues over the years. “Animal has always rotated venues throughout the city, keeping our parties diverse/accessible while not catering to one specific area,” said Billings. “Fortunately, there are multiple collectives now along with venues themselves working towards inclusive and safer spaces so we are not alone on this front.”
Their current home at the Dark Room is sure to be jumping tomorrow night. Doors open at 9 PM, with the music and dancing kicking off at 10, and ANIMAL staff encourage early arrival to be sure you can get in the door. “Space for this show is very limited,” reads a statement on the facebook event page. “We’re capping [capacity] at 100 so people will have room to DANCE!!”
You can avoid any worries about making it before it sells out by purchasing an advance ticket for $10 through Eventbrite. But whether you buy a ticket or just head straight over after PrideFest, you’re going to want to be there. This will be a night to remember. As Dirt Thurston told us: “Expect high raw fluid energy and lots of dancing!!!”
The Dark Room is located inside the Hofheimer Building at 2818 W. Broad St in Scott’s Addition. Doors open for ANIMAL’s special Pride Edition at 9 PM on Saturday, September 28.
Written by Marilyn Drew Necci and Christopher Brown III. Top photo by Wes McQuillen, courtesy ANIMAL