My alarm rang at 5:30 am. “Why are we doing this again?” my roommate calls from her room. “We’re saying ‘yes’ to life,” I answer. It’s a mom-ism I picked up somewhere a few years ago. Saying yes to life, as I’ve learned, is a lot more vexing than the hippy-lite phrase would have you think. It invariably involves imbibing foreign liquids, rubbing up against strangers, and requires a distinct lack of sleep.
Still, I’m saying “yeah” to life. I am about to go to a rave that starts at 6:30 am and lasts until 10:30 am. No drinks are allowed. No drugs are allowed. It’s a ritual intended to wake you up and start your day happily. A swap-out for the mechanized wake-and-work routine most of us find ourselves merry-go-rounding on at a daily lurch.
Along the pitch-black walk to the subway, we note that it has the same feel as heading out to the club at 11:30 at night. We have on our dancing shoes, eyeliner has been applied, a teeming excitement is rising as we get up the energy to boogie with anonymous faces. What’s very different, however, is our intention.
“This isn’t something you just casually stroll into at six in the morning. We very much meant to come here,” I remind my roommate.
We approach the Villain Warehouse on North 3rd and I perceive a slight thump-thump coming from inside. A bouncer in a suit asks what I’m here for. “Uh…” I answer, not sure how to phrase what I am about to walk into. “Morning Gloryville,” a woman behind me quickly responds. I nod and he opens the door for my roommate and I. A purple light floods out and lures us inside.
The invitation had described the event as a way to “rave your way into the day.” Not a pacifier-and-glowsticks type of lady, I felt anxious about what kind of music they’d be playing at these sorts of events. The theme of the morning was “Wild Innocence,” which doesn’t actually mean much, and guests were told to bring “ferocious love, bubbles, massage oils, unicorn horns, bushy tails, and let loose.”
The teetotaling atmosphere was adopted, not because the event was for AAers or health nuts, but because sober socializing, in a city where you can grab a martini at any hour or at practically any age after middle school, is about as novel and rich as the idea of dancing at dawn in a warehouse somewhere in Williamsburg. “It’s important to state we are not anti-ists; we are PRO-people and simply want to know the real animal inside YOU!” the event page said. I wasn’t sure which animal was inside me this morning, but it felt close to a slumbering fawn.
But my reservations vanish as a spritely young woman greets us with a “Good morning!” while tossing a white lei around our necks. She then grabs me and hugs me, squeezing tightly. It’s the first time anyone has touched me today, maybe in the last two days. Smiling at each other, my roommate and I enter the bass-thudding, amethyst world of Morning Gloryville.
The breakfast rave craze began earlier this year in New York City and has taken off in weirdness-adopting cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. Dubbed “conscious clubbing,” by London-based cofounders Samantha Moyo and Nico Theommes, the point of Morning Gloryville is to break free from the shackles of a soul-sucking morning routine (morning jog, sardine-packed train commute, sipping coffee or tea at your desk) and embrace a more organic, life-affirming experience first-thing. It’s not about an after-party, it’s about awakening with a party. It’s been touted as a form of alternative exercise, but creating community for artists is a more essential component to the morning.
Inside, Villain Warehouse looks like an old club warehouse from East London, with brick walls and an uneven concrete floor. The bars lining the wall serve coffee — “Soy or almond milk?”— and freshly made juice blends by Juice Huggers. I take a shot of a berry mixture and decide it’s way too early for my stomach to handle acidic fruit. Another bar offers assortments of gluten-free goodies and quinoa rolls — a far cry from shots.
In a loft overhanging the dance floor yogis stretch, led by a lithe instructor. In another corner, a woman lies on a massage table and is rubbed down by a massage therapist. A short woman approaches me and asks, “Would you like to join me for an imaginary tea party?” I politely decline and head on over to the dance floor. It’s littered with men and women dressed in half-shirts, wigs, sparkles, furry ears, t-shirts, and exercise clothes. They’re all immersed in the music, smiling at one another. People are making eye contact. Most of us are empty-handed, but a few clutch onto cups. All full of hot coffee.
DJ Muffs and Tasha Blank are at the front of the house, playing your typical EDM. Not my bag usually, but I joyfully groove to it with my roommate. It doesn’t matter that I’m not used to the beats and synth — the room has a non judgmental, welcoming cloak around it. As if anyone could walk in wearing anything, dancing in any way, and nobody would bat an eye. As each newcomer comes on to the dance floor it seems that, invariably, someone recognizes them and picks them up passionately with a smile and kiss like they’d just come back from war. One man swings a female acquaintance up and down on the floor and I’m afraid her head will hit it. “Yes!” he exclaims at her or at everyone. He cheers at random intervals like a hype man for the morning.
I get the feeling that Morning Gloryville is filled with mostly word-of-mouthers that come to almost every event. People of all races, body types, and styles crowd in. Artists, musicians, bartenders, teachers, and that mysterious breed of ‘young professionals.’ By 8 am, there must be a hundred of us. A remix of Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” drums through the speakers and we all begin to bounce our hips in recognition.
In a moment when I’m dancing by myself in the throng, a woman whose face is covered in different animal prints sidles up beside me and grabs something in her pocket. Wordlessly, she hands me a business card. She twirls around before I look back up and is gone again in the cloud of purple people. I look down at the card. It says, “Hello, I just wanted to inform that that I find you to be very attractive. Thank you. Have a nice day.” I feel warm inside.
What can only be described as shit-eating grins plaster the faces of the dancers. The stench of beer is replaced with endorphins and coffee grinds. There’s no tacky liquor patina on the ground. Break dancers take turns in the round, cheered on by the early risers. An electric violin pops up in the crowd. One woman has deigned to wear the suggested unicorn attire. My roommate points out a couple kissing on the floor. “The best part about this is that you know they know each other. It’s more like a good morning kiss than a drunken hookup.” Wild innocence finally seems apt.
Not one man has approached us looking to chat us up this morning. It’s a comforting relief compared to a typical bar crowd. A few have smiled or nodded, but most keep a respectful circle of distance around the female dancers. Earlybird raves, it seems, are not a venue for finding someone to go home with. After all, you’re not going home at all when you leave.
But it’s easy to forget with the lights, the uninhibited dancing, the unaffected smiles. “This could almost be the middle of a weekend night,” one woman in the crowd reminds me.
I head to the bathroom where a young woman named Diane grabs me by the arm in the bathroom. “Hey!” “Hi, good morning.” I don’t know her at all, but in her eyes — well, in everyone’s eyes — is a sense of recognition of what we’re all doing together. I ask Diane why she came out this morning, “When else am I going to get to do something like this?” She seems to be referring to her youth, the way that time wanes quicker as we all get older. “When did you get here?” “About 6:50,” I tell her. “You’re what we call a warrior,” she grins at me. “See you on the floor.”
I have one more song in me until I am due for my morning commute. Morning commute? After two hours, I’d been lost in the haze of the party, feeling the music hit against me, meeting the eyes of the happy group. Feeling attractive around really attractive people. A thin sweat has built up under my hair and I’m feeling the first waves of fatigue after 5 hours of sleep — almost like I’d had a few drinks an hour or so ago. My roommate and I find a table of white beads with letters on them and twine. Oddly, it looks like someone’s cocaine stash. We string our beads and exchange necklaces. Mine reads “KT”.
“How was your morning?” the British man at coat check asks me as I go to leave. Excellent. He tells me he’s about to go to work on the Lower East Side. I smile back. “That’s great,” I say, unable to pinpoint why. I feel a lightness I don’t usually walk into most mornings carrying.
As the bouncer pulls open the warehouse door to let me out, the brightness of the light strikes my weary eyes. I feel like I’m emerging from a vampire rave. The sun is powerful, but welcome.
“All the social weirdness I sometimes feel when going out to dance was absent,” my roommate tells me. “Everyone just got up. It’s easier when the filter of possible drugs and drunkenness is removed. You know everyone around you is in control of themselves and that’s kind of comforting.” We say our goodbyes. “Have a good day!” I call out to her, laughing. “Day,” sounds funny slipping through my mouth after hours inside a club. The sunny street feels like an anachronism planted down by a confused Mother Nature.
“What time is it?” a man asks me on Bedford Avenue. “Uh, maybe 8:45ish,” I tell him, a little unhelpfully. That’s when it hits me that I should be well on my way to work — at the end of this adventure is eight hours of work, not sleep.
On the train platform, I spot it. A white flowered lei emerging from a woman’s purse. It hangs half-out like a small wink. It’s a token from a private club. A souvenir only members would recognize.
I walk up to the woman. “Were you just at the rave?” I ask her. She turns around. It’s the unicorn woman.
“Yes,” she smiles. “So were you!” She says it with an enthusiasm that makes the fact that she probably didn’t see me there beside the point.
“I’d just been to another early morning rave this month and needed to search for another,” she told me. “I had juice and granola. I mean, when do you get a chance to just dance with people sober?”
“It felt like a middle school dance with all the awkwardness zapped out,” I tell her. She agrees and gets off the train. “Now I gotta go to work!” she says, the woman who was dressed as a unicorn 30 minutes ago. She holds an admin role.
I walk to work feeling like the rings under my eyes, my sweat-curled hair, and my beaded necklace are all some part of an elaborate secret. I smile at nothing. What you wake up to makes a difference.