In one week, my family will be throwing our Spring Equinox Dance Party. This has settled into something of a tradition. On a quarterly basis (give or take), we have a dance party. You’ll find me on the decks, playing loud music loudly. Flashing lights, bubbles, fog…the whole nine yards. There’s an open bar and drinking and celebration. People stay up too late, talking about things profound and frivolous.
It’s a deeply spiritual thing, really. But perhaps I should explain.
In 2010, music saved my life.
It’s February. We’re just coming off the initial impact of the house fire that made us homeless for a month. Depression has me deeply in its grip, and I couldn’t shake it loose. Crystal was at a loss.
And DJ Hero was available for the Wii.
At some point, i’m going to talk about Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and DJ Hero as part of the “My Life with Games” series. For now, I’m just going to note that part of the appeal of these games is wish fulfillment. Most people want to be rock stars. That’s their wish fulfillment. For me, I wanted to be on the wheels of steel. Mixing and scratching seemed much more appealing than shredding on a guitar. No doubt this is the result of having been more connected to trance, techno, and other forms of dance music more than rock or metal.
Playing DJ Hero reawakened these desires.
Crystal saw what was happening. She knew that I wanted to begin to explore this new hobby. She knew that I was agonizing over the expense. She also knew that I was tired and lonely and depressed and struggling. So she did everything in her power to make this a reality for me. She researched color-changing LEDs for our front room. She pulled together funding for stereo equipment for me for my birthday that year. She pushed and encouraged me to pursue this new thing.
She wanted me to be happy.
I already had a significant musical collection that I’d built up over the years. But I started paying even more attention to the music around me. Somewhere in here I discovered dubstep and other bass-heavy music like Sub Swara. I brushed off my old trance tunes. I started casting the net wide and seeing what I could find.
And one night, we threw a dance party at our house.
I don’t remember the exact genesis of the first party. I do know that it was just the people living with us at the time. It just kinda came together. I played the music, and everyone else danced. Glowsticks were probably involved at some point, because the local dollar store has a constant supply, and, well, glowsticks!
It was a big hit. My children loved it and demanded more. And so, periodically, we would. Some of my children began to explore breakdancing, the better to bust out their moves at the next party. I ended up discussing music and the theory of DJing with a couple of my children. Traditions began to emerge, like ending every set with “Go to Bed!” by the Beatnik Turtles. Anthems began to develop, like “Eastern Jam” by Chase & Status, “Fireflies” by Owl City, “Jump Around” by House of Pain, or “Scatman” by Scatman John.
And then, the fateful day: we invited some people from outside the family to one of the parties. It went smashingly well. So, we started making it a habit to invite other people. And the guest list seemed to grow, and grow, and grow….
Each time we run this party, we experiment with a new tool. We added a moonflower light, a fog machine, and a bubble machine. This time, I’m going to see if my computer can play the music and run visualizations. That should be way cool if it works.
And each time I play out, I plan out the music I’m going to focus on. I assemble a pile of music that I will theoretically work with. (Like any good plan, this often goes out the window quickly as I try to adapt to what the people on the dance floor want.) In particular, I plan my opening and closing tracklists carefully. Starting off well is important. Ending well might be even more important. Besides, there are themes I’m wanting to weave into the music, and that’s where they usually live.
You see, I look at each of these parties as something deeper than just getting together and making noise. Each of these parties is a celebration. A celebration of being alive.
Each of these parties is another milestone on the long, slow climb out of the rubble of my former life. Each of these parties is a reminder, to myself if nothing else, that God has been good for the last season and that He’s still going to be good for the next season.
And so, every time, I’ll play the songs that express these truths to me. Songs like “Still Alive” by Lisa Miskovsky, “Meteor Shower” by Owl City, “Oh! Happiness!” by David Crowder*Band, or even “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz or “We Found Love” by Rihanna. Songs that tell me to rejoice that God is good and full of grace, that He brought us this far and that He will take us the rest of the way, that I should cease my striving and rejoice in the life that He has given me.
And when I say “rejoice”, I mean shaking the house with the bass while the room fills with people who showed up at my house to celebrate the same thing, whether or not they know it.
Our dance parties aren’t about drunken carousing. They are about declaring joy and celebrating life. In other words, they are about embodying the Gospel to anyone who wants to see it.
And if you can’t see the Gospel in a room of joyous people, you’re doing it wrong. Oh so wrong.
I’ve really been looking forward to the next dance party. The winter has been long, and I’m ready for spring. I’m want to jump around and celebrate, and I’m excited to be able to continue sharing this joy with as many as I can.
The party starts at 7:00 on March 22. And yes, you’re invited.