Single artist parties, when DJs play music from one artist for the whole night, have been taking over Philly’s nightlife scene, and with good reason. No one wants to endure hours of music they don’t like after getting dressed up for a night of dancing, so why not hit up the clubs that you know are only playing your favorite artists?
Here’s what I found after visiting three of Philly’s best-known single artist parties over the course of a month.
So Far Gone, or Drake Night, was started in 2014 by Dirty South Joe, a huge presence in Philly’s DJ scene, and quickly became one of the country’s first “single artist parties.” (Dirty South Joe first started bumping Drizzy at the Dolphin, but now the party takes place every two months at the 2,500-capacity Fillmore, making it the largest single-artist party in the city.)
When I arrived at Drake Night at about 11 p.m., the line wrapped around the block despite a light drizzle and chilly temperatures. Partygoers were dressed to impress in heels, sequined skirts and button-down shirts. Sneaker lovers, do not fear: There was still a healthy dose of atheleisure. It’s Drake’s preferred style, after all.
Getting into So Far Gone may look like an insurmountable challenge if you show up at midnight (when the DJ begins spinning nonstop Drake), but according to an only slightly plastered guy I met inside, if you stand next to the security guards for long enough at the front of the line, you may be able to avoid waiting 40 minutes to get inside.
Most partygoers were milling about inside — the Fillmore is cavernous enough — and hanging around extremely understaffed bars at least three people deep. (So, yeah, if you’re looking to take a shot for Drizzy, expect it to take at least half an hour.)
The dance floor, punctuated by clouds of pot smoke, was full of bodies moving en masse with couples making out on the fringes against heavy velvet curtains. Drake’s music isn’t always the easiest to dance to, so in between crowd favorites like “Passionfruit” and “Hotline Bling,” there was a lot of personal-space negotiation and Snapchatting as videos of Drake-being-Drake flashed across the gigantic screen at the front of the room, intercut with clips of scantily clad dancers.
“Hey, what’s your Instagram?” One guy yelled at me after I accidentally wound up in his selfie despite trying to duck out of the picture at the last second. “Want me to tag you in my story?”
Go if: You’re looking for a typical club experience, complete with claustrophobia, expensive drinks, and long lines.
Pro tip: If the crowds are getting to you, head upstairs to relax on the leather couches. The bar there is much less crowded, so your chances of getting the bartenders to acknowledge your existence are much higher.
Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 East Allen St., $10 cover, 215-309-0150, thefillmorephilly.com
Philly’s Kanye Loves Kanye party is the brainchild of Michael Anthony, the editor and director of the nightlife publication and events promotion firm There’s Drinking to Be Done. The publication started about two years ago and began to throw Kanye-themed parties last January at the Barbary, where they share the space with another party. (It was a 2000s dance-track throwback night last month.)
“We chose Kanye because he’s arguably one of the great influencers in entertainment since Michael Jackson,” Anthony said. “His music connects everyone. We’ve seen peaceful moments when the room sang along to ‘Ultralight Beam’ and people bouncing off the walls to ‘Stronger.’ ”
The Barbary is a much smaller space than the Fillmore, which meant that it was a lot easier to order drinks. There also wasn’t much of a line when I arrived about 11 p.m. (The dance floor heated up closer to midnight.) Upstairs, a couple tried to valiantly power through a date while early 2000s music blasted around them.
Hardcore Kanye fans should be warned: While Kanye makes plenty of appearances on the set list, be prepared to hear Drake, Travis Scott, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z and other, perhaps lesser, contemporaries. Even after spending an hour or so at the party, I could count the number of Kanye tracks played on one hand.
Go if: You don’t mind a looser interpretation of “single artist party.” And are not on a date.
Pro tip: The bar upstairs is typically less crowded than the one downstairs. Also, if you step outside for a smoke break, you’ll have to wait in line to get in again.
The Barbary, 951 Frankford Ave., $5 cover before midnight, $7 cover after midnight, 215-634-7400, barbarylive.com
Launched by DJ Dame Luz, Holy Trinity — Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj — takes place monthly at the Dolphin Tavern in South Philly. One could argue, however, that the actual Holy Trinity began in 2004 after David Cassidy started “MMP” parties (Michael Madonna Prince).
By the time I showed up at the Dolphin two hours after the party had started, a healthy line stretched around the corner. Inside, the narrow dance floor was lined with light-up panels and filled with people belting along to the hits and having the time of their lives.
Out of all the single artist parties, Holy Trinity was easily the most approachable. Not that familiar with Nicki’s music? No worries — Beyonce’s coming on next. And even if you’re one of those people who insist that you can’t dance, Rihanna will coax you into a groove before you know it.
Dame Luz played tons of remixes of the lesser-known tracks, but stuck to the original versions of hits like “Run the World (Girls),” “S&M,” “Work” and “Anaconda,” so people could sing along while dancing. Holy Trinity’s crowd, which was the most diverse of all the parties, was also the friendliest. Even though I showed up alone, I had no problem finding groups of girlfriends who were more than willing to let me into their dance circles.
Although Holy Trinity started out as a queer femme space, the crowd has now expanded to include hipsters, bros, and everyone in between. I’m not convinced that that’s necessarily a good thing. As I was waiting to leave, a drunk guy proceeded to stroke my leg, despite my repeated efforts to discourage him.
“You have such beautiful feet,” he told me sincerely.
Go if: You’re looking for a good girls’ night out activity. Or boys’ night out. Really any night out.
Pro tip: The Dolphin is really warm and there aren’t very many coat hooks, so dress for the heat and sweat-induced humidity.
The Dolphin Tavern, 1539 South Broad St., $5 cover, 215-278-7950, dolphinphilly.com