David Pianka dipped his hand into the layer of white foam swirling atop the hot tub he had just sunk into at Southampton Spa, a Russian bathhouse in Bucks County, just north of the Northeast.
“Feels great,” the 43-year-old DJ better known as Dave P announced before submerging himself until only his head was visible. “This is awesome.”
Ten feet away from him, three bald men in towel robes peeled grapefruits and sipped hot tea from giant thermoses. They chatted over half-empty bowls of borscht.
Southampton Spa is perhaps not the most intuitive spot for a rave, but it’s the one that Pianka and Steph Irwin, his coproducer, have settled on for their first-ever spa party, happening in the wee hours of this coming Sunday. They envisioned light projections on the cavernous ceiling. Blissed-out partyers ladling hot water over each other in the Turkish hammam. Everyone hydrating with kombucha — all to ambient electronica.
“Spa parties have kind of taken off around the world, but often they’re ragers, just set in a spa,” said Pianka, who has been Philly’s dance-party czar since he created the series Making Time in 2000. Over nearly two decades, he has produced more than 200 parties, finagling artists like the xx, Charli XCX, and Blood Orange to play in Philly clubs such as Voyeur and the Dolphin Tavern.
But for this rager-meets-spa day, Pianka is emphasizing balance over the usual hard-core party antics. “It’s a party, but also not,” he said. “We really wanted to lean into the space.”
The chilled-out soiree takes place on March 31, from 1 to 6 a.m. After working up a sweat dancing at the Foto Club pre-party in Fishtown, spa-goers will load onto a bus that will take them to Southampton. It will deliver them to the doorstep of the bathhouse by 1 a.m. Towels are covered in the cost of the $65 ticket, but the bus ride is $5 extra and guests must bring their own swimsuit, sandals, a padlock for the lockers, and a robe.
A 30-minute yoga class from Amanda Medina of Yogi Noir will get everyone “in the right mind-set.” Then the relaxed revelers can romp in the 20-by-40-foot pool, festooned with inflatables; work out the knots in their backs using the powerful jets in the hot tubs; and detox in the herbal steam rooms and saunas. If you find yourself falling asleep because you’re so chilled out, there’s the cold plunge pool, kept at a brisk 47 to 55 degrees. DJs will be set up poolside.
Irwin is even planning to bring venik, a bundle of leafy dried twigs used to massage a bather’s skin and improve circulation. She will sport her customary Russian spa hat in the sauna, to protect her head from the heat.
Irwin and Pianka are encouraging guests to bring their own snacks, though pierogies will be available for purchase, if all the relaxing works up appetites. Partygoers can also sip on their beverage of choice — Pabst Blue Ribbon, wine, champagne cocktails, Red Bull, or kombucha — at the open bar.
Keeping attendees hydrated is a priority at a party venue where one can waltz into a 200-degree sauna. “We’re not offering hard liquor because we don’t want people to get dehydrated,” said Pianka. “We want everyone to drink lots of water.”
He gestured toward the end of the pool, to a snack counter filled with bottled water and fresh fruits for sale. As if on cue, the spa employee in charge of venik massages dropped by the table to gift Irwin a carton of fresh blueberries.
“We’re combining self-care and partying,” Irwin said. “Even though we’ve thrown a lot of parties, we’ve never done one that’s meant to create balance on such a huge scale. It’s going to be transcendental in its own way.”
Pianka and Irwin conceptualized the idea for “Making Time Pure Spa” after they threw a huge New Year’s Eve after-party at Kensington thrift store Thunderbird Salvage earlier this year. Pianka likes experimenting with multiple spaces, so the duo set up a “chill-out room” with ambient music, cushions, and inflatable beds for revelers who wanted breaks from the pounding techno music in the main space. It was a hit.
“People loved it,” Pianka, who has a soft spot for ambient music, said. “We realized that not everything has to fall under the typical notion of partying. There has to be balance. When I throw a party, it has one facet — and that’s typically loud music and energy and dancing. But this has so many different sensory facets.”
Irwin is a regular at Southampton Spa and convinced owners Steven and Russel Nayflesh to permit the party when the spa would normally be closed. To Irwin’s knowledge, the bathhouse has only hosted private parties for the Philadelphia art collective Bangarang. No surprise there: Renting the space costs “multiple thousands of dollars.” Because of limited capacity, the pair said, they had to cap the number of attendees at 150.
“If people like it, we would really love to do it again,” Irwin said. “I love partying, but it’s not like I can go out every weekend and stay up all night. I would burn out. But every time I come here, I always try to stay for three to five hours.”
She tightened the belt of her towel robe, which she wore over her wet gym clothes, and pulled her spa hat down over her ears.
“There doesn’t have to be alcohol,” Irwin said. “My friends are bringing face masks and body scrubs. We’re pushing the boundaries of what a party is. We just want to transport people into a whole other world — physically, mentally, and spiritually.”