For many years, the toast of Adams Morgan was a video dance party playing music generally from the 1980s at Heaven and Hell on Thursday nights. The 80s Dance Party eventually came under the management of DJ Neal Keller, calling himself “The Angel,” and promoter Steve Donahoe, who kept it going strong for all that time.
For various reasons, that team eventually parted ways with the club and pursued different nightlife opportunities. But now, they have reunited to bring back the 80s Dance Party as a monthly party on Saturday nights to Black Whiskey on 14th St. NW near Logan Circle. The event debuts this Saturday, Aug. 31, at Black Whiskey, at 9pm.
I chatted with Mr. Keller, an old friend of mine after hosting me at many of his dance nights, about the expectations for the new party, the importance of good partnerships and the excitement of being in a vibrant, albeit different, neighborhood.
Mickey: Let’s get down to what’s important! What are people going to hear at the new 80s Dance Party?
Neal Keller: 80s Dance Party has always put an emphasis on the New Wave, Post Punk, Synthpop, Underground and New Romantic artists from the era. That means New Order, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, Yazoo, The Clash, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Love and Rockets, Flock of Seagulls, Blancmange, Heaven 17, Clan of Xymox, Simple Minds, Visage, Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads, Joy Division and similar artists.
I think the change of scenery over to the 14th Street area will allow us the opportunity to focus more on the alternative and underground sounds of the 80s, and to back away slightly from the mainstream pop and cheesy stuff. During much of the history of the event, we were catering to a more touristy crowd in Adams Morgan, and so we became known for the Top 40 music from the 80s. But even back then there was a strong contingent of DC’s night people, replete with thick eyeliner and Manic Panic, who exerted a strong pull toward the more obscure material. You may remember, they pretty much annexed the seating to the left of the DJ booth, near the projector screen.
At the new location, Black Whiskey, there’s an edgier feel, and we hope that will attract more discerning New Wave enthusiasts. In fact, the look of the place is a lot closer to the kind of places that first got me out clubbing back in the 80s. I’m hoping the atmosphere will be reminiscent of the humble beginnings of the event, when you were about ten times more likely to hear an Echo and The Bunnymen track than you were to hear Loverboy.
Having said that, I still want to honor guilty pleasures like “The Safety Dance” and “Love Is A Battlefield” — with the video. You’d be amazed how many alternative people request When In Rome. And I reserve the right to play some Prince — maybe more “Controversy” era, though.