Irving Plaza is packed, wall-to-wall. Women in neon tank tops and guys in windbreakers sway and shake as Snap!'s '90s classic "The Power" blares from the speakers.
"Heyyy! Ho! Heyyy! Ho," shouts a toned woman with pink hair and a spandex top, as she directs the room to break into the Butterfly and Sprinkler. "I'm seeing a lot of love!" yells a guy onstage, hyping up the mostly twentysomething crowd. Wearing a tight muscle t-shirt with his hat to the back, he's Marky Mark reincarnated.
Welcome to Daybreaker. Founded by Radha Agrawal and Matt Brimer, the morning rave began in the city in 2013 as an alternative to obnoxious and elitist nightlife. "Over a late-night falafel in Williamsburg, we mused over an idea. An idea about dancing before the day broke with people we love. About cultivating a community that values wellness, camaraderie, self-expression, mindfulness… and mischief," the friends say. "At Daybreaker, we dance our faces off before work and feel gloriously healthy doing so."
It's caught on. Daybreaker has expanded to 11 cities, with events across the country as well as in Paris and London.
So what's a morning rave really like? Well, first off, it's early. For a night owl like me, getting up was the hardest part. I set my alarm clock for 6:00am for a May event (and 6:10am and 6:15am, just to make sure I really woke up). Daybreakers can start as early as 7:00am.
Okay, I'm here. At a regular nightclub, now would be the time to head to the bar or--if I'm lucky--someone's getting me a drink. Not here. Daybreaker is completely alcohol and drug free. No wake and bake, kiddos. However, they do serve water and healthy juices. I help myself to an organic coconut water and settle for a spot near the rear of the room.
Partygoers are mostly women and from the looks of it, and a lot of people have come in groups. Friends, coworkers and one couple who can't stop making out while a Prince song plays. Some committed to dressing along the '90s party theme--think fannypacks and retro shirts--while others are wearing their work clothes.
The energy is kept high with spontaneous "moments" like live horns, drummers and professional dancers.
The best part about Daybreaker is ther are no rules. Dance, pump up your cardio or stand creepily in the corner (like me). It's all good. Everyone vibes to the music and there's zero judgement. Unlike every other party, no one is distracted trying to look cool or take selfies. In fact, I don't see one, single cell phone out.
“We often live routine lives. It’s a wink to your day,” Radha says about Daybreaker. “It’s a place where you can get loose and let your freak flag fly.”
Around 9:00am, the freaks start to disperse from the dance floor. It's time to get to work, school and whatever routine--until the next one. A girl in front of me slings her backpack on her shoulder as we walk out. "This was so awesome," she says to her friend, wiping sweat from her face. "I really needed this."
Get your tickets to Daybreaker here.
[Photos: Oxygen/Victoria Pett]