We just celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of our ANDAZ Bhangra and Bollywood party on Saturday, July 25th, 2015 at the Analog Theater. Part one of the history of ANDAZ is here, part two is here, and part three is here and part four is here.
ANDAZ now occurs the last Saturday of every month at the Analog Theater.
In June of 2013 we hosted our final ANDAZ party at Rotture after more than three years at that venue. Everyone there was great to us, and we threw amazing parties during our time in the inner SE industrial zone, but there were a number of things we wanted to improve: We no longer wanted to play competing sound levels with a show on the first floor which would always happen at an upstairs/downstairs venue like Rotture/Branx. We wanted a nicer club that didn’t feel like it was falling apart. We wanted a better sound system. We wanted someplace with proper AC that wasn’t meltingly hot in summer. We wanted to play somewhere with foot traffic where we had some hope of enticing curious passers-by into the club. We wanted to regain the segment of our audience we felt like we lost when we moved the party out of downtown.
We had a lot of high hopes for the future of ANDAZ when we threw our first party at the Star Theater.
In order to focus attention on our new venue we moved ANDAZ in July so we could host our eleventh anniversary at the Star Theater. Anniversaries are the best time for club nights to garner attention, and it made more sense to garner attention at the venue we were moving to than the one we were leaving. Our eleventh anniversary began with Indian dances performed by our friends Minisharma Sharma and Simi Vargas Malhotra and we brought down Rayman Bhuller, one of the world’s greatest dholis to accompany us while we DJed. (We had worked with Rayman once before when we brought him down to play with us and DJ Rekha at our tenth anniversary.)
The party was a solid success and we felt hopeful about building ANDAZ at the Star. The next month PDX Pick showed up and filmed the night and interviewed us about ANDAZ.
One thing that was fun about our new home was that the stage was so deep that the number of dancers on stage with us was larger than ever before. Here is a glimpse of the stage dancers at the end of the night at our September 2013 party:
Now that we were at the Star Theater ANDAZ moved back to an every-last-Saturday schedule. That also meant that ANDAZ and our Bollywood Horror Halloween party were reunited, since for our years at Rotture when we played on first Saturdays we had to host Bollywood Horror at a separate venue. For Bollywood Horror XI we had our friends in Bridgetown Revue return for a bellydance sword dance performance to Desi Dubstep.
For a fuller taste of Bollywood Horror XI you can check out the photos here.
The ANDAZ parties at the Star had crazy energy and an incredible vibe, but not all our fantasies were coming true. We thought moving the party back downtown would give us a boost in our attendance numbers, and instead we were sometimes seeing lower numbers. We realized all over again how difficult it can be to rebuild a party at a new venue. Every month at the Star I would ask the crowd how many people had been to ANDAZ before. Every month the answer was almost everyone. Very few new people were coming even though the regulars were happily coming back every month. I thought Sixth and Burnside would be a hopping corner filled with foot traffic, but it was mainly noticeable for the large numbers of homeless people who would camp out in front of the club. Even though the downtown streets were filled with crowds just a few blocks away, this particular corner was empty of club goers throughout the night. I had a clear line of sight to the street from the DJ table and I would keep an eye on the street all night noting just how few people ever walked in front of the club. Since the Roseland Theater was right across the street from the Star and their shows ended early I fantasized about people heading to the Star after their show at the Roseland ended. (In fact shortly before we moved to the Star, Prince played at the Roseland (I was there!) and I was told 400 people headed over to the Star after his performance.) Instead I was surprised to find out that most ANDAZ nights at the Star there was no show at the Roseland, and the few times there were it was a show for a young teen crowd who weren’t getting into the 21-and-over Star afterwards even if they had any interest. We went from hoping that hosting ANDAZ at the Star was going to result in some miraculous return to the very heights of the party’s numerical successes to realizing that we were working really hard to rebuild our night yet again.
After six months at the Star we learned that the booking policy was to chase potentially lucrative touring shows first, and offer us whatever dates were left over second, a far cry from the clubs we were used to who gave us rock solid dates a year in advance. As a result, in January of 2014 the club asked us to host ANDAZ at the Star’s sister club Dante’s, while the Star hosted an internationally touring DJ instead. Ironically the foot traffic we thought we were going to witness at the Star was in full effect at Dante’s and we benefited from people walking by and seeing what a fun party was happening that they may have never heard of before. The difficulty in getting advance dates from the Star reached a nadir in May when we were offered to play the Star by a non-profit who had reserved the Star on our regular night. The club had told us nothing, so the only reason we knew we were bumped was because the non-profit wanted to book us for their night, having no idea that they were hiring us to DJ the same night we had been bumped from. So in May we DJed the last Saturday at the Star, but for a non-profit fundraising event, and ANDAZ occurred across the river at the Alhambra Theatre that month on a different weekend. At this point we knew we had no choice but to relocate the party again if we were going to keep it going. If there’s one thing we have learned about promoting a regular party it’s that having a rock solid regular schedule is a must for success.
Sadly the Portland venue scene seemed far smaller and less adventurous than when we had first started throwing ANDAZ parties back in 2002. There used to be lots of freaky clubs that would try new and different things and now most clubs were only interested in top 40 or popular retro formats, and not something different like our party. With a very limited set of possibilities we reached out to Lola’s Room and they happened to have a rare free Saturday in July. With no sense of what the future of ANDAZ might look like and no home venue for our night we booked Saturday, July 5th, 2014 at Lola’s Room and decided that would be the site of our 12-year anniversary, where ANDAZ began twelve years and three days prior. The Star actually wrote us two weeks before the last Saturday in June and asked if we wanted that night. We told them no. Two weeks is nowhere near enough time to put a party together and at that point we were committed to throwing our 12-year anniversary at Lola’s Room the next Saturday, so that was the end of ANDAZ at the Star Theater.
The 12-year anniversary featured Anjali’s newly-formed dance troupe performing for the first time at ANDAZ and a Kuchipudi performance by Marissa Schwartz.
It was a weird vibe for me celebrating the 12-year anniversary of a party that we had dedicated our lives to that now had no home and an uncertain future. The anniversary was successful. So much so that we had more people at that party than just about every party we threw at the Star including the prior year’s anniversary. This is a lesson we were learning from trial and error over many years: some venues naturally drew more of a crowd for us, and other venues, no matter how much Anjali and I personally liked them, were not as popular with our crowd. So then, what venue would become the new home for ANDAZ?
In August of 2014 we booked a one-off ANDAZ at the Analog Theater to see what it would be like hosting our party at that venue. We had actually already booked a special edition of our Tropitaal party with Uproot Andy at the Analog for July, but that party hadn’t happened yet when we booked ANDAZ for August. What we learned was that the sound system in the Analog Theater was immense with ridiculous amounts of bass and was amongst the fullest and best sounding systems we had ever heard at a club in Portland. They also had disco lights, which neither Rotture or the Star had. We had been lugging our own lights to the clubs for years, a task we would happily drop. They even had a wooden dance floor, far superior to what is available in most Portland clubs. We had a good crowd of dancers at our first ANDAZ at the Analog who were all complimentary about the venue, so we booked another party in September.
We were really unsure what to do at this point. Should ANDAZ continue? Were we forcing a party to continue after it was time to let it go? When we drove to the Analog in September to set up for ANDAZ we really weren’t sure about the future of the night. We figured the vibe at the party would tell us what to do. Well, the vibe was crazy. From early in the night people were screaming and screaming with delight. The screaming was so intense that I left the green room several times where I was resting to see what was going on. Just sheer delight as it turned out. Loud, screaming delight. Even though the numbers were a far cry from when we had lines of people waiting hours to get into ANDAZ, we knew from this ecstatic group of dancers that the party was incredibly vibrant and alive and we were energized and rejuvenated thinking about the future of ANDAZ. We had Bollywood Horror XII scheduled at Holocene and our fourth New Year’s Eve show in a row lined up at the Bossanova Ballroom, so we scheduled one more ANDAZ in November, and then talked to Donnie Rife, the owner of the Analog, about making the Analog the home for ANDAZ the last Saturday of every month in 2015 (Except February when Anjali and I were going to be in India.). Thankfully he was down with the idea and ANDAZ had a new home in its thirteenth year. A home with a kick-ass sound system better than any in the history of ANDAZ, a warm and friendly staff, and a dedicated crew of party-goers along with a whole bunch of curious new folk tearing up the dance floor and making every ANDAZ a special and unique night. We have even witnessed a return of regulars we have not seen since the days of the Fez, with prodigal sons and daughters returning each month to tell us just what a special place ANDAZ holds in their hearts, and how they hope we never stop doing what we do. We deeply honor the fact that many South Asians tell us how crucial dancing at ANDAZ is to their health and survival living in the Portland metro area.
There is a moment I often reflect on that occurred during one of our last ANDAZ parties at the Fez Ballroom back in 2010. At the time I had no idea we would be fired within a few months along with all the other Saturday DJs to bring in a new era of top 40 at the club. At the time I was simply watching a packed club of dancers at ANDAZ and wondering about the future of the party. In the moment I wondered if ANDAZ at the Fez would go on forever. Why not? The club had stayed packed every month for over seven years. There was no sign of any slowing down in the attendance or the energy. But part of me knew it could end at any moment. I just had no idea of how soon that end would actually be. At that moment I felt a degree of ambivalence. Did I want ANDAZ to continue at the Fez forever? Did I want that to be the rest of my life? The party was so successful it seemed to have a life of its own. That very success made me question my own motivations. After all those years how much was I along for the ride, and how much was I passionately committed to the party? If we had never been fired from the Fez I may never have learned the answers to those questions. When we had to rebuild at Rotture it took so much work and was such a struggle, I never could have done it without passionate dedication to the party. It was only when the party went from being an always-guaranteed success to more of a struggle that I learned just how committed I truly was. The popularity of Bollywood and Bhangra may wax and wane in the mainstream American consciousness, but we have been steadfastly committed to exploring the best of these musics in a club setting for more than 13 years now.
Join us the last Saturday of every month for ANDAZ at the Analog Theater; we will be hosting Bollywood Horror XIII on October, 31st. Start that costume!
THE STORY OF ANDAZ CONTINUES . . .