For six years, Athens' hip and hapless alike have congregated twice monthly at local punk-rock hub The Union to imbibe Pabst Blue Ribbon and gyrate to a set of indie rock, hip-hop, new wave, soul and funk.
Dance or Die was an instant hit among Ohio University students when it debuted in autumn 2003. OU students Dan Haug, aka DJ Ruckus Roboticus, and Dimitri Simakis started the event to fill the void left behind when Charley Wilcock graduated from OU and took his Danceable Solution party with him.
While Danceable Solution had always drawn a decent crowd, Dance or Die packed out The Union from the start. I was a sophomore at the time, and I was shocked at how the event's appeal had extended beyond the barflies and college-radio kids that populated the previous party.
This one was a magnet for seemingly the entire female population of Athens, which meant dudes also turned out in record numbers seeking somebody to grind. I remember sweaty T-shirts, intensely humid air and long lines to get in. In the college newspaper, I wrote, "The people flocked, the needle dropped and Dance or Die had begun."
The dance party's dominance has continued even after Haug bequeathed control to Michael Bart (DJ Barticus) and Danny Johnson (Self Help) in 2006. Now that duo is attempting to extend their empire into Columbus with a capital-city installment of Dance or Die Saturday at Oldfield's on High.
Despite the party's enduring reign in Athens, the Dance or Die crew isn't guaranteed success in Columbus. On one hand, Johnson has been spinning regularly in town at events like Oldfield's indie-centric Outer Sounds concert series, so he has his foot in the door here.
On the other hand, these guys are used to being the only game in town, and they're entering a marketplace already saturated with ultra-hip dance nights like Get Right, Sweatin' and Moral Tales. I have to wonder how many variations this city will support.
One factor working in Dance or Die's favor is the semi-renaissance happening at Oldfield's under the management of Athens ex-pat Drew Sherrick. The Outer Sounds shows at the once-tired North Campus club have been incubating a new corner of the music scene, and that might be enough to grow a Columbus crowd for Dance or Die.
That could be the key for Johnson and Bart. Maybe they'll be able to attract some of the same young'uns that populate the other parties. But if not, there are more than enough body movers to go around, right?