Metro Weekly

New York’s storied Black Party celebrates its 40th anniversary with a new era and venue

"Ritex XL, The Black Party: Caligula, The Last Party" kicks off Saturday, April 6

Black Party — Photo: BunnyZ

“Everybody bemoaned the end of Roseland,” says The Saint At Large’s Stephen Pevner. “But as a producer there for 24 years…it felt like we were the longest-running show on Broadway. I thought, ‘Okay, let’s shake this up a little.'”

And shake it up he has: This year’s fetish dance extravaganza, The Black Party, the fifth since the loss of the storied Hell’s Kitchen haunt Roseland Ballroom, has been uprooted to the Bronx. But while it’s located in New York’s northernmost borough, the party’s new venue, the New York Expo Center, is actually more central and better situated than recent venues for the storied party. (Free shuttles with stops in Hell’s Kitchen and Williamsburg should also help ease getting to and from the massive warehouse space.)

Pevner increasingly thinks of his party as “a kind of mini-gay mecca festival.” And like any popular music festival, “part of the fun is getting out of your comfort zone and traveling to them.” Not to mention all the dancing, carousing, and frolicking you’ll do for an extended period — as long as 18 hours.

The Black Party is also something of an American version of the marathon EDM/techno-focused parties currently popular in Europe — notably, the sexually charged, gay-rooted Berlin bacchanal Berghain. This year’s Black Party DJ lineup features two Berghain residents, Boris from Berlin and Roi Perez from Israel, along with Mike Servito and Ryan Smith of Brooklyn, Byrell The Great from New York’s Ballroom scene — and Black Party virgin DJ Harvey, a London native.

As the 40th iteration since the original Saint’s first Black Party in 1981, this year’s affair, stylized XL, has been accorded “the ultimate Roman theme. It will feel like Caligula’s Rome, from all of the architecture to all of the costumes, and the strange live acts.”

“We’re actually writing a whole storyline and re-enacting it,” Pevner explains. “Caligula comes to the throne because he’s killed the previous emperor. And of course it’s his last party — he gets ‘murdered’ during the event. What ensues is just a night of complete debauchery, as one would expect in Caligula’s time.”

“Ritex XL, The Black Party: Caligula, The Last Party” is Saturday, April 6, from 10 p.m., to Sunday, April 7, at 3 p.m., at the New York Expo Center, 1110 Oak Point Ave., in the Bronx. Tickets are $175 in advance, or $75 for those under age 27; $60 for Sunday entry after 9 a.m. Call 212-674-8541 or visit www.saintatlarge.com.

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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