The Pandemic Pete Interview
The monthly installment of Pandemic is poppin’ off this Friday and in true party spirit, we thought we’d ask the night’s head party guru and curator, Pandemic Pete, a few questions about this reputable and eccentric dance night that happens the first Friday of every month at Brillobox. Each month you can count on the fact there will be at least 100 sweaty twenty somethings dancing their toes off to the point they can turn the room’s temperature up into the 90s even on a frigid January night. We wanted to learn about the event’s origins, history and what Pete’s plans are for Pandemic in the future. Here goes.
Kymbo Slice: Can you tell us about the history of Pandemic? How did it come about? How long have you been doing this party? Has it always been at Brillobox? Have you always been the primary curator or do you ever have guest DJs?
Pandemic Pete: The idea for Pandemic started in the late summer/fall of 2005 with Justin Hopper, Caulen Kress, and myself. We were all in bands that shared a practice space downtown and started talking about the idea of a (I hate this term but) world music dance night. Then my band played a party in the NY Gypsy Festival at the Mehanata Bulgarian Bar. After the bands were done, Dj Joro Boro (a frequent Pandemic guest) spun an amazing mix of Gypsy, Bhangra, Chalga, and Cumbia. My mind was blown and I knew when I got back to Pittsburgh I needed to stop talking and actually do it. The Brillobox had just opened and we approached Eric with the idea and he was all for it. Somehow 6 years later we are still at it. Juddy and I are the primary DJs, but he misses a handful of months a year gallivanting around the world as a writer/poet/vagabond of sorts. When he is absent we have invited other local and national/sometime international DJs to hold it down in his place.
KS: How would you describe your musical selections to those who have never attended a Pandemic party?
PP: At first I used the term world fuck music, but I don’t know if the other guys formally approved of that description. Juddy recently came up with the label “DRINKING, DANCING, STOMPING, YELLING” which kind of describes the night pretty well.
KS: Any time I’ve been, Brillo’s upstairs seemed to be particularly sweaty. What about Pandemic do you think gets people dancing so much?
PP: The booze helps, but that’s not really what does it. I think it’s the mix of music (Gypsy, Balkan, Cumbia, Bhangra, Afrobeat, etc). Last winter I was eating dinner before Pandemic somewhere (nervously freaking out, for some reason i freak out before every party) and overheard someone talking about going to Pandemic and they said something to the extent of… “I can’t wait to go to Pandemic tonight because it’s always like summer there.”
The music we choose is just so festive and celebratory. It’s fun to let the sound get unfamiliar or for lack of a better term, exotic. By that I mean we don’t play conventional club music, we try to push the limits a bit, but not in a high-brow heady way. I love it when you can get people to dance who normally don’t like to. There is something about the Balkan beats that loosens up even the most uptight dancer (myself included in the category). No one knows how to dance to most of the music, so people aren’t afraid to jump around and have fun with it. I personally try to find the most bizarre and silly songs to smash together in a set. One minute a Russian gypsy song, the next a Baile funk remix, then on to a 60’s Thai pop song, from there a South African house jam, or Peruvian cumbia? who knows.
KS: Do you have any particular Pandemics that stick out in your mind? Any stories that you might want to share?
PP: After every party I say “That was my favorite Pandemic ever!” Last month’s party was insane… I saw a boob or two, people were spilling drinks everywhere. I found out after the fact that it was Serbian Xmas and a party of people showed up after Serbian Xmas mass.
KS: What does the future have in store for Pandemic?
PP: I would really like to bring in more live acts. I’ve been talking to a few national and international DJs but I can’t confirm any names yet. I dream big like a concert series or music festival of sorts (wink wink VIA cough cough, Carnegie Museums cough cough, anybody who wants to work with me cough cough wink smile) But for now I’ll keep it simple and say I would just like just to have fun and continue to do it.
Pandemic pops off this Friday, February 3 at Brillobox. 9:30PM, $5 bux, with special guest DJ Hatesyou, who we interviewed last month!