Monday nights aren’t typical underneath Fort Worth’s Curfew Bar. While most of the city settles in for the night, the basement booms with a four-on-the-floor beat that propels a sea of bodies beneath the glow of over a dozen disco balls. The sounds of New Jersey’s house music group Blaze vibrates off the wall.
In the intimate underground bar, day-to-day life distractions are long gone. Cell phone use is nonexistent because there is no signal. For one night a week, it is music, movement, and community. It is a ritual gathering that celebrates free expression, inclusivity, and acceptance. It is Meet Me Underground, a weekly dance party that pays homage to 90s raves.
For over a year, Meet Me Underground has made Curfew Bar its home. Since its inception, devout Dallas partygoers have dutifully made the trek across the Trinity weekly, despite traffic and work, to join the party.
“A big part of our crowd is already coming from Dallas,” Meet Me Underground founder Alvaro Gonzales says. “Then there’s also a lot of people that just know about what we do, but don’t really want to come to a party in Fort Worth, which is kind of understandable. They, in particular, have been waiting for us to go to Dallas.”
The wait is over. Meet Me Underground has found a second home in Dallas’ Green Light Social. Every Wednesday night, Green Light Social will step away from its mainstream appeal and let Meet Me Underground takes over. In Dallas, dance parties abound. Yet, for house music, consistency and dedication are lacking.
Meet Me Underground debuted on April 11, 2021 in Fort Worth. As pandemic restrictions were lifted, Gonzales felt a thirst for community. The need for a dance party devoted to house music in Fort Worth was blaring, but he didn’t revere mainstream nightlife. He longed for something deeper and knew the answer would be eschewing the city’s nightlife trends.
Gonzales envisioned a party where guests became family and people came as they were. Gonzales, who had a successful pre-pandemic run with warehouse parties, knew he had the logistical knowhow to bring his vision to life. When he approached Curfew Bar, they hesitantly slated the concept for three Mondays.
“That first show was my friends and the DJ’s friends, that was pretty much it. But by the third one, I saw what Meet Me Underground could turn into both from a community impact standpoint and just the fact that being able to throw an actual good party in Fort Worth is a super rare thing,” he says.
Alongside resident DJs Boy Blk and C. B. Smoove, Gonzales wanted to recreate the house culture of yesteryear. Like Gonazales, house music’s origins are in a warehouse: Chicago’s club Warehouse during the late 70s and early 80s. Black, gay men found reprieve from society during these nights. DJ Frankie Knuckles used music to embody the expressive freedom dancers yearned for.
“Raves nowadays are idealized. People think about it more like festivals, big stages, big sound systems, lights and all like pyrotechnics,” says Sterling Hasley, Meet Me Underground resident DJ Boy Blk. “The feel of the underground back in the day, especially during the late 80s, was that it was to be a safe place for people who were seen as outcasts at the time, people of color and the LGBT community. Raves were their safe space so we wanted to bring back that aesthetic, that feel, that real genuine organic feel, that raves had back in the day to now.”
For Hasley, the heaviness of the pandemic, talks of a looming recession, and societal unrest has necessitated the raw energy house music cultivates. House music evokes a spiritual experience that strengthens resilience and overpowers adversity through bleak times.
“The dance floor is a very sacred space that I take seriously,” says Karina Salas, who plays under the name DJ Karsalad. “House music can be very repetitive and rhythmic, almost like meditation. I can leave everything behind, go dance and not think and feel free on the dance floor. It’s one of my favorite feelings ever and so that’s what always attracts me to a space like Meet Me Underground. People can feel comfortable enough to come and do that.”
On any given Monday, you’ll find renowned fashion designers, service industry workers, construction workers, doctors, scientists and even a middle-aged man with a bubble gun known as Ta2Dann.
In the wave of bodies entranced by the tempo, you’ll see Dallas photographer Oscar Lozada, muralist Dora Reynosa, rapper Johnny B33, indie artist A-Wall, artist Harpoon, and scientist Bry Chanel.
“The atmosphere is so free. Everyone is dancing,” Chanel says. “It seems like there’s not a care in the room. Nobody really cares what you look like. You can come dressed down, or you can dress up however much you want to. Everyone just wants to have fun.”
Chanel, now a Meet Me Underground regular, visited the recurring event for the first time last April.
At Meet Me Underground, there are no cliques. Hierarchy does not exist.
“Every party that all of us [Meet Me Underground organizers] have been to in Dallas or Fort Worth, for however long we’ve been going to events and showing face to places, is so clicked up,” Codie Binon, resident DJ C. B. Smoove, says. “That’s a huge ruiner of a vibe and of spreading a message of love. It’s been really painful to see for years and years how clicky this metroplex is. When we started Meet Me Underground, breaking that barrier was a huge goal for the crew.”
The inclusive culture has been pioneered through the party’s leaders. At Curfew Bar, Gonzales greets dancers at the door. Halsey made it a priority to familiarize himself with bar staff. When DJs aren’t at the deck, they join dance circles shuffling their way to the center or encouraging dancers via Binon’s signature karate chop hand dance. Often, Gonazles is seen keeping true to the roots of house culture by prioritizing safety. He routinely circles the dance floor to ensure everyone is secure and enjoying themselves.
Meet Me Underground began in Dallas on August 10. Over 300 guests welcomed the weekly party to Green Light Social. Hasley and Binon hit the deck alongside onboarded resident DJs Sordelo, Karsalad, and IAMYU. Regulars and newcomers received the Meet Me Underground crew with electric energy.
“After you were out all night, you show up at work and you can look back on the fact that you just had the best time of your life dancing on the dance floor with a whole bunch of people who you’ve never met,” says Jordan Edwards, who plays as DJ IAMYU. “That’s exhilarating. That’s why time after time people show up to Meet Me Underground, we provide that self-care.”
With five resident DJs bringing their own flavors, attendees can expect to delve into the sub-genres of house including soulful Black house, deep house, dubstep, tropical house, disco, and funk. No two parties are alike.
“It is safe space for anyone, no matter your ethnicity or sexual orientation,” Halsey says. “You’re going to experience something that you’ve never experienced before and at the end of the day, you’re probably going to go home and think about it until the next Monday or the next Wednesday.”