Since I was a wee kinderbat (young Goth kid, if you’re unfamiliar), I knew of parties where my Anne Rice & The Cure-fueled fantasies existed and were verified; vampires walked among us and I could walk (and dance) among them as well! Anyone with an inkling of the history of Philadelphia’s dark alternative nightlife knows the name of the one event that has helped sustain it, and with Halloween just around the corner, that name is on the lips of many.
Having been covered by national media outlets such as HBO and The History Channel, Dracula’s Ball is an all-ages quarterly event that has come to be seen as one of the region’s defining events for the dark, sensual, and macabre, and a Bahamian implant by the name of Patrick Rodgers of Dancing Ferret Concerts has been the mastermind behind it all. Spearheading many other events in the same vein such as Nocturne, the dearly-departed longest running weekly Goth night in the area, he’s an easily spotted and very approachable Philebrity among this city’s nightkind. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the history of Dracula’s Ball and his other current ventures.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background.
PR: I started Dancing Ferret Concerts in 1995 with absolutely no experience and no training, just a passion for music and a desire to share it. I’ve held concerts at venues all over Philadelphia, including the TLA, Trocadero, Electric Factory, Shampoo, Trilogy, The Kimmel Center and many others. I’ve also run a record label, a magazine, a retail store, and undertaken a number of other interesting one-shot events. I love to travel and experience other cultures, and that definitely has influenced my work in the past and even more so the work I plan to do in the future.
What was the first goth/dark alternative party you ever attended? How did you start throwing parties?
PR: My first alternative party was one of the events at Asylum Nightclub [now defunct]. My very first show was at The Trocadero, with GWAR. They had a side project called X-COPS and none of the other promoters in Philadelphia were interested in the show. I took it, did a decent job with it, lost a lot of money, and decided to give it another go. My second show was with Lycia at Asylum, and it turned a small profit and convinced me that I could bring bands to town that weren’t going to come to Philly and maybe make a few dollars in the process. As to how I started, I literally just decided to do it and did it. I learned by making mistakes.
Give us a bit of background on Dracula’s BallIs there/who is the target demographic? How many people?
PR: There’s no target demographic as such, but speaking generally, we’re looking for open-minded people who want to have fun. Bonus points if they appreciate the dark aesthetic and if they participate by wearing something fantastic. The number of people varies a bit depending on details of the event, but the event has sold out large spaces like Shampoo on a number of occasions.
When and where was the first Dracula’s Ball you threw? Describe it from your perspective as a promoter.
PR: The first Dracula’s Ball was May 17th, 1998, at Evolution (formerly Asylum). I had a concept for an event that included both DJs and live bands as well as vendors and other assorted entertainment. I was going for a dark, creative aesthetic with a bit of an edge to it, and a vampire theme fit perfectly. I had been to some other events where everything stopped when the band played, and if people weren’t into the band, they wound up going outside for an hour, or leaving altogether. I was looking for a quick tempo so that if people didn’t like the band, they knew the performance time would be quick. In later years, the event expanded into multi-room venues, and then people really had a good number of options if they weren’t feeling the vibe of one particular room.
I was certainly nervous about the event. It was a new concept and I had no idea how it was going to be received. Fortunately, people responded very well to it. We had just under 300 folks in attendance, which was a big number to me at the time. I was thrilled, and decided to repeat the event.
Tell us a bit about your other upcoming events.
PR: Vision Thing is a monthly event at Blurr Nightclub (formerly Envy). The building has three floors, including a third-floor catwalk that overlooks the second floor dance floor. It’s got an old-school vibe to it, kind of a secret location in a factory or something to that effect. Tribe is a monthly event at Trilogy Nightclub. The space is absolutely amazing, with a first floor that’s all decked out in red velvet, somewhat reminiscent of Shampoo. We use two floors for Tribe, but in the future we hope to expand into the third floor as well.
Where would you like to see your events in five years?
PR: I’d like Tribe to evolve into a continuation of Nocturne, offering a safe space for people of all persuasions to party and interact. Dracula’s Ball might become something a bit more fancy, or it might maintain its underground feel; I’m still thinking about where it might go. I definitely plan to spend more time on events that provide genuine cultural interaction. Three years ago, I presented the first Uyghur dinner in Philadelphia and I’m seriously considering presenting another dinner event this winter.
This Halloween is the 65th Dracula’s Ball, held at the historic Trocadero Theatre at 1001 Arch St in Philadelphia. For more information and tickets, visit the official website and RSVP on Facebook. for ticket links.
-Tahnee Jackson for PASSIONAL