UPTOWN — With in-person parties canceled for the foreseeable future, one Uptown-based, gay-friendly dance party is forging ahead virtually — and is hoping to raise some money for its regular performers in the process.
Grizzly, a monthly dance party hosted at Uptown’s Le Nocturne, will host a digital version of the party starting at 9 p.m. Friday. The interactive, digital version of the party will help the venue and the party’s regular performers get a paycheck during a downtime for the industry, while allowing Chicago’s gay community a chance at community building during a time of social distancing.
“People are going crazy right now,” said Ryan Willing, who produces Grizzly through his nightlife brand Organized Grime. “They need something that reminds them of their old normal.”
The coronavirus outbreak — and efforts to mitigate it — have severely impacted the nightlife industry and other sectors of the local economy, including restaurants and bars. With public gatherings outlawed, promoters and venues have been seeking to raise money and host digital events to keep workers busy.
With the digital version of Grizzly, Willing is seeking to raise funds for his employees while also giving people stuck at home something to do.
“I prefer to present something to the public, provide a service versus just asking for money,” Willing said.
And while virtual concerts, performances and DJ sets are having a moment, Willing said the digital version will be as close to an interactive club setting as possible, given the circumstances.
The party will be hosted on web conferencing platform Zoom. Willing and his team will control the main screen, switching between streams of live DJ’s, dancers and other entertainment. Party-goers will be visible in the thumbnail on the stream, and Willing will show certain party goers on the big screen, he said.
Zoom’s chat feature will also be used, allowing people to interact and say where they’re tuning in from. A “virtual shot” will also be held, thanks to the party’s sponsor, Crystal Head Vodka.
“If we see people quarantined but dressed up in fun outfits, we’ll feature them,” Willing said. “It makes it interactive, at least for our current reality.”
Willing will also be soliciting donations from party goers to help Organized Grime’s promoters, dancers, hosts, DJ’s and other crew members, who are otherwise hard-up for work.
With 20 years in the nightlife industry, Willing said he was on track to have his best year ever in 2020. The success of Grizzly and other parties in Boystown and River North helped Willing employ as many as 30 people.
But the coronavirus outbreak changed all that.
“Just as we were in a really successful year, it’s like, ‘Wham,'” Willing said. “My business has been decimated. I definitely went through the stages of grief for my business.”
And while Willing waits for the day he can restart his business, he’s taking every opportunity to help his staff, he said.
“I realized, a lot of people really depend on me,” he said. “Anything I can do to keep people afloat, I’m all for it.”
To join the party: The virtual version of Grizzly will take place from 9 p.m. to midnight Friday. To join the party, visit www.GrizzlyChicago.com the day of the event, and the link will redirect to the Zoom conference. Donations can be made to the party’s promoters and crew through group’s Venmo account, @Organized-Grime-Crew.
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