In West Philly this Valentine’s Day weekend, there’s a Pink Party

The DJ who created the craze talks why.

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Cassie Owens/Billy Penn
Cassie Owens, Reporter/Curator

Pink isn’t Astro 8000’s favorite color. It is the perfect one, though, at least for what Astro wants to do. His Pink Party, a dance night where the theme is all rose-colored everything, returns on Friday. Yes, this is the Valentine’s Day edition. No, this party isn’t only for sweethearts. The flyer is clear: “No cuffing required.”

And the party has taken off. It’s been around for eight months, but it’s already included in South by Southwest’s official schedule this year. The first one happened in a warehouse last June.

“The only way to get to the party was through this freight elevator… that you had to operate manually,” Astro remembered, adding that people still talk about it. “It looked like a dungeon.”

Friday’s party will be at William Street Common in West Philly. The venue’s lighting should turn the room pink. Astro’s excited. “It just came to my head,” he said of the concept. “People throw all black affairs, all white for Labor Day and stuff. I was just looking at that. Like man, different people throw the same party all the time. I just wanted a different color-themed party without being on something gang-related. What gang is going to rep pink? Besides Task Force? Besides me?”

It’s easy to use hip hop as a rough catchall for the styles that Astro can run through in a set, but that blanket wouldn’t fully cover his flip of Ty Dolla Sign’s “Zaddy,” nor his inspired remix of 112’s “You Already Know.” (Astro made Slim’s lead vocal even higher, and the twinkling beat kind of sounds like high-pitched wind chimes.) Andre Altrez, a rapper and co-founder of Girard Hall, a DIY venue that hosted the party before the space was shut down last fall, said the color frees the party to veer in different directions musically. Another night that features the “turn-up stuff,” he said, might not drift into slow jams as easily.

“Honestly, as always, the femmes show out,” said Altrez of the fashion. Femmes, which he pronounces like fem-mies, are the ladies, of course, but it’s not just them. “If you throw out that pink theme, people get a little more creative.

“I actually had a pink wig on. Yeah, it’s a good time.”

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Cassie Owens/Billy Penn

By phone, Astro outlined his thought process: Pink was a color that might bring more girls out, and dudes would follow. But he also wanted the mood to shift: “When it’s all pink, you don’t want to fight,” he said.

Days later, in person at Thang Long, a Vietnamese restaurant at Kensington, he reiterated that point. It’s almost like a security measure, one that makes good business sense: Parties that garner reputations for fights make DJs harder to book. Altrez confirmed that folks generally are happier at this party: “It’s chaotic times, but everyone’s having fun with no regards for anything happening outside.”

Astro has taken the Pink Party to DC and is working on other cities. The DC flyer made all the right references: Pink bandanas, plus photos of Rihanna and Cam’ron in famous looks where they both wore the color from head to toe, fur included. Again, that’s Rihanna, the pop star who earns the most consistent stream of praise for her fashion, and Cam, the rapper who sparked a pink craze in hip hop in the early 2000s. Jesus, that was a time. Black boys weren’t just fine with pink shirts and pink hats, they were asking if you noticed their pink diamonds. Clothing in hip hop that boldly comes in ballet-slipper and bubble-gum has owed thanks to that moment since. Monica Morrow, the stylist who selected the signature color for Cam’ron, said she’s never been to an all-pink party before.

“But I would love to go,” reacted Morrow. “When is it coming to New York? I would love to come there pinked out with Cam.”

Morrow recalled that back in the day, she and Cam’ron were trying to bring back an old-school Harlem extravagance. Harlemites, who boasted of leanings towards the jazzy and the fashionable, also had a rep for dressing flamboyantly luxe. Morrow put Cam’ron in furs, for starters. “He was like ‘This is good. More, more, more,’” she explained. Looking for how to turn up the dial, Morrow went for pink.

For her, the color is unquestionably manly: “It doesn’t get more masculine than Cam’ron. Dudes respected it coming from him.”

She loves how the kids are dressing these days. Urban fashion isn’t “in a dark place anymore. There’s a lot growth and lot of awareness,” she said. “It’s self-expression. You wear what the fuck you want to wear now.”

Astro’s hair is pink with long grown out roots. He doesn’t get into labels; he prefers his own shirts and hoodies with his logos on them, and a lot of what he rocks beyond that is generic. That people shop for his party is flattering to him.

He’s from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, between Harrisburg and Reading. He’s got self-branded gear in purple too, which has always been his favorite shade. Astro, 24, had been coming down to the city often before he finally followed friends and moved here for real four years ago. His dad is a DJ back home who plays weddings, bars and school dances. That’s who gave Astro his start 10 years ago.

“When I was 18 years, when I was still living in Lebanon, he would be booked to DJ at bars, but he would just chill and let me DJ,” said Astro, “because he knew I was into the technical side of DJing, like mixing and playing for the crowd.”

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At Thang Long, Astro had ordered his first bowl of pho ever. His friend Zappa walked him through the sauces and fixings. He seemed apprehensive at first. “You put vegetables in there so that you feel healthier,” Zappa told him.

Most guests stick to the theme, but some people don’t, Astro said. “I’ve noticed with the Pink Party, people wear all pink or they wear all black,” he explained over noodles with a light laugh. “I don’t know if they’re trying to protest or something.”

Music is full-time for him now. “Last year, I was making moves, but I mean, I had a job,” he said to Zappa, looking back. He left his gig, managing the Broad and Chestnut Walgreens, last September.

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Five years?” asked Zappa.

“You’re interviewing me now?” Astro replied.

“I’m just trying to throw her a line. You talked about the past and the present. Talk about the future,” Zappa explained.

“You know where I’mma be in 10 years, man,” Astro said. “The Pink Party on tour.”

Topics

Parties, Music

People

Astro 8000