Remixing the Circuit and inspired by the legendary Club Kids, Neverland brings fresh ideas to the Chicago party scene. Born from a series of private house parties, the mix of fierce tribal music with over the top drag queens and dynamic imagery was ushered to clubland via a forward thinking Hydrate manager. Growing from monthly club nights to bigger venues like the Mid, Neverland is bringing a full line up to Chicago Pride 2015. With three events over the weekend, there is no doubt something to satiate your tribal cravings.
If Michael Alig was sitting right here next to you what would you want to ask him?
Anthony DiFiore: Are you going to go back to work? No but seriously I am wondering what he is going to do now that he is out of jail.
Would you hire him?
Anthony DiFiore: As a host? Maybe but I would be careful and hide the weapons.
Now there’s a theme party. So where did the ideas for your themes come from?
Anthony DiFiore: They just come from random, crazy places. Our first theme was a Purity ball. Among Christian conservatives instead of a prom they will have a purity ball where they send their kids to a dance to sign a vow of chastity. We thought it was so funny because gay people are such whores so we decided to do a gay purity ball where people sign a fake vow of chastity when in reality they are probably going to have sex that night. Everyone dresses in white and we have angel wings. We also did a ratchet ball theme where everyone was just supposed to dress ratchet, we like doing crazy stuff like that.
When I saw the pictures from Purity Ball I thought wow this is a modern 2010’s take on the White Party, was that part of your inspiration also?
Anthony DiFiore: Kind of, we wanted it to be a mixture of the White Party and the Victoria’s Secret fashion show but for men. It’s still evolving, we have done three of them so far and we are going to do them as our annual New Year’s party.
Martin Luna: I can’t wait for this year; it’s going to be amazing.
Neverland started as a monthly event at Hydrate, how did you get involved with party planning?
Anthony DiFiore: We used to throw house parties and one of the managers at Hydrate used to come to our parties. He told us that we take it way too seriously and that we should do it at a club.
Is the monthly party the Glow Party?
Anthony DiFiore: Yeah, now we do this party called Gay Glow bimonthly at Hydrate which is separate from the bigger Neverlands. Neverland used to be a monthly party but as it has evolved we want to keep it to special occasions so now we just do it at Pride, Market Days, Halloween and special times of the year.
I saw you did a big party at MID, were you nervous taking it from a club to such a big venue?
Anthony DiFiore: Yes definitely because you need people to show up. Hydrate can fit about 250 people so as you build your brand it is easy to get 250 people in a club and it looks packed and it helps the energy but MID is an 800 person venue so you need a lot of people to make it look full.
Are your parties this year sanctioned by Chicago pride?
Anthony DiFiore: No, but unlike New York they don’t have big sanctioned circuit parties so that is why we wanted to take the lead and create big dance parties.
You have three different events going on; tell us about them.
Anthony DiFiore: First of all there is a daytime outdoor pool party and that is how we are going to kick it off. Most people come into town for Pride on Saturday during the day time and there is really nothing to do so they just roam about Boystown and they bar hop. We found this venue very close to Boystown right near Wrigley Field and it has a big outdoor pool, a big patio, private cabanas and we are bringing extra sound and speakers. We are just going to throw the type of pool party that they have in Vegas, Miami and LA and it has never been done. At night time we have Neverland which is our theme brand and we are going to do a Bougie Ball. It’s going to be celebration of the high life of all things rich and fabulous. It is going to be a mixture between a mockery and then also really big goofy stuff like giant furs and big elegant top hats on naked men. We are going to go crazy with that one and it is going to be a big production with a big stage installation and lots of gold. That will be Alex Acosta and Alexander spinning.
And how about your third party?
Anthony DiFiore: For our third party we are going to do a closing party at MID and we are bringing Ivan Gomez. We are really excited about that, he is world famous and we are bringing him over from Madrid. It is expensive to bring a DJ who lives in Europe so we were able to find a club in Mexico that is also going to help us bring him that weekend. He is going to do Chicago and then Mexico City.
How do you find the DJs for your parties?
Anthony DiFiore: It’s just our taste and what we listen to. We also go to house parties and hear what other people are listening to and what other people like. We pay a lot of attention to social media and we see what podcasts people are posting and we base it off of that
You were also the first people on the Trixie Mattel tip, how did you discover her?
Anthony DiFiore: Actually Kim Chi who is one of our team members discovered her. Trixie reached out to her a long time ago when she was living in Milwaukee and said “hey I want to perform at Drag Carnage, I’ll drive myself down and you don’t have to pay me.” She would literally come down and do the events and we would basically pay for gas and tolls so she would pretty much be doing the gigs for free. She blew us away every time, she was phenomenal and we kept booking her and eventually she became a host for Neverland. After she got on the show we had been working together for so long and we decided to tackle it together. I was her manager and we worked on her branding and her website and merchandise and so it’s been a cool relationship.
The whole idea of the circuit has kind of fallen down over the years with the same old party and same DJs. Not only do y’all book fresh talent that and create cutting imagery, but you are bringing fresh energy to the circuit. Do you think that is essential for circuit parties to continue for the next generation?
Anthony DiFiore: I think so and a lot of people disagree with me but I think that working with drag queens is important. We have had people come to our events and criticize us and say that we should be more masculine and butch but I really think that the club kids in the ’90s back in the Limelight and Studio 54 had it right. It was as good mixture of everyone. You see Drag Race is taking off and it is so popular and at the same time circuit parties are in decline and I just feel like getting back to that mixture of everybody is what the circuit scene really needs, to be inclusive and embrace everybody and grow.
Do you also see how there is a divide between guys 30+ doing circuit parties and the younger gays doing more of the EDM festivals?
Anthony DiFiore: I can see that. I went to Spring Awakening on Sunday and that is all EDM music. It is not my style of music and I don’t know if I would compromise Neverland by making it an EDM party. I just don’t think that would be right and as a promoter you have to really believe in the music that is part of your party and really love it. I love tribal house and don’t see any reason why anyone wouldn’t like it. I don’t want to go too main stream just to please the masses.
Important question, where do you find those muscle boys for your parties?
Anthony DiFiore: Grindr. Just kidding. The funny thing about today’s day and age is everyone has Instagram and we are in the selfie generation so if somebody is getting muscles they are going to show them off and put them online so it’s easy for us to snoop around and ask them to be in a photo shoot.
Martin Luna: Most of them are our close friends and they like to work out and they are very good looking and they like the attention, so they want to be a part of Neverland. I asked them and they are more than willing to do it for free.
Is Neverland 100% gay male or is there a straight or female contingent involved also?
Anthony DiFiore: There are some straight people and some females that come and we welcome everybody. We have brought in some DJs like Boris and Marcos Carnaval, that are definitely more from the straight scene. When we brought Boris I wondered if a lot of straight people would show up and we actually had some of the Spybar crowd come out to support it but it definitely wasn’t 50/50 it was more like 90/10. At the end of the day we are a gay party but I would love to have as many people come out as they want but I think a lot of straight guys don’t want to.
Martin Luna: There are some straight guys that like to hang out with gay guys and we are really welcoming to everyone.
Anthony DiFiore: It would be cool to see that change over time and get the mixture of everyone but I also want gay people to feel comfortable and the last thing that we want at a party is homophobia or any weirdness and I want first and foremost for gay people to feel comfortable.
With the big festivals in the EDM world it is the festivals that sell the event, it doesn’t matter how big the DJs are it is all about the festival. Have you found that DJs draw traffic to your party or is it Neverland that draws people to the party?
Anthony DiFiore: That is a really good question. I know that a lot of DJs will disagree with me but brand is very important. We have brought bigger DJs and have had less success than we have had with smaller more local DJs and a really strong theme or strong event marketing. I feel like my focus is to number one build a really consistent brand so people know that they are going to have fun if they come to a Neverland party and then pick up-and-coming DJs who are nice people who are very talented and easy to work with. If the DJ and the brand are consistent then you know that you are going to have a really good time. I would rather do that than work with a prima donna.
The circuit is known for drug use and excess, what do you do as a part of Neverland to control the drug situation and keep a positive atmosphere.
Anthony DiFiore: Aside from having EMTs on hand at the bigger events it is something that I think we need to address more and make a focus as we get bigger. I definitely don’t want to go the route like some of the bigger circuit parties which have died off because too many people are “G”-ing out or overdosing. Even just this weekend at Spring Awakening a teenager died from an overdose. I think that education is critical; I am not one to tell somebody whether they can or cannot take drugs at a party but if you are going to you really should educate yourself about your limits and know your limits so that you keep it cute. That is one of our mottos at Neverland, “keep it cute.”
What is coming up for Market Days?
Anthony DiFiore: On Friday night we are doing Market Days Neverland at Metro, the theme is savages so we are going to do a tribal theme. We are going to have ancient tribes from all over the world represented. They are building crazy, gigantic headdresses and feather pieces and it is going to be Isaac Escalante and Alain Jackinsky DJing. We are really excited about that and then we are just working on planning Halloween and the next Purity Ball around New Years.
What would you like to say to all of your Neverland goers out there?
Anthony DiFiore: A big thank you for supporting us and coming to everything. We love doing this and are really committed to it. We are really good at taking constructive criticism and we love to get feedback so after the parties send us a message online and tell us what you liked and what you didn’t like and how you think that we could do better and we will learn from it and make the experience better each time.
NEVERLAND is hosting three events during Chicago Pride. You can purchase tickets here and check out their website here.