One year ago, DJ Blake Ward had an idea partially inspired by the music of late seventies New York club culture as seen on the popular Netflix musical drama show The Get Down.
Between the dominance of house music (affectionally nicknamed Disco’s Revenge) and hip-hop in modern Dallas dance clubs, it's the perfect time to revisit the roots of these music cultures on a bigger scale. There was a time when hip-hop and disco were, at the very least, closer cousins occupying the headspace of the more adventurous club-goer.
“The Netflix show is a way to explain the theme in an easily accessible way," Ward says. "It’s the widest point in the funnel. This is really about celebrating the way disco, funk influenced hip-hop of the era.”
Ward is far too young to have experienced the late '70s club vibe firsthand, and although his parties, called Disco, TX, takes heavy influence from that era, he is putting a modern spin on disco and hip-hop crossover of the time. The music of the party pushes beyond those simple confines into Italo disco, new wave, '80s boogie and balearic sounds of the more far-out space disco.
Ward got the idea for Disco, TX — which will have its first anniversary this week — somewhat by accident. He was hosting a New Year's Eve party a few years ago when he had an aha moment.
“I figured out the terrible people who tend to show up at NYE events wouldn’t stick around and harass people if I was playing disco,” he says.
A year ago, Ward got access to The Stoneleigh’s top floor and decided to run with the concept, creating a theme party that has taken on a life of its own.
Over the past year, Disco, TX events have blossomed into something unique in Dallas nightlife culture. At these over-the-top parties, attendees are encouraged to dress up for the theme — an extra effort that paid off from the get-go.
“Luckily, people really ran with the first theme at the first one, which was advertised as just purely disco," Ward says, "but included a whole lot of Italo, house, space disco, '80s boogie and new wave as well.”
For one oil money-themed party, the audience took it up a notch.
“Everyone looked like they just walked out of a steakhouse in Amarillo in 1982," Ward says.
The themes are equal parts ambition, absurdly specific and willfully obscure.
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“Disco, TX became an imaginary place that we could all go to and get away from the rather boring monoculture that tends to dominate Dallas nightlife sometimes," Ward says.
Ward created something fresh in Dallas in a large-scale format, events that are upscale without being inaccessible. The party moves locations from month to month, adding to its mystique. While The Stoneleigh has become the parties' home base, Ward is still moving the concept around to other spots — including a stop in Deep Ellum this summer.
“We are landing a UFO on stage at Trees in June," Ward says. "That’s really all I can say about that at the moment, but it’s going to be insane.”
For Friday's anniversary party at The Stoneleigh, Ward has roped in a who’s who of downtown nightlife faces. Dallas MC 88 will kill on the mic, Christy Ray and Mutemore will join Ward on the decks, and Motus Red will bring a 3-D photo booth. Dress disco sharp and ready to party down the time warp.