Jan. 3, 2023 — There were the jumpstylers and the Melbourne Shuffle aficionados at the Florence Events Center (FEC) on News Year’s Eve, along with the freesteppers, finger tutters and tecktonik dancers. As with any Electronic Dance Music (EDM) party, there were ample random hoppers and cool swayers attempting to pull out the wallflowers who were just taking it all in.
The Coast Runners EDM Dance Party, a 16-and-older dance party, had an eclectic group of dancers of all ages attend, dressed in a variety of outfits and costumes — cyberpunk, anime, metallic, space and sci-fi. Many of the costumes were extenuated by glowsticks, glowing under the pulsing multi-colored lights and cyber-inspired videos that played on multiple screens.
Halfway through the night, dancers cleared the floor to allow an LED poi ball spinner to take the centerstage, twirling the lights faster and faster as the crowd cheered.
Then it was back to the dance floor as DJs Alex Grady and Lali Garcia, who spun tracks that ranged from electro house, techno, trance and bass house, later dipping into dubstep, glitch and headbangers, along with other beats of the genre.
Grady and Garcia, who created the event, hope that the new year brings more events like this as the community begins to rebuild after the pandemic.
“I hope people do really start doing more,” Grady said. “It’s a weird time. I hope we’re not the only ones. I hope that more people continue to do more of these events. I would love to see more events at the FEC, or places you wouldn’t expect.”
It’s been a tough road for entertainment since the pandemic began, which saw the loss of multiple entertainment businesses, including longtime stalwart Holiday Bowl and Dunesday Gaming, an arcade which opened just weeks before the shutdowns began. While live events are coming back, attendance has been sporadic.
Grady, who is the manager at City Lights Cinemas, stated that movie attendance has still not come back to what it was pre-pandemic, an issue facing the industry as a whole.
The EDM party had 50-60 attendees, less than what they were hoping for, but enough to consider it a success — particularly with a new event in pandemic times.
“I wasn’t disappointed at all,” Grady said. “But we didn’t know what we were doing but did it anyway. The fact that people showed up, that made it for me.”
It’s a sign that life is starting to come back to the region, but also a warning of the challenges ahead.
Fear of getting sick, either with Covid or any other respiratory illness, is still prevalent, with Grady stating some were still wary of coming back into a crowded space.
“We’re in this mixed state, with the pandemic more under control yet it’s still prevalent. Not everyone feels comfortable,” Garcia said.
Added Grady, “The emotions and psychological damage is still there, and it’s still a big challenge to get people to come out.”
But they’re also seeing people shift into a new comfort zone that presented itself during the pandemic.
“Even we kind of played into it,” said Garcia. “You can view a show from your computer or stream a movie on your TV. You don’t really need to go anywhere in person to entertain yourself. People can stare at their phone while on their couch, warm in their slippers. We adapt to our surroundings, and so we’ve adapted to this new world where we’re all just kind of a little bit more disconnected.”
It’s an issue that has implications for the town that goes back long before the pandemic began. Grady, who graduated from Siuslaw High School, has heard the complaints about a lack of things to do in the city, particularly for the youth and younger workforce.
“A lot of your options are kind of limited when it comes to fun and excitement growing up,” he said. “After you turn 21, you go to Eugene to your first nightclub. It’s unfortunate because if you want to do bigger things, you graduate yourself going to Eugene, then to Portland. You expand what you're looking for — instead of looking in your own town.”
And then you either spend your weekends out of town or decide to leave all together.
“We need to have kids and grandkids stick around for the future of this town. They’re not going to stick around if there’s not something for them to do,” Garcia said.
Grady believed the “old versus young” mentality of creating entertainment is a crutch.
“Tecno is an old concept, there are older people out there who raved before in bigger cities. It’s good for them to relive that, and have that in their own hometown without having to travel.”
But both point out that the deficit of events like the EDM dance parties isn’t for lack of trying.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Garcia. “I know people have tried in the past, they throw an event and maybe attendance seems kind of low, and they get discouraged. And they’re like, ‘Well, Florence doesn’t get it, I’ll go to Portland or Eugene.’ … Why not keep the creativity here and build something amazing?”
And that’s what both intend to do.
“I think we really want to stick it out here, throw a few more events and convince people to have an open mind and go with us on this musical journey,” Garcia said.
Grady added, “I really like EDM music from a DJ perspective, but Lali has been talking about more Latin beats or world beats,” he said. “We want to do more events like this, and span into other genres as well.”
And they hope others do as well.
“There’s a lot of different pockets of our community in Florence, and everybody needs to be catered to,” Garcia said. “Let’s build a community of people who want to have fun and build these events together, be it art projects or dance — any kind of entertainment where people can get together.”