Since 2006, Vancouver Public Space Network, a non-profit organization that aims to “preserve and celebrate” YVR’s public space, has hosted an annual Halloween dance party aboard a SkyTrain. There isn’t much to explain: there is a DJ, there are costumes, there are plenty of off-kilter moves being thrown about as dancers try to steady themselves aboard the moving train. And it’s free – at least, free with the purchase of a transit pass.
Devoted to providing its readers not only with coverage of cultural events going on around campus, but also to those happening around the Lower Mainland, Mars’ Hill thought it imperative to cover the event. Your two correspondents, for the night known as pretentious baristas Tobias and Genevieve, braved the odd and bizarre to bring you an account of just what happened aboard the Expo Line on October 27, between the times of 8-9:20 PM.
7:51 PM (Waterfront Station): After spending a half-hour wandering around Gastown, your corresps. return to the final stop on the Expo Line, serving as the starting point for the 2017 Halloween SkyTrain Party. At the landing at the top of the escalator, a group of costumed individuals are dancing/prancing around a rather large speaker. We seem to be in the right place.
7:54 PM: A gathering of 75+ individuals are gathered around the Expo Line platform. There’s someone dressed up as Sriracha. Lots of zombie makeup. It is quickly becoming apparent that your corresps. are in over the head. Look, we’re on the school paper. Our idea of a good time generally includes board games and tea, and less public tomfoolery. Really out of our element here.
“We’re doing this for the paper. We’re here as journalists,” Genevieve notes.
7:56 PM: The dancers at the top of the escalators have made their way down to the platform to the front of the crowd. One of them climbs on top of his speaker; it becomes apparent that he’s dressed as Redfoo from LMFAO. He seems to be one of the event’s organizers. Trying to gain the attention of the group, he attempts getting the crowd to participate in stretching. If we are to trust him, getting loose is “of the highest importance,” and “could prevent injury.” Predictably, “Party Rock Anthem” plays on the speaker that serves as his soapbox. A select few individuals follow along to his instructions. Your corresps. are starting to feel really uncomfortable.
7:57 PM: “You guys are baristas?” some guy asks us. A sigh of relief from your corresps. It turns out that throwing black aprons over plaid shirts is enough of a costume. Genevieve holds a reusable Starbucks coffee cup as a prop. That may have been what sold the costume.
A guy wearing a Cookie Monster-esque costume with the words “Free Hugs” sewn onto his stomach has made an entrance. We both look at him with suspicion. There’s something slightly creepy about the dude.
8:02 PM: We start to board the train. The party is splitting into two separate groups. The DJ heads one direction, Redfoo heads the other; something may be slightly off with him, but he seems to know how to have a good time. Once on the train, it becomes obvious that around 70% of the passengers are here for the party. There’s a guy dressed up in a pretty great Beaker costume. A couple of girls are wearing rain gear; from their umbrellas dangle photos of male models (ie. “It’s Raining Men”). Your corresps. file through the crowd. Free Hugs leers in the corner. It strikes me (Tobias) that the first order of business should be to get away from Free Hugs as quickly as possible.
8:04 PM: There are not many passengers dancing around your corresps. Out of our element we may be, but we’re here for a good time. We push to get closer to Redfoo and an individual who seems to be his close associate, a guy wearing a suit and slatted white and red shades. Redfoo is currently dancing on top of his speaker, waving around a crossing guard sign, “STOP” on one side, “PARTY ON” taped onto the other.
8:11 PM: Your corresps. make our way into the inner circle of the party.
8:13 PM: A lady in her mid-fifties has made her way onto the train car. She does not seem as taken with the party as many of the SkyTrain’s other patrons are (there are a lot of people with their phones out taking video).
8:15 PM: Your corresps. are really going hard at his dancing thing.
8:20 PM: So it’s becoming apparent that there are two main groups at this Halloween party: those who do this kind of thing on a regular basis and those who don’t. Redfoo et al. seem like they’re veterans of public parties. They’re in their element and loving it. But the much bigger contingent is comprised of individuals who seem to have found out about the party over social media (your corresps. belong to this group). Most of them, even if in costume, really do not feel comfortable dancing on public transit. They watch. They smile. But hardly do they make a motion groovier than a head bob.
But as previously stated, your corresps. are committed to the cause. The success of this party is vital. And dare we say, we are low-key the life of the party. People really seem to like Tobias and Genevieve a lot.
8:22 PM: Cow costume joins our car and informs us that the party on the other side of the train is not taking off.
“They’re playing trap!” he yells. This is met with boos from our car.
8:25 PM: We’ve been dancing hard for nearly twenty minutes now. I’m starting to realize that a wool flannel shirt doesn’t breathe very well.
8:26:47 PM: It dawns on me that I’m wearing wool socks too.
8:28 PM: I’m starting to sweat.
8:29 PM: Really starting to sweat. Everyone is. The SkyTrain car is turning into a sauna.
8:31 PM: “Thriller” comes on. Redfoo clears a runway; a moonwalking competition ensues. Genevieve joins in.
8:33 PM: “I’m not sure I can go the entire way,” Redfoo admits to the SkyTrain. I don’t blame him. He’s made a habit of carrying a habit of carrying his 50lb. speaker up and down the train car. “It’s getting really hot in here,” he gasps.
“Then we should switch cars at King George!” I find myself yelling. This is met with cheers.
8:36 PM: The unwelcome smell of body odour is starting to fill up the SkyTrain. Your corresps. start taking literal breathers at every SkyTrain station that we arrive at, dancing on the loading platforms for as long as time will allow.
8:39 PM: Conga line.
8:47 PM: We’ve made it to King George station. We do not switch cars, though Redfoo announces that we are claiming the very end of the SkyTrain as the “party zone.” Probably a good move: up until this point, there have been regular patrons sitting amidst the party’s participants. They don’t seem to mind the party – nearly all of them are enjoying it – but they are really limiting our ability to dance freely.
8:49 PM: Non-partiers have all filed out of the SkyTrain. We now have a place to call our own. And it seems to have brought about a second wind to the party’s energy. We have hardly left King George and there are now people trying to use the safety rails to dance on the ceiling. They are… somewhat successful. Despite his earlier uncertainty, Redfoo is as lively as ever. No longer is he relegated to standing on his speaker: he has empty seats to climb on top of. He immediately starts taking advantage of this newfound mobility.
8:56 PM: A dance circle of sorts has opened up. I nudge Genevieve into the spotlight. Serious footwork ensues. Said serious footwork is met with cheers from the car.
8:59 PM: “It’s Raining Men” comes on. It’s time for the two girls actually dressed up as “It’s Raining Men” to shine. Yet they look as somber as ever. They’re swaying a bit. Missed opportunity, guys.
9:02 PM: “YMCA” is next up: maybe the biggest hit of the night. The entire car – those here for the party and those who are just here for the transportation – joins in. It gets loud. It gets joyous.
9:03 PM: Your corresps. are running on fumes at this point. We’ve been dancing more-or-less continuously for nearly an hour now. We are actually heaving at this point, leaning against the SkyTrain door.
9:05 PM: We’re somewhere in New West. Your corresps. are taking another break on the SkyTrain platform. The doors start to close. I let out a shriek as we get caught trying to make our way through the closing doors. Two women dressed as grape bunches, who were trying to change cars, are wedged in between the doors as well. Their grapes (balloons) start popping. We squeeze into the train by inches.
9:08 PM: The music stops. Everyone looks confused.
“Sorry,” Redfoo says, “I got a major muscle cramp.”
9:10 PM: By this point, the number of stops left are actually being counted down by your corresps. We have five more to go until Commercial, the station at which my car is parked.
9:14 PM: Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” is blaring. Redfoo has been playing the hits, and it is just enough to keep the party going for the remaining stops.
9:19 PM: We’ve reached Commercial. Guy in cow costume takes your corresps. photo (he seems to be serving as the party’s official photographer), as we swing-dance our way off the car. The middle-aged ladies dressed as medieval peasants (?) wave to us as we leave.
We catch a glimpse of the party happening at the other end of the other end of the SkyTrain. Dubstep is blasting, and the partygoers don’t seem to be moving much. We look back at the car we just came out of. Redfoo, Redfoo’s associate, cow photographer, gator guy, grape ladies, human domino – they are still full of energy. These are the people that bring spontaneity to city life. Some heroes do wear capes (Superman capes, Batman capes, etc.). Others wear rubber udders.
9:20 PM: Party train departs without us. As quickly as it appeared, it vanishes into the East Vancouver night. Your corresps. exit the station in search of McDonalds.