I’m sipping a cocktail through a silly-straw. Alf is playing on the television. Sounds of A-Ha’s “Take on Me” fill my ears. What year is it?
Decades: A Time Traveling Vortex was a one-night experience brought to life by The Passion Projects collective that promised “an immersive and interactive environment that celebrates every decade that has led us up to where we are now from the ‘80s-today.” Meeting co-founders Zachary Sanders and Christina Smith at the event made the name “Passion Projects” all the more apt as it was obvious that this endeavor was definitely a labor of love. They were warm, welcoming, and clearly proud of the work they’d put in to making Decades an unforgettable night. The event spanned from 7pm-1am; the first and last hours of the night were host to a DJ dance party and then each hour in between took party-goers on a trip through the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, and 2010s. Although the experience itself was not immersive in the traditional, theatrical sense, there were several highlights throughout the evening.
The Downtown Los Angeles venue for the night was Drip Studios, a photography studio in the heart of the Fashion District. By nature of it being a photography studio, there was a great deal of opportunity to dress up the place in an effort to make the theme more apparent and immersive. From the walls splashed with Saved by the Bell-style patterns to the fuzzy clock by the bar and the TV set installations by Media Pollution, featuring a menagerie of Saturday morning cartoons and MTV music videos, the efforts had been clearly made with regard to the décor.
The music, spun by a live DJ in between “decades,” was on point and got the crowd up and moving. The opening band for the ‘80s hour, Twin Chameleon, sounded great and played an entertaining mix of both ‘80s hits as well as a few of their own originals, which, although catchy, were not a great fit in the context of the ’80s environment.
Prior to the shift from the ‘80s to the ‘90s, a pair of roller-skaters did a synchronized dance performance, which really wowed the crowd.
The drink specials featured a variety of beer and wine along with one specialty cocktail named “Nostalgia,” a whiskey-based offering which I sipped through one of the silly-straws provided by the bar. There was also a cute display of ring pops for sale and some free slap bracelets given out by co-founder Christina Smith, who was tending the bar.
Overall, the night was successful in that it brought a crowd together that filled the venue to take part in the experience. Where it fell short, however, was in its lack of immersion and commitment to authenticity. For example, most of the crowd was dressed in modern clothing, with only a smattering of people in costume – most of whom were performers for the night. Decades could have benefited from possibly offering an incentive of a discount for individuals who arrived in costume, or perhaps had more wearable props for everyone to utilize. Further, the bar could have included more authentic drinks for each decade being represented instead of featuring one specialty cocktail to cover the entire scope of the night. Things like Tab, Crystal Pepsi, and Capri-Sun are all still available today and could have easily been added into the mix and rotated between decades to further drive the theme forward.
According to their website, the mission of The Passion Projects is to support local artists through community and inclusion in an attempt to break down barriers between all different forms of art while immersing spectators into the collaborative artistic environments that they create. The event worked to uphold the mission of The Passion Projects by giving guests a unique experience and artists a place to showcase their talents. Although it came across more as a theme party event rather than an immersive experience, their efforts did not go unappreciated, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next from this fun and funky collective.