Local Current Blog

Prince leads a singalong – and almost a DJ battle – at Paisley Park dance party

When I was a kid, I didn’t dance — not at friends’ houses, not at school formals, not at weddings. I sang along with whatever I liked at the time, but even the catchiest Janet Jackson record couldn’t get me moving in public. I felt self-conscious — more laughable than agile.

Thank goodness that’s over with. I might still look goofy sometimes, but finally, I have no reservations about dancing at shows. All it takes is the right music and the right crowd — and I found both at Paisley Park’s dance party on Saturday night.

Announced via Facebook on Saturday afternoon, the dance party rounded out a three-day weekend of Paisley events. On Thursday, Prince performed two solo “Piano and a Microphone” shows, the latter of which Andrea Swensson wrote up here. On Friday, Paisley Park hosted a funk show featuring Twin Cities bands PHO and Graham Central Station (led by longtime Prince collaborator Larry Graham). Several fans had flown in from out of town (Boston, London, and beyond) to catch Thursday’s performances, and the bonus parties made it especially worth their while.

When the studio’s doors opened at 9:00 p.m., guests hopped out of their cars and lined up to pay their cover. From there, they could grab some “REAL” chocolate chip cookies, hit the merch booth to buy a meme-emblazoned shirt (“THIS COULD BE US…BUT YOU PLAYIN”), or simply get on the floor.

Last time I was at Paisley Park, Prince performed on a small stage with Judith Hill and his band. On Saturday, that room took on a lounge feel, with a purple sectional and chairs on stage. The action ensued in the space next door, which hosts an amazing sound system and holds hundreds comfortably.

A couple hundred fans roamed the hangar-like room for an hour, dancing to songs like “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silentó, and lots of Prince. At 10:00 p.m., wild applause played from the speakers, and I wondered if something was going on in the smaller room. I got there and found out that no, nothing was happening — but the speakers in that room were blasting applause, too. Whatever was about to happen, everyone was meant to know.

Grainy footage flashed on a screen behind the large stage, and we saw a younger Prince at a keyboard. The scene cut, his outfit changed — and we were in Kansas City, Mo., seeing a concert at Municipal Auditorium. From “Uptown” to “Housequake,” we watched Prince sing and dance onscreen, and I was floored by the tight live show. I thought it was ‘80s footage at first, since Prince appeared very young and moved like a swan. But I had to reevaluate after he shouted out the new-defunct NPG Music Club website, and after looking up the setlist, I traced it back to 2001 (I’m still shocked).

The concert film cut off after only a half hour, giving way to the DJ and many HITnRUN: phase one cuts. At 11:00 p.m., another concert started up, but clips darted from dance move to dance move, spliced with cartoonish titles of Prince’s hits. He wore a banana-yellow suit.

About twenty minutes into film number two, “MILLION $ SHOW” began, and we heard, “What’s up, y’all?” from our host. Standing at the back of the room behind a keyboard-mic-computer set-up, Prince asked us to dance, and he DJed for nearly an hour. We heard mostly HITnRUN songs, either from phase one (“AIN’T ABOUT TO STOP,” “SHUT THIS DOWN”) or phase two (including “Stare”). He sang live vocals on 1987’s “Hot Thing” and several others.

Prince tried to battle the other DJ, Michael Holtz. He gestured across the room and asked, “DJ, what you got over there?” But he soon went back to his own turntables, playing us a chopped-and-screwed “SHUT THIS DOWN.”

Prince DJed several huge songs on Saturday, declaring, “Too many hits!” during “I Would Die 4 U.” But none could top the crowd’s sing-along to “When Doves Cry.” Prince said, “Minneapolis! You want to live here now, right?” As the crowd cheered, a woman next to me exclaimed, “What am I doing singing ‘When Doves Cry’ with Prince?”

“Three days in a row,” cried our host. After thanking us all “so much,” he returned the floor to the DJ.

I danced for a couple more hours, laughing as the floor lost it to V.I.C.’s “Wobble.” Then, tired from the previous night’s Current Birthday Party show, I decided to go home. What a weekend.

I debated about wearing a watch into the party, finally deciding to try it. But I don’t think I’d bring one again — losing track of the hour is part of Paisley’s charm for me, and I didn’t like giving that away.

We didn’t see Finding Nemo this time — Barbarella, a kooky-looking science fiction film, played on several screens during the party.

Signs offered $40 mini-tours of Paisley Park, but I’d just taken one at the Judith Hill show, and I decided to stay on the floor. According to one Facebook commenter, the second tour group heard Thursday night’s “Piano & a Microphone” performance being mixed in Studio A.

Signs, cameras, and cameramen let us know we would be filmed in the main room. However, I didn’t know why until I got home; most of the party was apparently livestreamed to all the Internet. I thought about regretting how hard I’d danced. But like a friend of mine says: “If you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it.”

Cecilia Johnson is a freelance writer from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro. Her favorite things include cheesecake, Chuck Klosterman, and Tinashe.