At the time of his passing in April, Prince had plans to make the Paisley Park After Dark series more regular and accessible to the public. The Friday night dance party that kicked off the resurrected After Dark moniker went above and beyond that call in a unique fashion last night: it provided a warm and welcoming space for fans and friends.
In addition to longtime staffers, familiar faces at Paisley Park’s NPG Music Club included house DJ Michael Holtz and Prince’s younger brother, Omarr Baker. Holtz rang in the evening with a host of iconic classics from the Prince catalog — like “Take Me With U,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Controversy.” As the night progressed, however, Holtz’s playlist spanned the length of Prince’s output, with the audience grooving to songs like “Cool” by the Time and remixes of hits including “Thieves in the Temple” and “Batdance.” Following the music through the decades, the experienced partygoers didn’t miss a beat, mouthing the words to every song played up until the waning moments of Holtz’s closer, “Let’s Go Crazy.”
For a Paisley Park newcomer like me, the tour preceding the main event was moving and surreal. True to form, much of the facility has been kept just as it was left on April 21. Strict prohibitions on photography and cell phones not only fulfill rules kept in place during Prince’s lifetime but help preserve the mystique surrounding this temple. “It’s kind of Willy-Wonka-like,” said Alexander Zahir of Minneapolis, one of the younger fans present. “It’s hard to imagine it until you’re actually inside.” This can be a lot to handle, and tour guides decked in purple tunics readily indicate multiple Kleenex boxes for fans who become emotional on the tour.
Meanwhile, Prince’s office looks as though it sits in wait for the artist. “It’s kind of like stepping into a moment,” said Zahir, 23, eyeing the packed suitcase in the corner of the room and the copy of Live Current Vol. 5 on the coffee table. Much of the staff remains from Prince’s time here. Their reverence for him — not just the artist, but the human being — is palpable.
This was no raucous late-night bacchanal. Dry as ever, Paisley Park still holds firm to the teetotaling Purple One’s rules barring alcohol in the venue. A few guests lounged on couches as calming kaleidoscopic projections played above Holtz’s turntables. The crowd, middle-aged on average, was relatively sedate and neatly filed out when Holtz announced the end of the festivities around 11. For most of the evening, a tent peddled food and merchandise just outside of the club — a reminder of the fact that this is no longer a home but a museum.
The party provided a unique service to many of the still-mourning attendees. Though the artist is gone, his impact is still fresh in every corner of the world he created. As Holtz played the guests out, Prince said it best over the speakers in the song he wrote for his home. “Admission is easy, just say u/ Believe and come to this/ Place in your heart/ Paisley Park is in your heart.”
Ibad Jafri studies International Relations and Cinema & Media Studies at Carleton College. He never meant to cause you any sorrow, nor did he mean to cause you any pain.