Discovery

The disco-kissed affair celebrates a birthday.

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EMINENT DOMAIN The Famous Friends gang---Joel Fowler, left, Ruth Heronemus, Damon Jablons and Aaron Davis---rules the Santos basement.

EMINENT DOMAIN The Famous Friends gang---Joel Fowler, left, Ruth Heronemus, Damon Jablons and Aaron Davis---rules the Santos basement.

There are plenty of theories regarding the resurgence of disco as a dynamic force in nightlife over the past several years. Some say that the music never really went away—we just stopped using the name. Others say that younger clubbers can enjoy the music without having to deal with the sound's less-than-cool connotations. (Those of a certain age will remember suburban moms taking disco-dance lessons in the wake of Saturday Night Fever. They may also remember disco records coming from such noted underground artists as Ethel Merman and Engelbert Humperdinck.) Still others say that it's the economy, stupid—hard times always equal escapist entertainment, as much now as in the stagflation days of the late '70s. The people behind the Discovery party, dedicated to disco and disco-tinged house, have a simpler hypothesis: In short, the music is fun.

The monthly bash, produced by the young Famous Friends quartet—Ruth Heronemus, Damon Jablons, Joel "Free Magic" Fowler and Aaron "VDRK" Davis, the latter two serving as resident DJs—is celebrating its first birthday in Santos Party House's downstairs room on Saturday 11. While a year might not sound like much, it's longer than most such endeavors last, something the crew attributes in part to some major-league serendipity in the run-up to Discovery's first installment.

"We originally were going to do it at a smaller venue," Davis explains. "We were talking to one place that I think could only fit 50 or 60 people. But at the last minute, someone backed out of a Saturday event at Santos, and the club asked us if we maybe wanted to try doing our party there. By coincidence, [DFA synth-disco combo] Holy Ghost! needed a place to do a release party with [corporate-backed label/marketing firm] Green Label Sound at the same time, and MTV was going to film some kind of promo video. Holy Ghost! was right up our alley musically, of course, and that they ended up doing it with us—and with all the press involved, and film crews and everything—was pretty fortuitous."

"It was like all these puzzle pieces falling into place," Heronemus says. "It was the absolute perfect way to launch a new party." Still, you need more than one good night to keep a shindig going, and that's where the pure party appeal of disco comes in. "Three or four years ago, Famous Friends was all about electro," she says. "But at the same time, there was all this disco and disco-style house coming out, and it pretty much replaced the electro. And it replaced it in a better way: It reminded me of parties I went to when I was younger, where there wasn't much pretension and you would just have a good time. It's 100 percent based on fun, and Discovery is 100 percent based on fun, so it makes perfect sense." As Fowler puts it, "It's not even that it's disco—it's more that it's just feel-good music."

Of course, disco hasn't always made everyone feel good, something the four recognize. "There's still a certain stigma listening to disco for some people," Davis says, "which I think originated in the '70s when they had those record burnings and things like that, which definitely had an anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Latino component. I think the younger generation is growing up in a much more liberal, free time than it was when the main music was white rock musicians playing songs about drinking beer."

The first-anniversary bash features Detroit vet Scott Grooves on the decks, but in general, Discovery picks its guest DJs out from the local talent pool. "We've managed to develop our own little built-in crowd without having big names," Heronemus says. "People are coming simply because they know there's going to be good music and they know they're going to have a good time."

The Discovery One-Year Anniversary Party is at Santos Party House Sat 11.

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