February 22, 2012

Reflections On Going to Dayglow, The Largest Paint Party In America

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Dayglow is, in its most base and fundamental terms, the most glorious and horrifying display of Bacchanalia that our generation has seen thus far. Dayglow is billed as “The World’s Largest Paint Party,” and is basically a large concert where DJs play popular electronic and dance music to a crowd of college students while simultaneously dousing them in neon, DayGlo colored paint. I went to Dayglow at the University of Illinois in Champaign with a friend I was visiting. The tickets for the concert ran between $30 and $60.

When my friend and I arrived at the venue, there was a line wrapping around the block — 400 to 500 college students dressed in white t-shirts and tank tops, white shoes, white hats, and gym shorts. Everybody seemed like they were having the greatest experience of their lives. It was rainy and cold, but I still saw at least 25 people who would be considered functionally naked by most normative social standards. Lots of sideboob.

The atmosphere of the show seemed like it was drenched in semen. In line, large pockets of muscular men led wild, massive chants of “DAY! GLOW! DAY! GLOW!” and everyone yelled and smacked each other’s hands and asses. This group contrasted the slack-jawed and glassy eyed genus of bro sloppily leaning on a frat brother or petite girlfriend. Nothing could stop them. With fists in air and MDMA soaking on their gums, these bros seemed to treat standing in line to enter Dayglow as some sort of divine religious ritual. There was a feeling of pure fantasy mixed with an overdose of masculine ecstasy, like a pre-battle rallying cry or a professional wrestling match.

Once I got to the gate, the man who frisked me down asked me to give him my freshly opened pack of cigarettes. I gave them to him and watched him put them in his pocket. “You can’t have cigarettes in the building. Sorry dude.”

The concert was being held in what I am assuming was a converted indoor ice skating rink. It was a decently large place. The stage emitted a constant, omnipresent blue glow produced by blacklights. Every white or neon surface in the building was glowing. It seemed paranormal. It was all oddly disorienting.

At the show, it took about 15 to 20 minutes for my spirits to be absolutely destroyed. The DJs — two of them, both overweight and wearing matching grey polos — were both visible from the crowd. They reminded me of the DJs I’ve seen at Bah Mitzvahs and most middle school dances. They played popular electronic/ dance songs of the past three to five years. They played house music. They played dubstep. At one point during the concert, the DJs played “The Circle of Life” from Disney’s The Lion King and “The Imperial March” from the Star Wars saga both in their entirety and in their original, unedited forms.

There were bros standing next to me aggressively fist pumping, jumping with great force into one another, literally punching each other in the face with swift swings of their arms. They had big muscles and all of them looked like exactly the same person. Every person had a white t-shirt on. It made me feel like I was at some sort of sadistic wedding reception or some failed attempt at mass scale performance art. The people I interacted with seemed awash in pure sensory overload. Their eyeballs would slink around in their head as they talked to me and then they would wiggle away, fidgeting along to the music that was so loud that it was probably harmful to pregnant mothers.

Then a countdown ensued. Everyone got psyched, started jumping, screaming. The music got louder. And then with a burst, the whole event culminated in cathartic ejaculation. Neon paint globs began dripping from the ceiling. It got in everyone’s hair, faces, eyes and mouths. Pinks and greens and yellows. People went wild — they loved it. They walked around the rest of the night in the same paint stained clothes, proudly proclaiming their youth and vigor and appetite for risk-taking by standing tall in their soaking wet, neon colored messes.

The attitude of the entire event was summed up quite vividly by the large sweaty bro in a hockey jersey that I was standing next to when he handed his friend a bottle of water and said, “Its really simple, man: Roll your face off. F-ck some sluts. Stay hydrated.”

We left after maybe an hour. I was miserable at least 95% of the time and the whole event seemed very over-done, very forced. Some people believe this to be a good time and I am honestly perplexed by that. It takes a special kind of commitment to go to something like this and people seem to take it very seriously. And I guess that is why people enjoy going. Maybe this is the only true expression of passion that these bros get; the only kind of event in their lives that has any monumentality, any real importance. Is that sad? Well yeah, but at least its something. TC mark

image – Dayglow Facebook

Ben Leach

Ben Leach lives in Chicago and has lived in the Midwest his entire life. He is a student at DePaul University …

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