It’s a clear Sunday afternoon in late August. I find myself in a beautiful outdoor park situated next to the infamous Gowanus Canal, hidden from the busy streets of downtown Brooklyn, amongst a lively underground house scene. As a nice breeze complements the late afternoon sunshine, my feet are in constant motion, dancing to Terence Parker’s “Your Love.” The DJs are in a rhythm, spinning deep house and soulful funk, while hundreds of beautiful people, young and old, join in on the dance floor’s communal groove. The outdoor dance party that I’m talking about is known as Mister Sunday.
The brainchild of Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, this weekly dance party is an extension of the extremely popular, year-round loft party series called Mister Saturday Night. Starting in June and concluding in the fall, Mister Sunday is a unique and wonderful experience for house music lovers and party goers alike. Acting as event producers and resident DJs, Carter and Harkin are as accessible and friendly as they are inspiring and vivacious. While they focus on crafting seamless mixes, they always wave and acknowledge me with a warm greeting, as they do many of their guests. They constantly show their appreciation to those of us who come to dance and spark movement on the floor, a particularly welcoming feeling. And in helping me discover new artists, new sounds and new styles of house music, they even let me peek at their records. I’m spinning my head, hoping to catch the title of that Theo Parrish record. Phew, got it—it was “Baby Steps!” Now let’s take a stroll through the party.
As you walk into the Gowanus Grove, home to Mister Sunday for several years running, you’re immediately captivated by what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. House music keeps the tempo as you first pass the Country Boy’s taco stand, which serves delicious quesadillas and huarache. Rows of picnic tables on the right side, bocce ball courts on the left, families and friends relaxing and reading, drinking and chatting. As you walk further, the grounds open up to two large dance floors; one, a two-foot platform off to the side, adjacent to the Gowanus Canal; the other is located under the scattered poplar trees directly in front of the DJ booth. And just beyond the booth is where Mister Sunday’s outdoor bar serves Brooklyn-brewed beer, delicious sangria, juice, and water to keep us dancing folk’ hydrated!
We’re now in the midst of it all, listening to big tracks like “Make Me Believe In You” by Patti Jo, “1960 What” by Gregory Porter, and the Henrik Schwarz remix of Omar’s “Feelin You.” As the day goes on, the sun begins to set over Brooklyn while the evening air cools us off. The DJs are taking us on a musical journey, increasing the waves of intensity with each track. Once the sky is dark enough, the lights turn on and the disco ball starts spinning, and, as if on cue, the already-jubilant crowd explodes in excitement. The atmosphere out here is so electric, the vibes so positive, and the people so welcoming, it’s hard for me not to use the words life-changing. On the dance floor, people are swinging and two-stepping, smiling ear to ear as they look around to see a community that truly loves and appreciates each other. I have proudly spent all but one of my summers Sundays dancing my ass off in this grove. From my very first experience, I was inspired and transformed by the vibes and sensations of these outdoor parties.
Each Mister Sunday seemed to have its own unique vibe and special experience. Some Sundays were packed with my friends and me getting drunk and dancing like animals. Other Sundays were filled with deep interaction and light flirtation; this led to discovering new friends and a meaningful romance with an amazing lass from Ireland. Some Sundays were so hot that we prayed for rain, and when we got it, the dance floor would erupt with joy. I’ll never forget the day that the heavens opened up and rain flooded Mister Sunday, while everyone danced merrily. Eamon kept spinning tracks about love in the rain until one of the speakers blew out. Although they had to shut down the part, it felt wonderful running through such an intense rainstorm.
And other Sundays were just for me. I would dance on the floor from start to finish, in my own little world, observing and enjoying everything I was experiencing around me.
Sundays, once filled with hangovers and unwanted anticipation for the work-week, are now filled with delicious food, funky tracks, beautiful women, smooth dance moves, sunshine, good friends, disco balls, cute dogs and, most importantly, a sense of community. In a city as large and impersonal as New York, it’s easy to lose our sense of togetherness. But at Mister Sunday—or as I like to call it, Church—there is a beautiful congregation that shows no judgment, only acceptance; no drama, only love. When I get on the dance floor and find my own rhythm, I look up and see that everyone is smiling together, moving together. In the most genuine way, we are truly a community.
Pioneers of the modern house party, Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin consistently draw hundreds of people to their events, and regularly bring out dope DJ’s and special guests such as Omar S, Moodyman, Optimo, Archie Pelago and Funkineven to join them in celebrating these Sunday parties. For their 100th party, the Brooklyn Steppers, a local youth drum line ensemble, were called in for a special live performance as well.
Thanks to the entire Mister Sunday Crew, Brooklynites have a paradise in which they can have a good time, express themselves, and in turn, become part of something special. With only a few Sunday parties left, I urge everyone who is reading this right now to put on your dancing shoes, and take a voyage in experiencing this wonderful community at the Gowanus Grove. You can RSVP for the next Mister Sunday at firstname.lastname@example.org, and find out more information about their upcoming parties at mistersaturdaynight.com
Photo by Marshall McDonald