While Alamo Drafthouse is famed for their interactive movie events, they give new life to classic music through their “Music Video Dance Party” series. Accompanying the release of box-office hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” they held a Queen edition allowing audience members to attend a concert that is impossible to go to.
Story by Laiken Neumann
Alamo Drafthouse, an Austin institution formed in 1997, is known for its interactive movie events and food and drink service that mimics a cabaret service. Now, they are exploring a new side of entertainment through their series of music video dance parties.
To promote the release of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a biopic of the iconic rock band Queen, Alamo Drafthouse locations around Austin held dance parties that solely played music videos and live performances of the classic band. While Austin happens to be the live music capital of the world, Alamo Drafthouse allows you to enter the realm of a concert with recorded music, minus the moshing and plus the themed cocktails. Though you might be skeptical of what is included with the five dollar ticket, you will receive an experience unlike any other.
The venue, following suit of their other events, works to make the experience as interactive as possible. Upon entering, guests are given a complimentary stick-on mustache, a blow-up guitar and a lighter to wave in the air. “If at any moment the fire in your heart needs to be lifted up because of Freddie’s voice,” the host explains.
Prior to the flood of Queen music videos, the screen relayed a montage of advertisements from the ‘80s to immerse the audience in the time period. The nostalgia was in full bloom as a promotional video from the opening of Splash Mountain at Disney World was projected on the screen.
Before too long, the screen lit up with the black-and-white images of machinery from the “Radio Ga Ga” music video. The audience was timid, but clapped along with the beats between phrases. The room was filled with frontman Freddie Mercury’s vocal range and people couldn’t help but mumble along.
The music videos faded into one another, alternating songs from the different eras of the band. While Queen strived to avoid being weighed down by a single sound throughout their career, one constant remains, Mercury’s angelic voice that hits a four-octave range. The mixed-order of music videos created another universe, where you could jump back and forth through Queen’s evolution.
Glow sticks were thrown around the theatre by staff members when the suspenseful keys of “Flash,” Queen’s theme song for the 1980 film Flash Gordon, blared from the speakers. Heads were banging back and forth as glow sticks were waved through the air. When the beloved “Don’t Stop Me Now” graced the screen, members of the audience dragged their friends to the front of the theater to fling their limbs around to the music.
The audience collectively raised their lighters to “Who Wants to Live Forever.” While the song was originally created for the movie “Highlander,” in the theatre it felt like a tribute to the late Freddie Mercury, who lost his battle against HIV/AIDS in 1991. Everyone was mourning his loss, honoring him through this form of a concert reincarnated.
Arguably the most iconic music video from Queen is “I Want To Break Free,” which featured each member of the band dressed as a female characters from the television show “Coronation Street.” While the song topped charts in other countries, the video faced controversy in the United States and was banned from MTV. As Mercury entered the screen vacuuming a living room in a black mini skirt, the audience burst into laughter.
The night’s events culminated to the final few songs. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in all its six-minute-long glory, was accompanied by the scene in the 1992 movie “Wayne’s World” that features the song. The Saturday Night Live characters sing-along, prompting the audience to join in as well.
Finally, the event ended on a high note when footage from Queen’s historic performance at the Live Aid benefit concert in 1985 was played. The audience was able to grasp the feeling of attending an actual concert, as Freddie Mercury belted notes going up the scale, allowing the concert-goers to mimic the notes afterwards. Transitioning into “Under Pressure,” the whole room was lifted up in rejoice, captivated by the energetic performance that the band left on the stage.
It is the ability to recreate an moment that is rooted in history that is the true magic of events like this one. Alamo Drafthouse encourages audience participation, creating a new experience that acts as a close relative to a concert. The experience is not exactly the same, but still exciting with its own little charms. “We grew up listening to Queen, and it’s not around anymore, you don’t hear the albums as much on the radio,” says attendee Selah Douglas. “Like [the host] said It’s as close to being able to go to a show that is impossible to go to. And it’s in my neighborhood.”
This event continues Queen’s legacy, giving new life to their message in 2018. Even today, the music still resonates with its listeners, which is the reason that most millennials still know their hits word-for-word. “I am an African-American lesbian married to a transgender woman, so a lot of the songs really spoke to me,” says audience member April Coleman. “Also, I’m an atheist, so this is as close to church as I’ll get.”
Next time you are craving a concert or simply want to celebrate your favorite artist or genre, gather your friends together and attend a video dance party. It’s not live music, but it regenerates classic songs in a way that you have never experienced.
The next dance party is this Thursday, Nov. 15 at 9:30 p.m. at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.