“All splendid things must come to an end,” says Whitney Shroyer who — as Dr. Filth — has DJed the late-night Admiral Dance Parties for nearly a decade. But the West Asheville-based bar and restaurant will bid farewell to the Saturday events after New Year’s Eve.
“The dance parties are left over from when The Admiral first opened. They have always been an appendage to that,” explains Shroyer. The restaurant’s owners reached out to him and Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound, and the two began spinning records. They “always focused on playing vinyl — particularly obscure soul, rhythm and blues, and rock ’n’ roll 45s,” Shroyer said in a news release.
“The first night that The Admiral was opened as a late-night venue, it was the night [of] a Black Lips show at The Orange Peel, [and] there was an after-party there. That was the thing that Greg and I did to inaugurate The Admiral,” Shroyer explains. “It kind of established us as the house DJs, and that was kind of the house sound for the dance party, so we rolled with that ever since.”
Though Cartwright left the DJ post four years ago due to his busy touring schedule, Shroyer continued the labor of love. It takes him a couple of hours each week to go through his stacks, selecting records that he thinks might be interesting to play. “I make a box of 45s based on what I haven’t played in a while, [or what relates to] what’s been going on in rock ’n’ roll history or what’s been in the news during the week. Then I play whatever seems relevant in the room that night.”
Admiral Dance Parties have a strong local following but also attract tourists who are looking for an “authentically unusual Asheville experience,” as Shroyer puts it. “I don’t feel like there’s anything like The Admiral.” Despite never campaigning for votes, the Saturday night event routinely wins Best Dance Party in Xpress’ annual Best of WNC readers’ poll.
“It’s one of the great treasures of Asheville. Young, old, black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight — none of it mattered. What mattered was the infectious grove of the most incredible, soulful, funkalious 45s ever played, creating a momentum that is unlike any dance floor I’ve ever experienced,” says Cathryn Davis Zommer. The native Ashevillean, now based in Charleston, was a regular dancer. She calls Shroyer a DJ hero, his energy and joy palpable in each song selection.
“The Saturday night dance party is one of the most wildly liberating experiences I ever had,” Zommer says. “I always tried to [get on] the dance floor right when the music started because the beginning of the night was the only time you would have any real space to dance — as the night progressed, the dance floor got packed like gyrating sardines. We danced on the banquets, on the floor, on tables — nothing was off limits.”
And it’s gained attention beyond the region, too. The event is aired each week by “Rock ‘n’ Soul Ichiban,” part of the programming on New Jersey independent radio station WFMU. Debbie Daughtry, also a 45 DJ, maintains that station, which is “devoted to playing the oddball ’50s and ’60s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll and soul and rhythm and blues music that Greg and I have such a passion for,” says Shroyer.
Though based in New York, Daughtry is a native Southerner, and during a visit to the area, she discovered Admiral Dance Parties. “She asked us if we’d mind streaming The Admiral every week on the station,” Shroyer explains. He does so with a program he runs through his computer that broadcasts his show to the Ichiban server.
The future of that broadcast depends on “whether or not I find another local residency that is exciting and interesting,” Shroyer says. He’s looking into some possibilities but is not yet ready to make an announcement. For now, Cartwright and Shroyer host “In the Box,” a show about 45s, on Asheville FM every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And Admiral Dance Parties will bring in the new year — it’s an apt if bittersweet farewell to the long-running event. “Working every Saturday night at The Admiral for the last nine years has been one of the joys of my life,” Shroyer said in a news release. “I have played that gig hundreds of times, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Almost every night has been the most fun dance party ever.”
As Zommer puts it, “All that mattered was the music, the momentum, the joy, the release. It is simply irreplaceable.”
WHAT: Admiral Dance Parties
WHERE: The Admiral, 400 Haywood Road
WHEN: Saturdays through Dec. 31, 11 p.m. $3. facebook.com/admiraldanceparies