WNC’s longest-running New Year’s Eve dance party rages on

THINK BIG: Queer rapper Big Dipper headlines this year's New Year's Eve Freakout. The annual event brings together old friends, music enthusiasts, and entertainers who rarely perform in Asheville.

A decade ago, Kent Scott was one of just a handful of DJs in Asheville. He’d gotten his start on since-silenced pirate station Free Radio Asheville and was part of social change collective Asheville Community Resource Center. When New Year’s Eve rolled around, “We were craving a DIY punk-show feel with similar politics and the idea of pushing the envelope a little, culturally and musically, in dance-party form,” Scott says. “We put our heads together and found a warehouse space down by the river, and we just did it.”

The New Year’s Eve Freakout (now boasting the accolade “The longest-running New Year’s Eve dance party in WNC”) was born — though initially the freaking out was around whether anyone would even show up. It rained about 10 inches, Scott remembers, and the stage flooded. But more than 200 people attended, proving that there was room in Asheville’s New Year’s Eve party landscape for something offbeat and unusual. That fête celebrates its 10th anniversary Thursday, Dec. 31.

For many years, Scott and his co-organizers kept the party’s location secret to avoid drama and maximize creative potential. That one night each year was — and continues to be — special for its place on the calendar. “It allows us to do a lot of experimenting and bringing in artists we wouldn’t normally be able to bring to Asheville,” Scott says. He’s found that the town doesn’t necessarily support “the really weird stuff that costs a lot of money to bring.” But on New Year’s Eve, all bets are off. Revelers have money earmarked for an end-of-year blowout, so a higher-priced show still attracts an audience.

Not that the New Year’s Eve Freakouts will break the bank. An advance ticket to this year’s party, held at 101 Fairview Road (you’ll recognize the venue when you arrive, but in keeping with the Freakout’s secretive ethos, it’s address-only for now) is just $5.

Big Dipper (performing this year) and Cakes the Killa (who headlined a recent Freakout) are queer-identified rappers “who don’t really fit into the bluegrass and jam-band-type of music that’s big here,” says Scott. He uses the New Year’s Eve holiday to book innovative acts. “These are DJs that I, as a music nerd, really appreciate,” he says. “I’ve tried different kinds of approaches. I’ve brought bands in, but that got in the way of the dance party.”

Scott has also tried various venues. An unheated warehouse was a big issue, he remembers. Another warehouse was so large he had to bring vehicles into the space just to break it up. “It was so huge, but it was all run off one extension cord,” he says.

This year’s venue is heated and comes complete with all of the creature comforts — a mark of how the New Year’s Eve Freakout has evolved. The lineup includes DJ Lommol (Yeah, Nah), Danik Yopp (D.Y.D.H.), DJs Abu Disarray and Scott (Total Gold), Passion Faction, DJ Malinalli and VJ Jason Scott Furr. But as Scott prepares to celebrate the decade mark of his celebration, he’s aware of how the New Year’s Eve Freakout reflects important elements of the local aesthetic. “I’ve actually moved away in these 10 years and come back to do the party,” he says. Scott is back full-time now, “But I have these memories of what Asheville was and what I want it to be, still.”

Using the DIY-fueled-era of punk shows and now-defunct community spaces as touchstones, Scott works to preserve those ideas. That’s one reason why his New Year’s Eve party remains affordable. “It’s also the time of the year when I see the people who used to live downtown and go to The Big Idea,” he says, referencing an early 2000s-era art space and venue on Carolina Lane. It’s just one of many inspirations to continue the annual celebration.

“That, and keeping alive creatively,” Scott adds. Creative vitality would also serve as a fine New Year’s resolution (if anyone is looking for one) — or just a really great reason to throw a party.

WHAT: New Year’s Eve Freakout
WHERE: 101 Fairview Road
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 31, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. $5 advance/$8 at the door. nyefreakout.brownpapertickets.com

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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