Out DJ Alyson Calagna debuts as Saturday’s Purple Party headliner
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
International circuit party veteran — and Purple Party Weekend alum — DJ Alyson Calagna is excited about coming back to Dallas. Saturday night will mark the out DJ’s seventh appearance at the annual weekend of parties. In years past Calagna has spun at Sunday afternoon tea-dances, but this year she’s headlining the main event on Saturday night.
“I’m humbled and honored,” Calagna says of being asked to return to Purple. “It feels like family to me. It started pretty small. I remember it growing and growing each year. I’m really happy to be a part of that change and to have been with them so long. It’s gratifying and rewarding.”
Whether Calagna is in the DJ booth cueing up tracks that she produced (like the current Billboard chart-climbing remix of Yoko Ono’s “Woman Power”) or those that others have produced, she promises to take the dance floor crowd on an inspirational journey.
“What I’ve kind of stuck by is if [the music] moves me, then I play it,” Calagna says of her trademark. “It’s all about finding energy [through] peaks and valleys, yet still tying music together and telling a story. There kind of needs to be a flow between beginning, middle and end. It’s a storytelling experience. It’s a lot like life.”
Calagna draws from a vast collection of dance tracks that transcends both time and musical genres.
“I firmly believe that [music] doesn’t have an expiration date,” Calagna says. “The beautiful thing about music is that, in one moment, you can be catapulted into a memory that can be from your childhood or high school or anything. It’s so funny how we say, ‘I used to love that song!’ We put it in the past tense. The truth is we still love the song, but we just haven’t heard it.”
As a female DJ in a male-dominated circuit world, Calagna also believes that music has no gender.
“When I was coming up, there were not a lot of us,” Calagna says of her female colleagues. “It was really, really hard for me to break through. It’s easier in a sense now, but it still is not as accepted. For some reason, there is a bit of a stigma.”
Calagna recalls one particular appearance several years ago during Orlando’s Gay Days as a pivotal moment in her career — a night that elevated her circuit party credibility.
“It was the first Arabian Nights after-hours that I did for Disney,” she recalls. “At the end of that, I remember feeling like
‘What the fuck just happened?’ That gig was kind of like the shot heard round the world. People from all over the country were there.”
The secret to Calagna’s success before and since, she says, has been to follow her instincts.
“Pretty much what pushed me through was to be myself — to be OK with exploring sound and constantly being a work in progress,” she says. “It’s easy to go with what everyone else is doing, but in the end you’ll hurt yourself. Just follow you, be you, and play you.”
Calagna and her partner recently relocated from Florida to Colorado. With a hectic travel schedule both stateside and abroad, the in-demand DJ realized that she had really begun to miss nature.
“I really enjoy living in [a place with] four seasons. It’s good for me. I like the change – the physical change and the energetic change,” she says.
She has noticed, however, a recent population boom in Colorado. Could it be that her fans have followed her there? “They followed me or they followed the legalization of marijuana,” Calagna quips. “I’m not sure.”
15 years of making a difference
Purple Party is Dallas’ world-class weekend of spectacular circuit celebration. The three-day succession of dance parties features captivating light shows and crowd-pleasing sounds from the globe’s most popular DJs.
The Purple Foundation, one of the largest all-volunteer nonprofit charity dance organizations in the U.S, has raised sizeable funds each year since 2001 organizing the weekend of dance and social events. Now in its 15th year, it has made a difference in the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS, giving proceeds to beneficiaries including AIDS Services of Dallas, Resource Center and Legacy Counseling Center.
“I’m very proud and excited that Purple Foundation is celebrating 15 years of producing Dallas Purple Party and 15 years of making a difference in the community, foundation President Blake Baker said this week. “I’ve been involved with the organization for the last 10 years, and I’m very happy to have seen Purple Party grow from a small regional event to one of the largest in the country.
“But, being the biggest isn’t what makes Purple Party so special,” Baker continued. “It’s knowing that we are really making a difference in our local community with people and organizations that really need our help. The difference we are making is clear. When ASD can say they built a new kitchen for their residents because of the money we donated, we know the work we are doing is really helping people.
“Ask anyone that’s ever attended our weekend and they’ll tell you, there’s just some special about Purple Party and we couldn’t agree more.”
Here’s a rundown of this weekend’s events, with individual ticket prices (online and at the door). All-access passes are also available. For more information, visit PurpleFoundation.org.
• Ivan Gomez, Ignite (Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road, Friday, 9 p.m. $15–$20). The Barcelona native has taken the U.S. by storm, headlining A-list events including Palm Springs’ White Party and Miami’s Winter Party Festival. The DJ’s sets are propelled by a mixture of house genres including tribal, progressive, tech and underground. (J Warren of Dallas opens. Special Rose Room performance by Trixie Mattel from RuPaul’s Drag Race — see interview Page 17.)
• Doug Jackson, Roar! (Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. Friday, 9 p.m. $5 suggested cover). South Florida’s DJ has served as spinner-in-chief at several of the nation’s hottest bear events including Provincetown’s Fireman’s Ball, NYC’s FurBall and TBRU’s BearDance. Jackson’s sound mixes progressive, techno and tribal grooves with big room vocals and deep bass rhythms. (DJ Perry of Dallas opens.)
• Wayne G, Rise pool party (Sisu Uptown Resort, 2508 Maple Ave. Saturday, 1–7 p.m. $35–$40). A former resident DJ at London’s Heaven, Wayne G is known internationally for his impressive skills. He is also noted for an imposing discography having produced dance floor remixes for divas Lady Gaga, Madonna, Katy Perry and the late Whitney Houston, and seamlessly blending house, electro and tribal sounds into his exhilarating sets. (MNDO of Dallas opens.) Note: Dallas Voice will be shooting photography for its upcoming Annual Swimsuit Edition at the Rise pool party. Come to the party and win a chance to appear in the coverage.
• Alyson Calagna, The Purple Party (South Side Music Hall, 1135 S. Lamar St. Saturday, 9 p.m. $60–$80). The high priestess of sound (see interview, this page) has earned top billing at the world’s biggest dance and circuit events. Her profound and unmistakable signature style will transport revelers on a spiritual journey that rises above both musical genre and time. (Shane Stiel of Los Angeles opens.)
• Danny Verde, Revival (Hall of State in Fair Park, 3939 Grand Ave. Sunday, 4—10 p.m. $35–$40). Italy’s Verde returns for his third consecutive Purple appearance. Verde has remixed some of popular music’s biggest names including Cher, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Avicii and Selena Gomez. His high-energy sound is fueled by driving beats and powerful, uplifting vocals. (Brandon Moses of Dallas opens.)
• Paulo, Glow (Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. Sunday, 10 p.m. $25–$30). Portugal native DJ Paulo has headlined parties including Montreal’s Black and Blue Festival, NYC’s Alegria, Orlando’s Gay Days and Sydney’s Mardi Gras. He also boasts impressive production credits with remixes for artists including Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera. His hypnotic, percussive blend of tribal and percussive house sound promises to entrance the dance floor. (Mike James of Dallas opens.)
— Scott Huffman
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 8, 2015.