Down & Derby introduces DJs and cocktails to the skating rink - Reverb

Down & Derby introduces DJs and cocktails to the skating rink

“I like to tell people, ‘I can’t guarantee your safety, but I can guarantee you a good time.’ ”

That’s Noah McMahan talking about the Down & Derby party he throws every month at Exdo Event Center. The roller disco monthly has a simple motto, which is also its website — skatedrinkdance.com — that hints at the potential for injury and the guarantee of a good time.

Cocktails and quad skates? It’s like the Skate City ice cream social — but all grown up.

McMahan was throwing raves in Denver nearly 20 years ago, but now he’s known as one of the guys who brought the popular nightclub chain Beauty Bar to Denver. Between his rave days and the present, McMahan spent time in New York — where he worked with Down & Derby mastermind Vince Masi — and later in Las Vegas, where he implemented the monthly skating party in Sin City.

“I definitely knew we would do it in Denver,” McMahan said. “I was going to do it before Beauty Bar, but I talked with Jesse (Morreale) at La Rumba, and it didn’t seem like a big enough venue. I shopped it around for a while, but it wasn’t right. Once Beauty Bar was up and running, we launched it at Exdo — which is 14,000 square feet — and it’s great because they help us with the build-out and the themes every month.”

Down & Derby is a hit in Denver, and the event will celebrate its year anniversary on Friday with a Super Hero Birthday Bash theme. The party’s DJs, Mike Disco and Murderhole (a.k.a. Beauty Bar owners Mike Barnhart and McMahan), will keep the jams coming while Exdo’s staff will keep the drinks (served in spill-proof sippy cups) full.

To boot, it’s a pretty cheap night out. Admission is $5 in advance, $10 at the door, and the rental of quad-style skates (they have 800 pairs) is an additional $5. (Feel free to bring your own skates, though. “We tell people they can bring inlines if they don’t want to get (lucky),” said McMahan.) And there’s also a photo booth. And a percentage of this month’s proceeds going to the victims of the Aurora theater shooting. And super hero — and villain — costumes. And a projection mapping build-out of the Fortress of Solitude from the “Superman” comics and films. And 1,000 (or more) of your closest friends.

And then there’s the mandatory 21-plus age limit and liability waiver, of course.

“A lot of the things we’ve learned have come through a series of horrible mistakes that we’ve made over the six years,” said McMahan. “We serve booze in sippy cups — that’s from mistakes we’ve made with glass. Our waiver has been modified by lawyers over the years based on incidents we’ve had in other cities, and because of that, we’ve had a seamless experience in Denver.”

The two nightclubs co-promote the event, with Beauty Bar taking the door and Exdo taking the bar. It’s rare to find a unique night out in Denver, but Down & Derby is certainly that.

“I love it because when we started it in New York and later Las Vegas, when you go out to clubs in those cities, you have a really cliquey atmosphere,” said McMahan. “In New York, you might not talk with anybody you’re out with except for the people in your immediate group.

“But given that it’s a skating party, it’s so awkward that it breaks down the social barriers and it forces people to interact with each other. I’ve been doing parties for 18 years now, but this is the only one I’m really in love with.”

It helps that the event draws a wide spectrum of Denver’s nightlife-loving scene.

“For Denver, we have the hipster kids from Beauty Bar and the gay kids from (Exdo neighbor) Tracks and the rhythm skating kids from Aurora and all the derby leagues,” said McMahan, “and that mixture of people reminds me of all the raving days. Since Tracks is next-door, they allow us to promote in house — and that’s been the success of it from the get go: The mixture of people.”

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.