"I've never been here sober, " a bearded guy in a muscle shirt said to his friend, who had glitter smeared on her cheeks. He was looking around Coda, a trendy Rittenhouse Square nightclub at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Waking up early to be around people is at the top of my list of least favorite things to do, so when I found myself standing next to him with purple disco lights flashing around me to a pulsing beat, it took pretty much everything in me not to run.
Welcome to Philadelphia's first Daybreaker event, an early-morning dance party preceded by a yoga session. Daybreaker's founders call these parties a "movement," and so far, they've spread to 22 cities. Daybreaker is hoping to make these gatherings a monthly event in Philadelphia, so don't panic if you missed this one.
"Daybreaker's ultimate goal from the beginning was to create a festival culture that people feel comfortable letting their playful sides come out in without all the negative stuff," Radha Agrawal, CEO and cofounder of Daybreaker, said. "We replaced alcohol with coffee and tea, and mean bouncers with a hugging committee."
Daybreaker selects cities based on demand. People interested in bringing Daybreaker to their cities can sign up on email lists. More than 4,000 people requested bringing the early-morning raves to Philly, according to Agrawal.
These parties, which cost between $25 and $35 to attend, have a strict no-alcohol and drug policy so attendees can feel safe enough to really express themselves and let loose. At Coda, plastic cups covered the tops of the liquor bottles behind the bars. The counters were piled high with bananas, packs of hemp seed, bottles of cold brew, kombucha, and healthy-looking juice packs with words like acerola and aronia on their labels. I resisted the urge to down six bottles of cold brew — my heart was supposed to race from fitness, not from caffeine.
The attendees who had paid to dance and drink organic kombucha at 7 a.m. hit the dance floor enthusiastically. Some wore yoga pants and sports bras; others opted for tutus and sequined dresses. A few showed up in work attire. I even spotted a few Eagles jerseys in the mix, along with a guy in a Pikachu onesie. A DJ in a fedora played bass-heavy tracks, surrounded by people in light-up feather headdresses.
Instead of joining the crowd that was somehow magically way more awake than I was, I decided to procrastinate by trying a banana dipped in hemp seeds, which tasted like raw sesame seeds. (Not a huge fan, but it was admittedly healthier than most of my breakfasts.)
By 7:30 a.m., the dance floor had really filled up with people bobbing happily to what sounded like a blend of club music and what you would hear during an aerobics class. One girl was handing out glow sticks. A hype man was strolling around on stage, shouting motivational sayings into a microphone.
"I don't want you to be afraid of anything in this room," he told the crowd as machines filled the club with bubbles. "I want you to be yourself. Choose to be happy this morning and stop judging yourself!"
Eventually, he succeeded in forming a dance circle. I elbowed my way in and watched much braver individuals show their best moves off before being swept up in hugs.
There were so many hugs.
The rest of the party was a blur. A trumpet player took the stage at one point, as did a woman with an electric violin. People danced with props that can be described only as handheld windmills shaped like boomerangs. The hype man continued yelling into his microphone, occasionally incorporating singing and chanting.
"Wake up!" he shouted. "Dance like the city needs your energy this morning!"
Utterly spent and with no more energy to offer Philadelphia, I slipped out with half an hour left and called an Uber.