“Yeah, 6 a.m.!” Most people I know haven't even had a sip of their first coffee and I'm here, with a man shouting in my ear, as I wait to board a party boat docked on the Hudson River. From the line, I can see the dance floor is already jammed with costumed revelers swilling coconut water and eating tiny yogurt parfaits. By the time I am on board, I'm just one of around 1,000 people here for some pre-sunrise revelry. I immediately regret coming to this event alone.
I am here to witness a trend I've been hearing about for some time: sober clubbing events that begin and end before the average person's workday even starts, allowing the health conscious to get in a workout without the alcohol and drugs that fuel many nights at a club. This particular event—there are a few companies throwing early-morning parties each month in New York—is hosted by Daybreaker, which was founded in 2013 by entrepreneurs Radha Agrawal and Matthew Brimer. It's since spread to 10 cities including Austin, London and Tel Aviv with plans to soon launch in Paris, Miami and Toronto. Daybreaker charges $25-35 a ticket for the event, and is sponsored by several food, beverage, wellness and lifestyle brands. Another company called Morning Gloryville, which started in London, offers a similar early morning dance party with yoga, free massages and coffee for around $20-25.
Daybreaker isn't just a more time-intensive way to get in a morning workout, though. In practice, it look more like a rave than a trip to the gym. There are neon costumes and colorful wigs. People are dancing and body surfing and flirting with one another. It feels like a club, it's hot like a club, and over time, it begins to smell like one too. The crowd is mostly white, late-20 and early-30 somethings, and seemingly employed.
“It’s better than coffee,” Muriel Lenoir, a partygoer tells me. She heard about Daybreaker from a friend, who heard about it from another friend. “I love the vibe and the energy.”
“Energy” and “vibe” are words you hear a lot at events like this. At some point, a man wielding a microphone instructs the crowd: “Close your eyes, put your hands in the air, and feel the vibration. They say that freedom isn’t free," he continues, "but understand that is a lie. You are born free,” he said. The crowd whoops and cheers.
After making my rounds on the double-decker boat, I take a break in quieter area at the back of the boat away from the dance floor. There are women dressed as bunnies giving out samples of Organic Valley yogurt. The bar in the quiet room is stocked with boutique-brand beverages like Runa, Sound Tea, Core Water, Agua Enerviva and Chameleon Cold Brew . In the corner a women sits with her hands on her lap and her eyes closed.
“Are you sleeping?” A guy pokes her.
“I’m meditating,” she responds.
After drinking two coffees and deciding against something called a "chia squeeze” (think Go-Gurt, but with chia seeds), I decide it's time to embed myself on the dance floor. Though a couple is making out a little too close to my face, I notice that I do, in fact, have a pleasant buzzy feeling that isn't the result of alcohol. A man in a bright blue business suit—I think it was a costume, but I am not totally sure—holds his arms out as he approaches me, shimmying his shoulders and raising his eyebrows. It turns out, men will still creep on you even if the bar is only serving flavored water and tea. As I maneuvered away from him I passed a woman in a purple wig vomiting into a trash can, likely sea sick.
As the clock approaches 8:30 a.m., the music quiets and we're all asked to take a seat on the floor. A woman next to me moves through some yoga poses until she's in a headstand. A man onstage recites a poem that somehow includes “avocado toast” in one of the rhymes. A songwriter tells stories about her Ukrainian Jewish mother. Then, everyone is invited to hold hands for a guided meditation.
That's when I decide it's time for me to throw in the towel. There's a reason I've never been to a real rave or to Burning Man. I'm a bigger fan of personal space than I am of peace, love and chia seeds. I duck into a bathroom to change out of my workout wear and head to work. I'm not sure I felt any more "free," but I certainly felt ready to start my day—on solid ground.