Imagine walking into your neighborhood pizza parlor looking for a slice and being confronted by by a mob of 20-somethings dancing to Disclosure between four-foot speaker stacks. I watched that happen to a handful of confused North Philadelphia residents last Saturday, April 5, at Alessandro's on Broad St.—and it was hilarious. The scene inside was just like your tenth birthday party, except with rainbow-haired, platform-sneaker-clad ravers crushing PBR cans at an alarming rate. So if you've always wanted to smell freshly baked pizza while bouncing to Kaytranada and basking in a wall-size projection of The Land Before Time, you better get your ass to Philly.
The man behind the Pizza Party is DJ SYLO, aka Brady Ettinger, a young Philly favorite with his hands in both electronic and hip-hop circles. Since first stepping onto the scene as Temple University's favorite basement party-starter, he's transcended the college circuit on a mission to foster loving communities through partying. If you ask him who he is or what he does, he most likely will respond with, "we," instead of, "I"—and you'll never hear him stress over money. "We started throwing this for the crew," Ettinger tells me. "At the last pizza party, I made one dollar."
DJ Sylo (center) mixing like a master
The Pizza Party is a side project of sorts, and Ettinger has been quietly moving the party across different North Philly cribs since May of last year. In its earliest incarnation, SYLO would get to a friend's house, set up club-worthy sound and lighting equipment, cover a wall in paper for guests to scribble on, pop Disney classic Fantasia on the projector, then order an absurd amount of 'za and announce the party at the last minute. If you pizza, they will come.
Fueled by text messages, word of the party would spread like marinara sauce, and before long the party had outgrown its humble beginnings. Eventually, Ettinger and his crew decided to try a new location where they would never run out of pizza: an actual pizza joint. The idea came to him one afternoon when he was skating down Broad St., thinking about new venues, and fate whisked him into Alessandro's Pizza & Grill. Management agreed to host the party on the spot, and although he warned them that it might get a little crazy, "they really had no idea," he admits.
The new space allowed them to double the number of Pizza Partiers in attendance—and Ettinger still never announced the event publicly. "Half of them didn't even get a direct invite," he said. At Alessandro's, the crowd was a mix of college students, artists, DJs, young entrepreneurs, rappers, and model-types. I imagine it's what a groovy roller rink party was like back in the 70s. After a few too many rounds on the rink, you can always escape from the dimly lit back room and dip to the parlor for a slice, a soda pop, and a quick gossip about which cutie has the best moves out there on the floor.
"There is nothing else like what SYLO and his friends are doing in the Philly community right now," said Joe Pitts of Philly streetwear brand Cult Classic, while chasing down his last bites of pizza with a PBR. Flanked by MC Matt Ford as host and house DJ Jansen on the decks, Pizza Party is where SYLO can delve into that elusive bank of weird tracks that might not fly on a Friday night at the club. Breezing past the standard house, funk, and club music, he likes to toss in some body-bending Chicago juke, some Caribbean zouk rhythms, a secret stash of Nigerian house amongst throwbacks like K.P. & Envyi's "Shorty Swing My Way" or Baby Bash's "Suga Suga." People in Philly love that shit.
As the party continues and Pizza Partiers file into Alessandros, the shop's unprepared owners scramble anxiously to pass out drinks, but they can't seem to keep from smiling either. "This time, everyone made money. Everyone was happy," Ettinger said through a giant beam of post-party success.
"This feels good," the bartender told me at the end of the night. "I haven't bartended like this in five years." Then he invited us back, but on one condition—they need twice as many people behind the bar. "I'm open to anything," says SYLO. "I'm just excited to see Pizza Party continue to grow. It's gonna be a good summer. " At the end of the day, what better place to turn up than at a pizza shop you're going to stumble into at 3AM anyway?
Marissa works exclusively with words, metals, and cute animals. @MRSA_JANE
Photos by Lucas Alvarado/Far Fetched