I started going to rave parties when I was 19 years old, when local promoters would throw events in unsuspecting locations that were either completely illegal or operated outside of the “nightclubs,” leaving cops no options to shut them down.
Over the years, dance and electronic music have become commercial. Festivals have been eaten up by major concert promoters, and suddenly Beyonce and Drake are releasing full albums of house music.
When I learned about the ROGUE events started by Darian Jerard, I was intrigued. These events would happen overnight without permits and still managed to avoid the fuzz. They were given concept during the darkness of COVID, with the spirit of community and togetherness in the face of public health measures that forced us apart, or at least outdoors.
I caught up with Jerard to find out about the events, and his vision for the future.
Philadelphia Weekly: Tell me a little bit about you and your history in the philly dance music scene.
Darian Jerard: After graduating from College (Lincoln University 89’) with a BS in Business Management, and throwing a few Parties with my Twin Brother, I somehow ended up in the music video Industry. I worked on many of the Boyz II Men videos right here in Philadelphia as a production assistant, and later with many other R&B, and hip hop legends such LL Cool J and Keith Sweat. At some point around 1991-92, I landed a job with Bill Cosby’s Game Show “You Bet Your Life”. It was filmed right here in Philadelphia at WHYY TV-12. I worked there as a driver, a stagehand, and later a segment producer. When that show ended, the stage manager (who was married to a woman who managed the legendary nightclub called The Bank at 6th & SpringGarden), asked if anyone needed work in between TV gigs. Of course I said yes and that was my first gig as a bouncer. I’ve been in the scene ever since.
PW: When did you start the Rogue parties?
DJ: The ROGUE events began in the Fall of 2020 during COVID. The idea was that there would need to be a new way of gathering, and celebrating safely. Outdoors seemed to be the safest alternative. ROGUE is that formula.
PW: What’s the mission of Rogue?
DJ: The mission of ROGUE came out of my desire to give back/contribute something to the world during COVID. Everyone around the world was volunteering and donating their services and talents, and I wanted to participate in some way. I started sharing my 15 minute workouts online everyday, and at some point I started inviting people to workout with me in-person outside at Pier 68. It was at one of these workouts that I started sharing my desire to contribute more. With their support and interest we agreed to clean up the neighboring pier, and invited people to help. We provided the music and trash bags and that became the first ROGUE-creating opportunity to celebrate community, music, and doing for others.
PW: Who are your partners in this mission? Or is it mostly you who puts the events together?
DJ: Over time the partners and participants have changed. ROGUE is an ambitious production, especially during those cold months. When ROGUE first got started, June Rodriguez, Ben Arsenal, Stacy Papa, and Khaleel “ Funkboy” Mason were all major contributors. June still does a lot of the video flyers for ROGUE events now. But currently I’m partnering with my sound man and long time friend Pete Candell of Funky Buddha Sound System. He’s been providing stellar sound for the last seven events, but recently decided to be a full-partner moving forward with our next event ROGUE: DUSK on Friday, September 2nd.
I curate the ROGUE events based around the moon cycle, and the almanac calendar. I secure everything needed including the date, the time, the location, and all of the equipment needed. I cannot, and could not have done any of this without the team. ROGUE is about Community.
PW: Tell me about the party. Are the events always outdoors?
DJ: ROGUE events were always designed to be outside. The two times we went inside were our lowest turnouts. ROGUE events are also designed to be completely different from other productions, which is why most of our events start at midnight and go till sunrise or longer. It’s what we call “an outdoor sunrise experience”.
We ask people to pay what they can and also to bring a non-perishable food item so that we can bless someone else in need. We bring in fire pits, a huge sound system, lights, beverages, live percussion, and several DJ’s to rock out till the sun comes up. And what’s so beautiful about it all, is that when the party’s over, everyone helps to clean up. It is one of the best examples of a community working together.
PW: How do you keep from getting shut down for your “secret location” events?
DJ: We’ve been incredibly fortunate with not getting shut down so far. A few times police have stumbled on our fundraiser in the woods and have been super cool about it. Out of about 14 events over the last 2 years, we’ve only had to move once. I believe the key to us not getting shut down has a lot to do with the language we use to promote, as well as not releasing the actual location until the day of the event.
PW: What kind of music can we expect to hear at Rogue parties?
DJ: I’m from the Bronx. I grew up on, and loving hip hop Music. When I went to college in Pennsylvania, I got turned on to house music. After college in the late 80’s, house music was huge in Philadelphia and it became the music that I loved to dance to, and still do. When I produce ROGUE events, I always do it with house music in mind.
But as this scene grows it’s important to share the music, and the scene, and bring others into the fold. The music will always be house, but it will be progressive as well. We must pass it on, in order for it to keep going.