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DayFunk Brings the Family to the Club While the Sun’s Still Up

And now the popular daytime house music party is going camping—but don't call it a rave.

Michaelangelo Matos|

DayFunk in April

On the most gorgeous day of an otherwise dreary April, Eat Street Crossing on Nicollet Avenue was crawling with revelers—some of whom were just past the crawling stage themselves. The 10th edition of the monthly Minneapolis house music party DayFunk was in full swing.

As the afternoon turned to evening, a pair of toddlers weaved deftly around the dancers’ legs; occasionally, a parent or friend would pick them up and dance while holding the kids on their shoulders. Some parents were understandably harried; the occasional tired kid was spotted crying. But all day long, DayFunk’s feel-good music and family-friendly spirit were boisterous—and infectious. Nearly everyone was smiling. 

Now, imagine this same experience on a campsite—and without the kids. This July Camp DayFunk, a weekend getaway with plenty of DJ performances, will take place at “a fully equipped summer camp located 120 miles east of Minneapolis,” according to the event’s brochure. Limited to 100 people, Camp DayFunk is not, the literature stresses, a festival or a rave: “A Saturday morning Bloody Mary will take the place of staying up all night and sleeping all day.” 

As of last week, Camp DayFunk is halfway sold out (here’s the registration page). Not bad for a promoter who’s only been at it again for less than a year, following a decade-plus sabbatical. 

Nick Grzechowiak, the 46-year-old DJ who goes professionally (and hereafter) by Nick Gunz, is DayFunk’s sole proprietor. Originally from Wisconsin, he moved to the Twin Cities in 1995, and aside from "a couple of stints in Detroit and out west,” he’s remained here ever since. “I had the luxury of being just at the right time, when [the rave scene] was a thing,” Gunz says. 

Gunz began throwing parties in 1997. At his peak, he was promoting events, mainly under the banner of Omen Entertainment, that drew 500. “It wasn’t a mega thing,” he says. “I was not competing with Roy Wilkins Auditorium.” He recalls spending the late ’90s “standing outside First Avenue flyering after a Sunday Night Dance Party, and that [was how] I would book my next show: Whoever I knew that came out of the doors: ‘What are you gonna do next? Are you willing to play on this date?’ It was very chancy.”

By 2011, Gunz had a young family, and nightlife was taking a toll. “I was doing Saturday nights in the VIP Room at First Avenue; that was my last big run,” he says. “At that point, the club shut down at 2 a.m., so coming home at 4 a.m. and having a baby that woke up at 5:15 was a rough scenario. I decided to put things on hold.” 

He kept up with house-music events and new tracks online until his kids aged into greater self-sufficiency. (They’re now 14 and 11—and helping dad out with T-shirt sales at DayFunk.) Then he started hitting the clubs again. “There’s a lot of cool things that are happening right now in Minneapolis,” he says. However...

“I felt myself leaving shows and almost wanting to give advice on how to make things better,” Gunz says. “Like: ‘Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you put together a lineup that looks like that?’ And eventually my wife was like, ‘Can you just shut up and, like, do something about it yourself?’”

So he did. First came the venue: Gunz had actually rented the Eat Street Crossing building for his wedding 18 years ago, back when it was the Old Arizona Studio. “I was friendly with the guy that ended up buying that building,” he says. “I went to the grand opening, over a year ago, and I got talking with him: ‘There’s a couple day parties that are happening around the country.’ There’s a difference between going to a rave and [doing] it in a way where it feels like it fits into where I am in my life right now.”

That meant bringing the kids out. “You have your daytime Communion crowd, but that's not really family accessible,” says Jake Encinas, who has known Gunz since the early 2000s. He’s referring to the weekly techno-oriented Sunday-afternoon party that takes place at The Pourhouse in downtown Minneapolis, a 21-plus venue. (Steven Centrific and Christian James of Communion were among the dancers at April’s DayFunk.)

But nobody needs an ID at Eat Street Crossing. Many of DayFunk’s regulars have families, and they can and do bring them. And the venue’s food and bar offerings make it ideal for people who don’t necessarily want to dance. 

“I think it's filling a gap that was pretty big that I don't think we even knew existed,” Encinas says. “It's very chill if you want to be chill, very get-down if you want [that]. It's sort of a la carte for everybody.”

DayFunk has happened every month since its inception last June. This was unplanned, and came as a surprise to Gunz. “Initially, I was just planning on doing a summertime patio party,” Gunz says. “All of a sudden, it came to October and the weather was still nice, and we’re still doing a patio party. Then they’re like, ‘Should we move things inside?’ I really thought it was going to fail at that point—as soon as the garage door closed, no one was going to show up anymore. And it kept being a thing where people were like, ‘This is cool. We’ll keep adapting.’” 

Gunz had concerns about how the event’s modest sound system would perform in a room with such high ceilings “Is it gonna all of a sudden turn into Echoville? It did not. Somehow, it all worked. It sounds good. That just worked out every way,” he says. Nor did Minnesota’s favorite wintertime activities keep people away.

“There’s football and things that people do on Sunday inside,” Gunz says. “How do we compete with that? And it still worked. And some of them did do that: Some boyfriends would show up with phones, watching the football game while their girlfriends or boyfriends danced. Because we weren’t at a full-blown club, they could sit and have a snack while the other one mingled and danced.”

Encinas played the first DayFunk as well as the April edition, which was headlined by Colette, a Chicago native now in L.A. whose specialty is singing over the tracks she plays. (During her set, in a nod to the city, she crooned a snippet of “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” a Jam-Lewis composition.) As Encinas recalls, there were around 200 people the first time around. “There were families on the patio and a small dance floor,” Encinas says of that June 2023 kickoff. “There were definitely people that were a little puzzled by what's going on.”

Ten months later, it was a different story. The crowd was more than twice as large as the inaugural DayFunk, and the only puzzled onlookers were standing outside the venue’s fence. As Encinas puts it, “It was like stepping into a club, except you're on the patio.”

DayFunk
With:
DJ Dan, Dory Kahalé, QJ, Tink, and Bryan Gerrard b2b Nick Gunz
Where: Eat Street Crossing, 2819 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19
Tickets: Free; more info here

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