Party Planner: ‘Orange Soda’ hip-hop and R&B dance party

Erica Thompson
“Orange Soda” organizers, photo by Maddie McGarvey

What's old is new again, and it can be fun to celebrate the fashion and entertainment of bygone eras. But when a period that didn't seem that long ago becomes the new nostalgia, it can be a bit unsettling.

For a long time, the 1980s were at the forefront of throwback culture (“Ladies '80s” at Skully's, anyone?). In recent years, the 1990s have crept into themed events, from pajama jams at local bars to bigger bashes like 90sFest.

But brace yourselves: It's now time to celebrate the 2000s.

“I was born in '92, so I didn't really come of age until the 2000s,” said Malcolm White, one of five organizers of Orange Soda, a monthly dance party highlighting music of the 21st century, although the name is taken from a 1990s “Kenan & Kel” episode.

“We had thrown a kickback at a house over on the South Side, and [DJ] Bern had just jumped on the aux cord and had the whole house party rockin',” White continued. “I had this idea to [channel] the same vibe that we had back in the day with house parties and jean stains on the wall.”

“At first we tried to stick firmly from 2000 to 2009 hip-hop and R&B,” said Ernest “Bern” Paige, a mainstay among the rotating Orange Soda DJs. “Lately we've been bending the borders a little bit. We go to 1998 a little bit, and then all the way up to 2012 because there's songs that just need to be appreciated from those eras. … And there might be some new songs that are played, but probably just one or two.”

Orange Soda is hosted at various venues, and each party has an artist-based theme. The latest, “Late Registration,” will take place Friday, Sept. 7 at Avalon.

“It'll be more Kanye [songs], but it won't be all Kanye,” Paige said. “It also won't be new Kanye because I don't know who that is.”

With eight events in the can, the Orange Soda team has seen its audience expand, with people traveling from cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Indianapolis to attend. They've even hosted a daytime version in Washington, D.C.

On each occasion, they've observed attendees bonding over music — singing along to songs like “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)" by UGK or “I Wish” by Carl Thomas, or doing the “Lean wit It, Rock wit It" dance.

Doing the “Electric Slide” line dance during “U Don't Have to Call” by Usher has become a tradition, along with drinking specialty orange soda beverages.

“One of the big things that I wanted to do with Orange Soda was change the culture of partying in Columbus,” White said. “[People] arrive early. … Everybody's not scrambling trying to get on the list because we don't have lists. And when people come, they're not on their phones. They're dancing, they're having fun. … I think that calls back to the [past], too.”

“I don't know, I had my Sidekick out at the party,” Paige said, laughing.


9 p.m. – 2:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7

205 N. 5th St., Downtown


Orange Soda