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SYFY WIRE Stranger Things

Forgoing long lines, fans throw their own giant parties at San Diego Comic-Con

By Vanessa Armstrong
The Flux Capacitors playing at Ready Party One

San Diego Comic-Con is the mother of cons, an industry-led extravaganza full of exclusive parties that the average SDCC goer can only dream of attending. And while the industry does provide a slew of off-site daytime activations, these experiences often involve waiting in line for hours for a usually-incredible but all-too-brief experience.

At night, every bar downtown becomes packed full of nerds, shoulder-to-shoulder in cosplay and sweating off their makeup. And while there are many invite-only parties thrown by media outlets, brands, and entertainment studios, a bulk of the convention's attendees — the putative focal point of the whole extravaganza — are generally left out of them. There are only a handful of places that offer something special, something that uniquely celebrates and immerses people in the fandoms they love.

That’s where Experience Level Entertainment comes in. Nerds in their own right, the organization's founders hail from the Flux Capacitors (an '80s flashback band), Nerds Like Us (a producer and sponsor of nerd events), Nerdbot (a nerd-focused media company) and Damn Good Shindig (an event design business specializing in immersive decor). Last year was the group’s first foray into SDCC after-parties, where they hosted Ready Party One, an OASIS-themed Wednesday-night extravaganza before the first full day of Comic-Con.

That event, housed at Fluxx night club in downtown San Diego, was so successful that they’re upping the number of events this year to three. The parties, which take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights of Comic-Con, create immersive, fun-filled experiences across three different fandoms.

LUDUS lockers at SDCC's Ready Party One

From the OASIS, to Hawkins, Indiana, to Outer Space

Although Comic-Con didn’t officially kick off until today, the team held their first party last night, which was a repeat of last year’s Ready Player One theme, where Fluxx night club was transformed into the OASIS, the virtual reality world depicted in the book and movie of the same name.

Wednesday night has historically been relatively quiet, even though there are hundreds of nerds looking for somewhere to go. “No one does a Wednesday party because events are usually driven by celebrity talent, and that’s not what we wanted to do,” Bernie Bregman, Director of Business Development for Experience Level Entertainment, explains. “It’s cool when events have it, and we have some guests this year, which is really awesome. But we really want to have a very ‘for the fans, by the fans’ feel.”

If how busy Fluxx was on Thursday night is any indication, the Experience Level team has filled in an unmet party demand— guests can hit the dance floor, go on quests to win nerd-themed jewelry, play arcade games or get their photo taken in front of some lockers at LUDUS school.

Flux Capacitors at SDCC's Ready Party One

For those who missed last night, however, there’s still a chance to catch their parties Thursday and Friday nights (although Thursday has already sold out, unfortunately). These parties come with their own theming; Thursday will be Stranger Things-inspired, with different parts of the club made up to look like Starcourt Mall, the Hawkins Community Pool, and the Palace Arcade.

Come Friday, however, the team will revamp Fluxx once again for their Awesome Mixer Vol. 2 party, a space-themed event that will feature music from DMC and will have several members of the Farscape cast there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show.

“We took a thoughtful approach to how to do parties in a different way,” Bregman says. “We really love the Damn Big Shindig immersive experience, and I think that’s the biggest thing that separates what we do from what everyone else does at Comic-Con. People are really going to cherish these experiences over a random party at a bar or a concert venue.”

Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.

Awesome Mixer Vol 2. Poster for SDCC Party