Dre Day: Chronic Condition in the Mainroom

It was only oregano, but they did smoke a lot of it
Wes Winship for BRLSQofNA

Nine excruciatingly long years have passed since Dr. Dre's 2001 dropped. Originally scheduled for release in 2004, then canceled and reactivated, Detox might actually be coming out this year (assuming Dre's new career in film production doesn't get in the way). Yet the dearth of solo releases from the storied rapper, producer, and label mogul has done nothing to dampen the ardor of Dre's faithful. Nor has it stopped Wes Winship and cohorts from annually celebrating Dre's birthday in public.

"I'm sure he'll come out with something new sooner or later," the Dre Day cofounder and Burlesque of North America/First Amendment principal explains by phone from the graphics company and gallery's sprawling northeast Minneapolis facility. "I don't even pay attention to projected release dates anymore, for anybody. When something comes out, it comes out."

At the moment, Winship has more pressing matters to deal with. Dre Day number six, celebrating Andre Young's 43rd birthday, will take place in First Avenue's Mainroom. The space is a bit harder to fill than the Triple Rock, which hosted the event from 2004 through last year. Plus, for the first time ever, the event's lineup features a performer who's actually shared significant studio time with Dre: Cofounding N.W.A. member Arabian Prince, who quit a few weeks before Straight Outta Compton came out, tops a roster featuring Plain Ole Bill, Jimmy 2 Times, Sims, Mictlan, Paper Tiger, and a surprise guest who raps behind a three-letter acronym as well as playing in a punk band with a name that mentions explosive devices.

"We absolutely had to do something to make the event bigger and better this year," says Winship. "Otherwise, we just wouldn't have done it."

This year's super-sized installment also features most of the party's traditional activities, including the "40-Ounce Ring Toss," and the Chronic-inspired "$20 Sack Pyramid." And celebrants will once again have the opportunity to put their heads through a hole and walk away with a photo of themselves replacing Dre on the cover of The Chronic. Only the Midnight Leaf Drop's future remains uncertain, as the giant pot leaf the crew used at the Triple Rock might get visually swallowed up in the Mainroom. "We're still deciding whether or not to make a bigger leaf," says Winship.

Winship didn't always have such big plans for his baby, conceived in the closing days of Life Sucks Die, the glossy zine he produced with the likes of Andrew Broder and current Burlesque coproprietor George Thompson.

"Andrew and I were sitting around one night, discussing holidays," he says. "We started inventing our own, pretty much just saying whatever came to mind. At one point, he said, 'Dre Day,' and I thought, That really would make a good holiday. When I said as much, he was just like, 'Uh, yeah.' He left shortly after, but George was still around. We started working on ideas that night."

After making its debut in the Entry, with Slug as master of ceremonies and Dillinger Four headlining, Dre Day moved to the Triple Rock and the idea started to spread—slowly, but surely. This year finds copycats hosting parties in Pasadena, New York, and who knows where else?

"Apart from the celebration," says Winship, "and the challenge of putting together a show that people actually want to come to and end up having a good time at, I've never wanted anything more from the event than to have it catch on in other places. I see no reason why an obsession I share with a few friends shouldn't have at least as much impact on the world as, say, St. Patrick's Day."

DRE DAY 2008: The PANIC ZONE takes place FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775

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