At 6.30am, at the top of the Opera House stairs, I’m hugged by a greeter – or maybe greeted by a hugger – who’s wearing a platinum wig and rave wear. I groan inwardly on approach, then admit to myself that being enveloped in her furry coat feels good.
It’s pointless not to pack your positivity if you’re going to attend Daybreaker, a pre-work dance party founded in 2013 that’s since spread to 26 cities. The dress code is “wildest dreams” and “blooming flowers”, so wallflowers won’t get much out of it. Daybreaker is about full-immersion, chakra-bumping, table-thumping letting go.
Today’s sold-out event is Daybreaker’s third outing in Sydney, after parties at the Aquarium and Sydney Tower Eye. It’s perhaps the most esoteric venture from entrepreneur Matthew Brimer – who founded his first company while still a high school student in St Louis, Missouri, and went on to graduate from Yale – created with “community architect” Radha Agrawal, who’s the author of Belong: Find Your People and Live a More Connected Life.
In 2018 Brimer sold the education organisation he co-founded, General Assembly – which provides short courses on startup skills – for $412m. He’s now a managing partner of The Fund, a venture fund set up to help New York-based startups. It’s “to support the next generation”, he told Forbes.
There’s no sign of Brimer at this event, although at the last Daybreaker at Sydney Aquarium he was dressed in merman tights and a hat adorned with shells and seaweed. I follow the whistles and exclamations of “WOO!” to the Opera House’s northern foyer, which has been set up with a schmick sound system and little else.
According to one sign, the space has been transformed into a judgment-free dancefloor. I’m not sure how that’s policed, but it’s MCed by professional party guy Tommy Franklin, who’s sporting a biker beard and a mirrorball crash helmet. The really, really early birds got here for yoga at 5.30am but the party is now in full swing.
The crowd is louder than the music, with revellers wearing activewear, animal onesies and tie-dye fluoro … and then there’s my friend Fergo, representing Gen X.
“Will Gen Z stone me to death for cultural appropriation if I wear my chocho zubon and kimono to Daybreaker?” he’d texted me earlier.
He needn’t have worried; there are sombreros and ponchos aplenty here this morning. The only rule, emailed out beforehand, was to avoid glitter and face paint. Even so, there are enough spilt sequins for the Opera House to earn its $8.50 booking fee.
Scattered around are signs that can be held up for optimum Instagram usage. “I’m in epic flow,” says one. Another is more of a mission statement: “Connect with others, explore yourself, say F-YES” … and something about aliens I won’t relay lest it seems as though I’m shooting fish in a barrel.
On his birthday, Brimer made a request across his social media channels that instead of a congratulatory post or a gift, that people donate to one of three organisations. Whether there is any significance in the fact that it was his 33rd birthday is unclear, but he certainly has a religious following.
Fergo’s here because he’s got a tech background and attends all manner of startup incubating events to hear what the “entrepreteenagers” – as he calls the young folk who attend – are up to next. He saw Brimer speak at StartCon in Sydney last November. “I like to watch cultural change,” he says. “It sometimes evolves into something greater. Who knows, maybe next year there’ll be dance parties before work every day.”
David and Scott are grooving along in wigs and floral frocks left over from David’s muumuu-themed birthday party. “I saw Matt speak at a conference in San Francisco and it lit me up,” says David, a personal development coach. “He mentioned Daybreaker and I thought one should be started here, then I did some googling and found this.”
Included in the $35 ticket price are snacks including bananas, protein balls, kombucha and coconut water, keeping NRG levels high enough to sustain a two-hour DJ mix from Monica Jude, with a guest spot from a didgeridoo player and a burst of choreographed Zumba. Franklin’s got the mic and he whips things up until the sporadic woos reach a constant pitch.
As the sun fully rises and we approach the 8.30am close, the pace is winched back down with a couple of piano songs, followed by a guided meditation that bids us to plant roots and touch each other under the soil.
“Guys, this is your new family,” our guide beams, on point with Brimer’s general message of connection across all his endeavours.
It becomes clear that Daybreaker isn’t intended to be a novelty one-off. It’s a form of networking and team bonding that’s more focused on productivity and connection than the trip to the nearest pub after work … although its loud, feel-good vibes would be brutal for the office introvert.
On my way out, I’m handed an intention card printed with a Sal Paradise monologue from Kerouac’s On the Road – beginning “the only people for me are the mad ones” – which the organisers read aloud in unison.
I can’t help but be reminded of the vintage “Buy the World a Coke” ad, in which wholesome young things burst into song on a hilltop, as capitalism and idealism collide in flames behind them.