What is the coolest and quirkiest event you've ever attended or heard of?
September 18, 2009 4:02 PM   Subscribe

What is the coolest and quirkiest event you've ever attended or heard of?

I'm kind of fascinated by quirky events, having thrown a few myself. Something else I like to do is change things up - try throwing another kind of event just to see what happens. But now I'm kind of at a loss for my next one, and thought I would query the hive mind for events that make you go, "Wow - I went to this insanely neat event the other night..." to your friends. I'm just trying to brainstorm a bunch of concepts and hoping you all can help me.

Anything from something like the Burning Man, or the Fake Prom, or to this event my friend throws, called Pindemonium. She has a button making machine, and for a small fee, she'll make ten of your buttons. Then, at Pindemonium, everyone who submitted a button gets their ten, then go on a mad trading session with all the other submitters. People who didn't submit anything can buy a random assortment and trade up for buttons they want.

This guy in Toronto does a "Awkward Show and Tell" night, with various themes. Like the last one was "exes and sex toys". Another friend of mine does this hipster lecture series where he gets people to give 15 minutes lectures on something they are passionate about, but which is not their expertise. So say, a stock broker who knows everything about 15th century bookbinding, or something like that.

I'm looking for stuff that is really unique, or has a twist to it. A karaoke bar isn't that interesting to me, but a karaoke bar where the words are projected in a language not native to the singer, is.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Sully to Grab Bag (58 answers total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to a few of Dobbs' parties and he always makes the guests bring a stranger. At first he asked them to bring a stranger to him and the last time they had to bring someone who was a stranger to them. So, each person coming had to ask a complete stranger to attend with them. It was rather interesting.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:05 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

What about something like Cringe?

Cringe is a monthly reading series hosted by Sarah Brown at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom in Brooklyn. On the first Wednesday of each month, brave souls come forward and read aloud from their teenage diaries, journals, notes, letters, poems, abandoned rock operas, and other general representations of the crushing misery of their humiliating adolescence.

posted by runningwithscissors at 4:07 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quirky events I've taken part of:

Easter Keg Hunt - my college celebrated easter by getting up early Sunday morning and tramping around the woods looking for brightly colored kegs. I've taken to re-enacting it with my recently graduated friends by using those little Heineken kegs.

I've ended up doing a lot of quirky things through Morton's List, including a protest of a friend of mine (with chants and signs and rotten fruit!), but those are less "events".

The quirkiest thing I've heard of that I wish I'd done was lifting people with helium balloons.
posted by shaun uh at 4:10 PM on September 18, 2009

I've been to a lot of mural-painting events; basically, you buy a ton of house and spray and acrylic paint (mostly house paint, check Craigslist); you prop up plywood panels; and you get artists to freestyle collaborative paint on them.

The events I've taken part in (Go West, Urban Scrawl, Art al Fresco) were organized by the Franklinton Arts District of Columbus (who happened to have a friend of mine as an organizer), but one was run through the Columbus College of Art and Design (which happened to have a friend of mine as a gallery organizer).
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:19 PM on September 18, 2009

Oh, and a friend of mine organized a crayon gallery exhibition, where a gallery was filled with crayon drawings and any drawing you contributed at the event would be hung up on the spot.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:20 PM on September 18, 2009

I was watching a regular sex documentary show on TV the other day and they went to an annual event in Boston. Basically it's a "film festival" for porn films audience members make beforehand. All the videos are then shown over an evening and prizes given. Afterwards, the tapes are smashed up on stage to ensure they can never be watched again. I rather wish I could find a reference to it online but supposedly it's a big deal in Boston.
posted by wackybrit at 4:36 PM on September 18, 2009

Secret Garden Party is a pretty cool music festival in the UK where pretty much everyone goes in costume.

Randoms evenings when a group of you would each pick the dinner partner of someone else, without that someone else knowing who they were until they turned up.

I borrowed a projector over the summer and projected a movie onto a sheet hung on a wall outside. We all sat in duvets in the garden watching under the stars.

There's a group in London who have made a temporary cafe on top of a multi-story carpark (don't know if this counts as an event...).

Tea parties (actual, not crazy political ones) can be cool and quirky if you do them properly - teapots, scones, the whole nine yards. Invite a ton of people (make it an open invite), spend hours chatting as people drop in and out.

Pretty much anything involving themed dress-up can be very, very good if people get into it.
posted by djgh at 4:43 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of what makes an event is actually the people - if it's always the same people, no matter how cool the conceit, it can be a bit meh to the normal participants. A lot of the best things I've been to have been when there's been an excellent ratio of known people and unknown people, who know some of the known people (not to get too Rumsfeldian on you). Friends of friends, is what I'm saying.
posted by djgh at 4:46 PM on September 18, 2009

This one time, over about sixty years actually, some people got together and built this here internet. Then, another group, learning from the first, put together this website here, ask.meta... It is a community of question and answer, that is actually moderated by other people in the group who have the ability to remove anyone or any part of the conversation they wanted. Everyone involved loved this fortunate series of events, and this was the coolest and quirkiest event I've ever attended or heard of.
posted by Benzle at 4:55 PM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

i've heard that having a "mustache party" can be good fun. invite a pile of friends, and stipulate that all men must have a mustache. obviously, you need a bit of lead time to ensure the guys can make a good effort.

a friend of mine hosted one of these at a room in a local bar. he said it was super fun to instantly identify any party crashing men... none had the 'stash.
posted by bruceo at 5:00 PM on September 18, 2009

I've never been, but I think Dr. Sketchy's sounds pretty dang fun.
posted by Madamina at 5:02 PM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

New Belgium Brewery in Colorado hosts the Tour de Fat every year. You dress up in ridiculous costumes, pay $5 for a beer token, and ride your bike around town. All the profits go to charity, I believe. New Belgium's very environmentally friendly so the festival's stated purpose is to encourage people to ride bikes more, but the brewery's based in a college town so it's just an excuse to dress up get plastered at 9 a.m. I've never been, but the stories I hear make it sound pretty awesome. I believe the company's started the event in cities outside Colorado, but I'm not totally sure on that.
posted by lilac girl at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2009

One time, me and a bunch of my most beautiful hipster friends got a giant slip-and-slide and a lot of brand name alcohol and went to a golf-course at night and when the sprinklers came on...oh wait.

But, seriously, I think cool depends on a lot of difficult to quantify variables and quirky works a lot better if it's simply outside your own close cultural community and not a weird conceit. I once went to an all night pig roast the night before Groundhog Day. Another time I went to a picnic wedding where the groom wore a camo tux and drunkenly celebrated by playing badminton with friends using lit M-80s. Those were quirky events, but probably decidedly low on the cool factor. I did the full moon surf at Leo Carillo State Beach, high on cool but low on quirk. Most of the quirkiest, coolest things that have meant the most to me were products of serendipity and kind of useless to explain without the myriad details that turned the situation into what it was.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:14 PM on September 18, 2009

Wackybrit, you're either talking about HUMP! (mildly NSFW) or something exactly like it. Your googling was probably confounded by the fact that it takes place in Seattle, not Boston.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Many years ago, I met a brother & sister in the waiting area of a diner. They had just moved to town and didn't know a soul so they decided to host a "making friends" party. They invited about 30 total strangers to their house (including my friend and I) and asked us all to bring a plate of finger food/appetizers. When we got there, we were told that we had to carry our plate of food around, and if we wanted something from someone else's plate we had to ask that person to feed it to us. It was quite the ice breaker. Once the food was gone, and we were all pretty comfortable with each other, the sister broke out the markers and crayons and a huge roll of butcher paper and told us that we were going to make a mural for their new place. So we did.

Later on the brother told me that the idea for the party had come from an argument he'd had with a friend of his who told him that you can't trust random strangers and it's really hard to make friends in a new town. He wanted to prove his friend wrong.

As far as I know, no one stole anything or dismantled a cake or anything at this party. In fact, I made some good friends there.
posted by dogmom at 5:41 PM on September 18, 2009 [25 favorites]

Little Grey Book Lectures by Mefi's own J Hodgman.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:46 PM on September 18, 2009

Playa del Fuego and Wickerman are pretty quirky, for sure, and I've been to both. Very much a Burning Man vibe, just not so...much.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:27 PM on September 18, 2009

Boulder, Colorado in the 1980's had a "Kinetic Race" at the Boulder reservoir. Rules were that the craft had to be hand made, float, and travel over land for a mile, then cross back across the reservoir. Winner decided based on the whims of the judges, whose rulings were final, unappealable, and had nothing to do with who came in first. A total goddamned riot, full of sinking costumed Boulderites. Funniest thing I can recall seeing, though I am led to understand the annual "Dress to get laid" party at Bennington College is entertaining, too.
posted by FauxScot at 6:41 PM on September 18, 2009

Two events spring to mind for me: Les Blank screened his film, "Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers" and had a bunch of garlic baking to enhance the film.

Second, A gallery event that featured floater tanks. I finally convinced a friend to attend the show with me. We floated in the tanks for about ninety minutes. Both of us were really high from the experience. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the ocean, talking about the lingering feeling a calm of the tank experience. It's really amazing if you haven't tried it, I recommend the experience.
posted by effluvia at 6:49 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

My friend who lives in Canada told me about a women's only event where they take over a Turkish bath for a day and have communal baths and such.

I would like to host a protest for nothing in particular, or a night picnic. Thanks for this question, this is awesome!
posted by divabat at 6:50 PM on September 18, 2009

No, Juliet, WackyBrit was correct in saying Boston. It was actually Brookline, a suburb, that was home to You Ought to Be in Pictures, hosted by Kim Airs at the Coolidge Corner Theater.
posted by alms at 7:54 PM on September 18, 2009

Ithaca used to have a "anything that floats but is not a boat" boat race down one of the small rivers

Fremont street fair up in Seattle

Impromptu marching band around the street of San Francisco (just show up with any instrument whether you can play it or not and match with everyone else)

facial hair party (spirit gum and fake hair for everyone)

red party - everyone dresses in red
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:59 PM on September 18, 2009

Last year friends & I went to AT&T Park (an outdoor baseball stadium) in San Francisco to watch an opera simulcast from the opera house onto the jumbotron. You could get stadium food and beer and signs that read alternately, Go Samson! or Go Delilah! It was weird and fun and free.

They're holding it again tomorrow!
posted by jenmakes at 8:02 PM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Geek Prom
posted by RedEmma at 8:03 PM on September 18, 2009

Hmm, well I really enjoyed Coachella but that was a good six years ago and I'm guessing it's more commercial now, and not all that unique. Camping there still might be fun, a little of the Burning Man vibe.

The other cool thing, hosted by a friend of an acquaintance in LA, is the Grilled Cheese Invitational, sadly over for the year. She told me it kind of started as a joke, and it's really taken off. And you've got to admit it's both cool and quirky to have a contest judging (mmmm) grilled cheese.

Oh, and this is cool to me as a librarian: the Edible Books Festival, also sadly over for the year. You can see some cool examples in the Seattle Flickr photo pool.
posted by librarylis at 8:41 PM on September 18, 2009

It's definitely not "cool", but it is fun: B-Fest.I've gone almost every year for the last several years.

It's a 24-hour festival of terrible movies. It's like doing Mystery Science Theater 3000 with a few hundred people. Some of the movies are terrible but unintentially entertaining, like Coffy, The Quest, or Gymkata. Others are terrible and genuinely insufferable, like Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? or The Beast of Yucca Flats. Sometimes the crowd is popping with quips and exclamations, and sometimes it's groaning and struggling to stay awake.

In the end, I feel the mixture of snark, weirdness, and endurance testing is usually a worthwhile one. (Although I have to admit that in recent years, I've been cheating by cutting out around 3 AM to go home and sleep then come back.)
posted by ignignokt at 9:25 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Underground (illegal) raves.
posted by mezamashii at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2009

Difficult to do spontaneously, but great concept: My friend had a "Going-Away Giving-Away" party. She was moving across the country and aimed to take basically nothing with her. Her silverware? You could take that. A paintings she'd done? You could take that, but she might prefer a bit of money for it. Pretty much everything except her clothes & luggage went.

I've known friends who've held what you might called staged readings: invite a bunch of friends over, hand out a play that they're unlikely to have seen, and people read aloud, with some light movement. Providing some props may be helpful.

Also: book/clothing/mix CD/food exchanges aren't unique, but seem fun. Bring something(s) to give away, take something neat home!

A college friend held in his apartment, at the end of every semester, a Film Festival. Attendees were encouraged to RSVP, and he'd put up a (very Web 1.8) page listing names with somewhat-relevant photos of celebrities/characters. The Festival got longer every time, up to like 50 hours or something crazy like that. People were encouraged to come & go as they wished, set up camp for the duration, bring food/drink to share, and generally enjoy the end of the semester. This worked great in his 2-BR apartment, and could scale up quite nicely if you have a lawn with a wall & a projector + nice weather.

My friend's family has "Chicken Day" every year. It's a big chicken barbecue, but chicken-related clothing is encouraged, the house is decorated with chicken paraphernalia, "Chicken Run" is shown, a rubber chicken is shot through the air...

Some associates took over Rochester's abandoned subway one evening and had a giant art show/event/dance party with live art-creation, projections, DJs, and so forth.

I've been to Baltimore's Kinetic Sculpture Race, too.
posted by knile at 10:08 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quirky events I've attended:

Dirty Clown Run - dress like a clown, ride your scooter, annoy bar patrons
Poke 'n' Dragger - An annual event where you ride your scooter to a series of bars dressed as the opposite gender IN JANUARY (brrrr....)
Waffle-off - a waffle cook-off with winners for best savory and best sweet waffles (I made shirts with the Olympic rings using Eggo waffles as stamps.)
Fathers Day Trailer Park Ride - a bike ride for parents towing kids in trailers or on tag-a-long/tandem/trail-a-bikes to a series of parks.

Dressing up and going places on two wheels generally equals fun! There are always lots of fun wacky events during Pedalpalooza (although it's not all fun and games, there's seriousness too.)
posted by vespabelle at 10:34 PM on September 18, 2009

-every THURSDAY (or FRIDAY for field trips)
-a new location every week
posted by clorox at 10:40 PM on September 18, 2009

posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:12 AM on September 19, 2009

Washington Psychotronic Film Society (hosted by Metafilter's own doctorschlock) and Screen on the Green (especially the HBO dance) are quirky and fun.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:01 AM on September 19, 2009

I just came back from a Giant Kareoke - outdoors, huge screen, everyone sings alone - where our group "crashed" it with a dance flashmob. totally awesome.
posted by divabat at 5:03 AM on September 19, 2009

I once attended a small event the host called "Pre-Dawn Spartacus." We gathered at his great apartment (the walls filled with apparently original framed film posters) at sundown, everyone bringing a dish to share, and sat about for much of the night chatting, eating, and drinking. Then, at about 3AM, he started the film Spartacus on his big-screen entertainment center, timed precisely so the film would end at sunrise.
For this event, he pasted word balloons reading "I am Spartacus!!" on each person on every one of his movie posters, and also placed one on the bathroom mirror so you could look up from washing your hands and see yourself declaring "I am Spartacus!!"

I also attended a wee party called Minicon for a couple-three years, before it was scaled back and changed venues.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 5:13 AM on September 19, 2009

Hamaganza (warning: MySpace link) in Richmond. Here's a listing for last year's event.
posted by candyland at 5:27 AM on September 19, 2009

Every year around Christmas, the Georgia State University fine arts students pour their sculptures. The event is open to the public and it's especially dramatic to watch at night.
posted by workerant at 7:58 AM on September 19, 2009

I go to a lot of academic conferences to sell books and to talk to scholars about their research. My favorite by far is the Congress of the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan. This is a big tent meeting of not only scholars, but also of crafts people and collectors—practitioners. Where you'll find a sister in full habit next to a professional chain maille fabricator, both scouring twelfth century texts on their profession. Where most of the worlds most serious and thoughtful historians meet amid the practitioners of ancient arts and collectors of historic artifacts. You can buy Roman coins, or sheaves of illumination, or amber, or honey, among mead makers and Franciscan monks and mystery writers and the largest sale of books about and from the medieval to ever be brought under one roof, though technically a dormitory dining hall. Not really a Ren. faire, more like a bazaar and chautauqua with plenty of folks interested in the practical as well as the theoretical and chronological. One of my favorite years was the year that they built a trebuchet out by the practice track and accidentally nailed a runner when testing it. If you ever attend, be sure to attend the Medieval Ball, I believe it's Friday night. While a bit more tame, now that they've ended the open bar, it still can be counted on for some hair-raising debauchery. There is nothing on the academic circuit quite like this. It was the first time I ever saw someone wearing a hairshirt intentionally and the first time I realized medievalists could really dance.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:18 AM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

We threw a White Trash party one year in which everyone dressed in their worst clothes. We then all voted for the best White Trash female and best White Trash male. The couple that won had actually thrown a Formal Party a couple of months before in which everyone had to wear their best and most formal clothes. Our party was a lot less stressful - almost everyone had to go shopping for their party.
posted by gt2 at 12:11 PM on September 19, 2009

I've been to alot of fun, quirky and cool events, but none even begin to hold a candle to Burningman. Lots of people rag on it, and with good reason: It's emphatically not for everyone. However, it's as quirky and cool as it gets.
posted by Freen at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2009

My cousin got married last year on November 1st. Halloween is their favorite holiday, so they had a costume wedding. All of the guests, the wedding party, the bride and the groom all came in (mostly quite elaborate) costumes. It was definitely the most fun I've ever had at a wedding.
posted by cheerwine at 1:28 PM on September 19, 2009

A guy I knew used to have a weekly musicians' night in his basement. You couldn't play the instrument you brought; you had to use an instrument you didn't actually know how to play. (No fair picking something too close to your own instrument, obviously.)

It was wonderful, but as mrmojoflying says, it probably only worked because of the particular time and place and people involved.
posted by tangerine at 1:42 PM on September 19, 2009

There's a hostel in Guatemala that hosts a great New Year's Eve party every year. They have a left-behind-clothes box that everyone must wear something out of. Even better, the men are required to wear something that belonged to a woman. The hostel also buys about $100 (mind you, this is Guatemala, so that's a lot of money) worth of fireworks for the guests to set off over the lake. Nothing like men in dresses wielding explosives to start your year off right!

Apparently, every year in Seattle, Dan Savage hosts a Valentine's Day Party where guests bring something from a failed relationship and it's ritually destroyed. That sounds like fun.
posted by lunasol at 3:18 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unsilent Night, a "outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassette tapes, CDs and Mp3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets."

I went to Figment when I lived in NYC, lots of interesting stuff. One project basically left out chalk, and let you draw what you wanted on the pavement.
posted by shinyshiny at 4:14 PM on September 19, 2009

HONK!, in somerville, ma, is good fun. this year's is coming up in a few weeks. There's also HONK! West in seattle.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2009

similar to the dan savage v-day party lunasol mentioned, i think an important part of any new year's eve party is "The Ritual of the Burning of Things That Suck". it can be a thing, or a written description. whatever it is, burn it in the fireplace, or outdoor grille, or whatever. if it's something written, you can read it aloud or not, as you please.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:15 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

pillow fight in union square. Sadly, I couldn't go, but a couple of people I know did.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 6:35 PM on September 19, 2009

Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
posted by fings at 7:50 PM on September 19, 2009

I once attended an evening hosted by Carol Queen, in which people volunteered to come up on stage and tell stories about their sexual experiences.
A friend of a friend in Berkeley CA used to hold monthly creativity salons. Each salon had a rough theme and sometimes we had to kick in a few bucks for supplies. We did things like write short stories- one word per person, or act out Dr Seuss books, or dye Easter eggs.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 10:36 PM on September 19, 2009

The Living Elvis Karaoke at the Horseshoe was fantastic, while it lasted. A combination of "ringers" (Canadian music luminaries) and average Joes would get up on stage on the anniversaries of Elvis' birth and death, don a bedazzled jumpsuit and cape, spin the "Wheel of Elvis", and using the lyrics provided perform their best Elvis impersonation with the live band, the Royal Crowns, and win a prize from the Prize Lady - which was anything from a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich to a commemorative tee shirt or votive candle to a vintage Elvis tchotchke lovingly collected throughout the year. (Pay no attention to the prize lady visible in the link as she may or may not have a fondness for answering questions here.)
posted by peagood at 7:08 PM on September 20, 2009

The Snuggie Pub Crawls seem to have popped up around America.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:15 PM on September 20, 2009

The Suicide Club and its offshoots, the Cacophony Societies, were kind of pioneers of a sort of irreverent, underground style of events.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:21 PM on September 20, 2009

2nding Honkfest if you're anywhere near Boston in early October. The Saturday performance is the key part; skip the Sunday parade.

Another great event in Boston is Boston by Bike at Night, by the Back Bay Midnight Pedalers -- it's a bike ride that goes from midnight to 8 AM, hosted by I believe a couple of urban planners, with tons of stops to look at interesting architecture and such. It's a little slow at first, and then exhausting, but you could probably host your own with whatever speed and scenery seemed appropriate.

I was also a fan of the mashup dance party I went to in Boston, which is apparently in a bunch of cities -- it's not that different from regular dance music at a club, so you have to be able to tolerate that, but the mashup gloss means the music is more clever and creative and melodic, and less overplayed.
posted by jhc at 11:25 PM on September 20, 2009

Cincinnati has this: Cincinnati Iditarod

posted by daneflute at 6:35 PM on September 21, 2009

Mortified is a fun event that might be taking place near your city soon. It's a comedic celebration of intensely awkward, painful confessions.
posted by gyges at 7:00 PM on September 22, 2009

I have attended 3 Fake Proms here in Toronto and they were a blast. I have also attended with my to be wife an Instant Make Out Party where a club set up a bunch of tents and different private spots where you can make out. This was a bunch of years ago and it was really fun. Highly recommended.
posted by boomcha76 at 6:42 AM on September 23, 2009

Uno: I have no idea whether they still do it, but I went to the Faux Queen Pageant in San Francisco in which the contestants are all women dressed up like drag queens. Highlights included (1) a contestant with a big fake pregnant belly giving "birth" onstage (and throwing the baby doll into the audience) while lip synching to a Dolly Parton song and (2) the friend I'd dragged along being hustled onstage and tied up by a guy in a gorilla suit during another contestant's performance.

Dos: A bunch of friends rented a beach house for a week and somewhere along the way decided to have a fake wedding, with a slowly-growing mythology including a dead first wife (whose portrayer showed up to the "ceremony" in a black veil along with attendants who shouted "Murderer!" at the groom), illegitimate children, a red-and-green color scheme, and vows cribbed from horrible pop songs. Somehow it ended with skinny-dipping.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:17 PM on September 25, 2009

The Suicide Club and its offshoots, the Cacophony Societies, were kind of pioneers of a sort of irreverent, underground style of events.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:21 PM on September 20 [+] [!]

They're responsible for the one I was going to nominate. SantaCon. A few hundred people dressed as Santa Clause variants descend on a secret location and rampage through the city. I did it three years when I lived in London and it was great.

posted by atrazine at 3:47 AM on October 5, 2009

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