Looking for the Best Party in DC? Then You Need to Meet Nayef Issa.
"It’s the FOMO thing — you’re going to have to be there."
There’s a reason why empty warehouses and shuttered storefronts in Washington, D.C., are literally buzzing these days: Nayef Issa.
A 39-year-old immigrant from Beirut who lives in the Shaw neighborhood, Issa is the brains behind Nü Androids, a pop-up experience combining dance music, immersive art and multi-sensory playgrounds anywhere he finds room, as well as Dimensions, which he describes as an exploration of an artist’s reality where space and time have been lifted. Translation: It’s the ultimate immersive experience, including live performances and reality-bending activations, no LSD necessary.
These experiences of his have appeared in a variety of locations, from a 50,000-square-foot abandoned Macy’s at Art Basel, at Warehouse on Watts in Philadelphia, and at just about every empty space he finds in D.C.
If you want to check it out, you’re in luck. The next Nü Androids party is this Saturday night, May 28, at Flash featuring NEZ. (Head here for all upcoming events, including the Dimensions-branded immersions.) But before you do, we caught up with the man behind the best parties in D.C.
InsideHook: What are Nü Androids pop-ups?
Nayef Issa: The first and most important thing is that they’re just for one night: It’s the FOMO thing — you’re going to have to be there. Sometimes, it’s a very intimate setup. When we started, it was strictly music. About one-and-a-half or two years into it, we started adding interactive art installations. You would either go to a music pop-up or an installation pop-up, so we combined it. It was Instagram-friendly with VR stations. The idea was, “How can I activate everyone?”
This sounds amazing, but it’s difficult to picture it.
It creates another level of interaction within a space. In one, my friend conceptualized a disco set up with an old-school bathtub, with lights and a sink that’s disco-ed out. People get into it, and then they dance and have a drink. It’s all about activating their senses. It’s much bigger than going to a show and watching the DJ. A lot of people want a lot of stuff to happen all at once, so you have to keep creating and keep their attention by activating other things.
And you also run the Dimensions brand?
Yes, we created the Dimensions brand in 2018. We found a 20,000-square-foot warehouse space 10 to 15 minutes outside the center of D.C. I wanted it to be 50-50 music and installation. We built 10 interactive installations, and in the middle was a full dance party. There’s VR paint with friends, a mezcal tasting, a cool classical group dancing with projections that move with their dance movements. You get a little sweat moving on, paint with friends and go to an IG-friendly installation.
How do you come up with this?
It’s not always me. I generally come up with a concept of something, and I’m surrounded by some very creative people. We come together and build something beautiful.
Where do find all the artists?
I value giving people with the ideas chances. It’s hard to get your start. In the art world, if you’re creative and you execute it right, you’ll get the people. We help some of these up-and-coming artists.
I travel a lot, and I don’t like when people say, “There’s no scene in Washington.” I thought this too in my early 20s, until I figured out the pocket holes of the creatives in the city. As soon as someone started bubbling, they’d move to New York or L.A. I wanted to make D.C. my base. I wanted to change the viewpoint of how people view D.C. and the creative spots. The food scene has blown up, and we have every top artist coming into the market. We’re booking some big artists as well, so it’s a scene that’s on the up-and-up.
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