Crunk and Disorderly

Every Saturday night, East St. Louis explodes with one of the wildest parties you've never seen

When Kaos drops the needle on "I Don't Give a Fuck," the shirts start flying -- it's time to work it out -- the fingers waving, the girls popping and rolling and shaking, eyes staring at everything, wild smiles shining. The dance floor's a trampoline, and, out of the blue, a line of dancers begin flopping through the middle of the crowd, pushing, squeezing, making their way to the other end of the club. Over there, a hole, a vacuum, as a space opens up and guys start shoving and pushing, harder and harder, until the circle starts stretching into an oval, then a little rectangle, then into a circle again, bigger. Inside, Debo's rolling and controlling. MC Dwight Stone lords it over the crowd on the lip of a pool table, mic in hand.

You can hear every single person in here because the crowd is chanting the chorus -- "I don't give a fuck!" -- over and over again. But the strength of the collective chant negates its message. If nothing else, the mass of dancers at the Monastery sure as hell gives a fuck about something, even if it's a denial: I don't give a fuck!

The fashion stretches from one extreme to the other: the ghetto-fabulous wrestle with the Swoosh patrol. Over there, a fancy girl in floppy beige felt hat and Naugahyde-and-fake-fur coat slides through the crowd. Over there are shining blue velour sweats. Two girls, dressed as twins in yellow midriff-baring shirts, do a riff on the Mono that they've obviously worked out in advance, then try teaching it to some token white people (to no avail). Chirps are coming from the other side of the room -- the birds are back -- and they gradually float across the room as people join in. Three other girls -- and three pair of huge gold hoop earrings -- walk in a row, each mimicking the other, each a little reflection. Onstage, a girl all in red, with a tiny birthday hat on her head, loses it, goes beat-crazy, her arms flailing to the side, the hat poking up and down.

Jennifer Silverberg
Action on the dance floor heats up. Says Terrence, owner of the Monastery: "If you can go over there and push and shove and jump around and scream and shout in somebody's face, when you're done, you feel a lot better."
Jennifer Silverberg
Action on the dance floor heats up. Says Terrence, owner of the Monastery: "If you can go over there and push and shove and jump around and scream and shout in somebody's face, when you're done, you feel a lot better."

"Put your middle finger in the air," shouts Stone from atop the pool table. Over in the far corner, a disco ball the size of an ATV wobbles from the sheer force of the energy.

It's 4:30 a.m. -- it's starting to feel like Sunday morning -- and the early service is in session. The Monastery's worshiping hard. "At 5 a.m.," says Tossin' Ted, "it's the same -- crazy. They party like it's twelve noon. It's nonstop partying."

On one level, what's happening here tonight is no different than at any moment in history, anywhere in the world: People are dancing all night long. It used to be the jitterbug, or a jig, or a waltz, or a Mashed Potato or a Pogo or a Robot. But in 2003, it's the Mono, and it was born, this special little thing, here, at the Monastery, in East St. Louis.

And the crowd, this special huge thing, is alive in East St. Louis and loving every minute. They don't party like this in Ladue or LA or London.

"The crowd going at the Monastery is just so ... crunk," says Staci Static. "That's the only word to describe it, is 'crunk.'"

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