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Hey Now, I’m an All Star: Confessions of a Shrek Rave DJ

Life on the road with a cartoon themed party turned meme.

by Aurora Zboch (DJ Symphette)

It’s a fairytale come to life. In my first year as a DJ, I’m granted sold-out crowds in cities I’ve never been to. After a few prospective DMs with the Shrek Rave organizer, I found my artist alias Symphette booked from winter through summer on the Canadian lineup alongside two of my nearest and dearest musical inspirations, Sixtroke and Pan!c Pop. For all of us, these were huge opportunities, and ones coveted for only the goofiest DJs in the country. 

In 2022, Shrek Rave memes propagated on social media. One video recap has 780,000 likes, and #ShrekRave has more than 50 million views on TikTok. Every major city in the US has got its own Shrek Rave. Late last year, it also began touring Canada. By springtime, up to six events created by DJ and memelord/rapper Ka5sh were happening across North America every weekend. 

What is Shrek Rave? It’s a raunchy comedy-fantasy costume party based on the 2001 CGI fairytale film and its sequels. Here, we turn the swamp into a mosh pit; remixes of “All Star” by Smash Mouth play twice every hour; and inflatable gingerbread men krump in the centre of dance circles, battling masked donkeys. Did I mention the Fairy Godmothers singing karaoke into their wands during “Holding Out for a Hero”? 

Just like ogres and onions, there’s layers to this shit. Folks munching on the famed veggie is a regular occurrence. In Edmonton, one of the Three Blind Mice rolls an onion on stage. I slowly lift it in the air, to the crowd’s delight. Instinct takes over, and I lower it towards my mouth and take a bite. The room cheers even louder. I let it roll down the stage and watch Sixtroke finish his set. Minutes later, we spot a man in the front row picking the forbidden fruit off the stage. He promptly takes a bite in the same spot my teeth sunk into. Is this what it’s like to be a celebrity? The onion’s original owner eventually finds it, and looks confused to see a chunk missing. 

I now appreciate the glamour and struggles that touring acts experience. Sleeping on airport benches, sleeping on floors, sleeping in cars, sleeping in tubs. Underslept and hungover, I have a silent panic attack during the five hour flight between two back-to-back nights, from Kitchener to Edmonton. I nap it off in the defunct jacuzzi at our hotel next to the venue, Union Hall. Then I go on to play my best set to date. 

The rave’s strategy is to release the lineup after it sells out, and proves again and again that the concept alone is enough to draw a crowd. As a baby DJ, I, as Symphette, am blessed to have found mentors and tourmates to do shows with, especially of this reputation. Dressed as Puss in Boots, I make the night my own with house, techno, and early 2000s dance classics, plus an original edit of “Fairy Godmother’s Song” with Chedda Da Connect’s hit “Flicka Da Wrist.” Seeing a crowd of this calibre wave their imaginary wands during the hook felt powerful. 

For Pan!c Pop, who has made a name online in vaporwave and future funk, this was a moment to flex as a party DJ after 10 years in the game. He discovers fans on the other side of the country showing up specifically for him. In Toronto, a dude in a chef’s outfit pulls out a copy of Shrek 2 for GameBoy and asks Pan!c Pop to sign it. Sixtroke is the most energetic DJ in every genre he touches. His elaborate sets blend pop hits with the beloved Shrek soundtrack and even his own speedcore tracks. Between mixing, he moves to centre stage to breakdance. We share an immense gratitude and support as hype men, photographers, drivers, and each other’s biggest fans on the stage wings. 

This type of show is what you make of it. It’s a costume party that makes for highly memeworthy content. The audience, costumes, and shenanigans are replicated, but evolve city to city. The Three Blind Mice doing the limbo under a cane. A girl dressed as the Big Bad Wolf in a bonnet and nightgown hands me a physical copy of Pork Illustrated. One raver loops a kandi bracelet onto my wrist with beads spelling out “ALL STAR.” 

After running the shows for over a year, Ka5sh has noticed trends. A specific kind of bro will dress like the Three Blind Mice, and it’s always the hottest people who show up as Lord Farquaad. “Every Lord Farquaad is sexy as hell,” he says. “People are communicating with each other and making the memes stronger.”

Backstage at Toronto’s Opera House, Ka5sh tells me, “I don’t want everyone to have the exact same experience. This is a living, breathing thing. You can come to this one, and if we come back again, it’s going to be different. But you’re still going to have the same level of fun each time.”

No two swamps are perfectly alike. The college town of Kitchener had some of the best costumes. Edmonton looks flat but knows how to turn up HARD. Ottawa calls it a night early at 11 p.m., which is when the party is usually just getting started – but that means from the start the energy is high. Toronto had two sold-out nights, and nothing compares to a hometown show with some of my favourite locals and showing my friends how far I’ve come. Calgary’s enormous dancefloor is crazy – that’s where I got to sign my first autograph next to a tally tracking how many times their favourite track played.  

As the tour went on and multiple cities had parties on the same weekend, it became a challenge to find DJs to join us. Despite it being a silly event, after two months of helping run the show and book artists, Sixtroke said, “It takes a special kind of DJ to not take themselves super seriously and stick to the theme of the event.”

“It’s important to know not every big party has to be some overwhelming knowledge check just to feel like you can go,” Pan!c Pop says. “So much of the EDM scene is full of gatekeepers that will try and convince you that you somehow weren’t partying as correctly as other, more seasoned vets… It’s way more inviting and willing to put the humour in the forefront. But just because it’s silly doesn’t mean it can’t be as or more impactful either.” 

Sharing a love of music and humour is all it takes to build a friendship in my books, and after introducing myself musically I loved talking one-on-one with new people between sets. I celebrate the dancers we pull from the crowd who are grateful for a moment to shine on stage with us. I cherish moments like that time when a girl told me, “Never stop DJing.”

The highs are enormous, and so are the lows after an adrenaline-fueled weekend. Life still happens in between. But to know this is only the start for me, and that I’ve won the respect of peers, is the best feeling. Sharing these peaks with people I love is ultra rare, and that will be the piece I hold onto forever.

Next stops for Shrek Rave are June 23 in Winnipeg at the Park Theatre, Edmonton on Aug. 5 at the Midway Music Hall, and August 19 in Ottawa at the Bronson Centre. Ka5sh’s other cartoon-centric event, the Big Bubble Rave, takes place July 14 in Vancouver at the Pearl. Shrek Rave and Big Bubble Rave are popping up country-wide and around the world.

Check out when Shrek Rave is coming to a city near you at Modo Live.

Aurora Zboch aka DJ Symphette has been a regular on the Shrek Rave tour and will be coming soon to a city near you.