The More Kates the Merrier

PHILADELPHIA — For the last nine years, a variety show inspired by the British art pop singer Kate Bush has promised a “Night of 1,000 Kates.”

This year’s edition, held on April 1, delivered on the event’s numerical promise for the first time; some 1,100 people attended, according to the show’s organizers. Many of the celebrants wore crimson dresses, dark sequins and other fancy goth attire inspired by Ms. Bush, who, as in years past, was present only in spirit.

Some 80 other performers, including professional and amateur musicians, dancers and video artists, participated in more than 20 acts inspired by the sexagenarian British singer. The crowd at Union Transfer, a concert hall just outside Philadelphia’s Chinatown, was almost twice as big as that of last year’s show.

Danielle Redden, 45, a founder of “Night of 1,000 Kates,” said it started as a party for “our friends and community of queers and weirdos” to celebrate their appreciation for Ms. Bush. Cookie Factorial, 42, another founder, said: “I don’t think that any of us thought it would be an enduring, legacy-type event.”

Some 80 performers — including a harpist, left, and other musicians, dancers and video artists — participated in more than 20 acts at the event.Credit…Aaron Richter for The New York Times

The rising interest in “Night of 1,000 Kates” reflects the lasting appeal of Ms. Bush, whose 1985 song “Running Up That Hill (a Deal With God)” topped charts in 2022 — some 37 years after it was released — thanks largely to its prominently use in “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

Aaron Mack, 23, a wardrobe supervisor for a theater group in Philadelphia, was born decades after Ms. Bush’s career started to take off in the 1970s. He nevertheless identified himself as “Kate Bush’s No. 1 fan.”

Mr. Mack said he wants to get “a Kate Bush tramp stamp” tattooed on his lower back to express his admiration for the singer. “It’s going to be a portrait of her,” he added, surrounded by things that have come to symbolize Ms. Bush, like the red shoes on the cover of her 1993 album, “The Red Shoes.”

Donna Petrecco, 48, a real estate agent in Fallsington, Pa., said she has been listening to Ms. Bush’s music for most of her life. Ms. Petrecco, a former cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles, came to the show for the first time with two friends — Lisa Coslanzo, 51, and Kita Delgado, 46 — both of whom also used to cheer for the Eagles.

Ms. Delgado, who lives in Fairless Hills, Pa., wore shimmering silver pants for the occasion. She said she was most excited about seeing the dance performances. But she also came to dance herself, at the after-party.

This year’s “Night of 1,000 Kates” delivered on the event’s numerical promise for the first time; some 1,100 people attended, according to the show’s organizers.Credit…Aaron Richter for The New York Times
Celebrants in crimson dresses cut a rug during the after-party, which raged until about 2 a.m.Credit…Aaron Richter for The New York Times

“You’ll find these sparkly pants dancing in the corner in two hours,” said Ms. Delgado, who runs a dog-boarding business. She and her friends, she added, “can still throw down a little bit.”

Many performers and attendees said part of the event’s appeal is its unbridled enthusiasm. “I would describe it as a bunch of fabulous weirdos decked out in their best ready to have a great time,” said Alex Melman, 33, a director of technology at an advocacy group in Philadelphia.

Mr. Melman’s band, Roof of the World, was new to the performance lineup this year. The group performed Ms. Bush’s song “Wild Man,” about spotting Yetis in the Himalayan mountains. Its act was preceded by a harpist-keyboardist duo’s rendition of Ms. Bush’s song “And Dream of Sheep,” and was followed by a group of dancers wearing white-lace outfits and holding scepters filled with dry ice, which turned into vapor as they performed.

“The tone of the show, like Kate’s work, is a mix of deeply earnest and really, really silly,” said Kelly Crodian, a 38-year-old artist in Philadelphia, whose video art set to Ms. Bush’s song “Suspended in Gaffa” was featured at the event.

Brian O’Sullivan, 31, an occupational therapist in Philadelphia, described the show as having “avant-garde, weird, Enya and Bjork vibes” and the humor of “Cathy” comics.

Mr. O’Sullivan, a three-time attendee, hopes the event can retain its eccentricity as it grows. “We’ve got to keep it a little bit underground,” he said. “My biggest fear is that this is going to become corny.”

From left, one of the more avant-garde outfits at the show; a sign used Ms. Bush’s likeness to encourage mask-wearing; and a guest enjoying a performance. Credit…Aaron Richter for The New York Times

Though the “Night of 1,000 Kates” has evolved, certain elements have remained the same, including the final act of the show: a dance lesson, led by most of the night’s performers, to some of the choreography from the video for Ms. Bush’s 1978 hit single, “Wuthering Heights.” Another tradition is the after-party, which this year raged until about 2 a.m.

Keira Wilson, a 37-year-old career counselor in Baltimore, has attended the show off and on since it started in 2014. She said it has managed to retain its unique spirit even as it has become bigger.

“Over the last couple of years I have watched many of my friends take on many formations of Kate Bush,” Ms. Wilson said. “Each year this entire project gets bigger and bigger. And I’m really excited to see that happen.”

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