Celebrating 20 Years of Disco Donnie Presents: Zoolu

If you were to ask an old school raver to name some of the famous parties from the golden days of rave, it wouldn’t take long for them to mention the name Zoolu. Certainly one of our most-loved parties, Zoolu has become a mainstay to the city of New Orleans. As we wrap up the 20th edition of the event this past March 1-3rd, we’re opening the archives to see how the party has evolved from its humble beginnings.

Early Zoolu

Taking its name from the famous Zulu Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, the flyer for the first Zoolu, born in 1995, looked an awful lot like the poster for the parade – only with different colors and a quick rearranging of characters. Featuring many out-of-state DJs, the inaugural Zoolu brought in about 1,500 in attendance to the State Palace Theatre, marking an unusually successful first run. The legendary lineup hosted various pioneers of electronic music and its culture including Chicago’s rave mainstay Mystic Bill, turntablist extraordinaire Terry Mullan, DJ Astroboy, and Reese. Taking place on February 25th, the carnival atmosphere that surrounded the city was perfect for the event and it became a tradition to do forever hold Zoolu during Mardi Gras weekend.

The second Zoolu in 1996 was the first time the event expanded to two nights. By this time, the flyers for Donnie’s shows were almost as famous as the parties themselves and this one was no different, “It’s definitely one of the best flyers we’ve ever done,” Donnie says, “the flyer still to this day–if you showed it to somebody, they’re gonna be like ‘that’s a sick flyer.”

Zoolu 2 was also the first time that Donnie got Rabbit in the Moon to headline, “That was a game changer,” Donnie recollects, “they did performance art while they played [a live PA set] and it just changed everything for New Orleans. People don’t forget the first time they saw Rabbit in the Moon. It was a really special night.”

Remembering Zoolu Through the Years

Every Zoolu was unique – if not because of the great lineups than because of their creative flyers, mailed all across the country. Some of the flyers raised a few eyebrows – our favorite being the one for Zoolu 9, “I thought it would be funny to put my son on the flyer but as a raver.” With his being son only two at the time, Donnie got improvised with the costume, “I went to the store and bought Adidas sweatpants, Adidas shell toes… I went to the gas station and bought a 40oz Miller High Life, dumped it out and then filled it with apple juice. Then I put one of my chains around him. The designer added some tattoos to the final product… I’m sure [my son] will find it humorous when he gets older.”

Zoolu 6 is one Donnie remembers fondly. It was the last edition of the popular event before he was indicted under charges of being in violation of the so-called “crack house statute” a few months later. During the months Donnie was facing criminal charges, he admits Zoolu 7 was, “thrown together and kinda last minute.” Charges were eventually dropped in March 2001 and Zoolu 8 was the first time the party was able to return to its home of the State Palace Theater.

Even with a crazy history, the Zoolu parties still have a special place in the hearts of many who attended – even after 20 years. And if you were wondering the secret to how it lasted so long, Donnie explains it quite nicely, “We were just trying to do shit no one had seen before and we weren’t trying to repeat ourselves either.”