Imagine a secret rave that kicks off with a massive game of bingo, continues with a communal body-drawing session, and ends with a pumping discoteca into the early morning. Welcome to Madrid's Rebel Bingo, a password-protected, raucous dance party. Clearly, this isn't your abuela's bingo.
We joined a thousand-plus fellow After Hours Athletes at a recent Rebel Bingo to witness the madness first-hand. Kicking off at an hour when we’re usually just getting out and about (an early 22:00 by Madrid standards), here’s how it works: First, a guy and girl in matching bikinis pull out numbered balls and announce the Bingo numbers in Cheshire Cat-like rhymes. From there, if we're lucky and win one of the six rounds, we can't just yell bingo over the music and chaos. In true AHA form, we have to race through the crowd, jump on stage and hug the host before anyone else.
What can we expect for our efforts? Prizes have ranged from beer-packed mini-fridges to the ever-necessary lion or sumo wrestling costumes to an inflatable pool. But we can't be too hasty, because if we're missing even one number, the crowd will surf us to the back to the chant of "Loser! Loser!"
Win or lose, the party has just begun. Each fiesta has its own theme – like 80s fitness club or super heroes – not to be repeated in the same country twice (Rebel Bingo has spread all over Spain and also has events in New York and London). The most recent fiesta fell on the eve of Madrid’s biggest holiday honouring the patron saint, San Isidro. Obviously, Rebel was not going to miss out. In true Madrileño style, partygoers wore their version of chulapo threads, with guys and girls gender-swapping the traditional carnation-garnished white headscarves and black-and-white-checked pageboys while practicing a bizarre, female-led Chotis dance.
And at this party, a costume is not all we’re wearing because the bingo dotters don't go away with the balls and cage. From here, the party turns into a living work of art. The markers become brushes to decorate people's bodies with cartoons, happy faces, compliments and, of course, phone numbers and Tuenti log-ins.
The next Rebel Bingo drops 29 June and you can buy your tickets in advance for three euros (a bargain compared to the 12 euro door price). The hints revealed so-far – references to a "refreshing" time and search and rescue – seem like a beach party theme. Just remember to "shhhhh" because Rebel Bingo is a secret, and the address of each night is only revealed via SMS the morning of the event. You'll also need to know the quirky password phrase, which will be something like "Tengo pelo verde." (I have green hail.)
Now start planning your inexpensive, disposable costume, and we’ll see you there!
Photo courtesy of Rebel Bingo, (c) 2012 Rebel Bingo.