National dance party trend makes its way to Gainesville music venues

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It was Friday night in December at the Underbelly  in Jacksonville. Crowds filled the dancefloor dancing and singing — except there was no performer.

Instead, the room was filled with “Swifties,” who had gathered from across Florida to attend a sold-out Taylor Swift-themed dance party titled “You Need to Calm Down” after one of the pop artist’s hit songs.

Themed dance nights are becoming more popular as clubs and music venues reopen from the pandemic lockdowns. In fact, some companies  have turned a profit by touring across the country and hosting themed dance nights.

One in particular, Le Petite Fete, has traveled to host its Taylor Swift show to a handful of states across the country. The company describes itself as hosting “pop culture obsessed events.” Since it’s growth in popularity, the company has added Olivia Rodrigo and Lady Gaga nights to its lineup.

And on Jan. 22 of next year ,the famed Taylor Swift night is coming to Gainesville at The Wooly.

“I think people really underestimate how much people love pop culture and are willing to go to places to appreciate their fandoms,” Courtney Gibson, the chief executive officer and founder of Le Petite Fete, said.

Gibson met Caitie Phillips, the chief marketing officer for Le Petite Fete, through a pop culture podcast.

“It’s through things like this that you find people with the same interests as you,” Gibson said. “That’s what is so great about our parties, is that you’re going into a room with people that all have the same interests as you.”

Gibson said the idea for the Taylor Swift night came at a brunch after seeing successful parties in Australia. She had previously been to a Britney Spears night and wanted to see a Taylor Swift party make its way to Orlando.

The company focused on Orlando up until August when they noticed a huge demand in Tampa and Miami. They then reached out to The Orpheum in Tampa, where they were met with excitement from the owner. The Orpheum partners with a booking agency.

“They believed in our vision and we thought it was a great partnership, and it was through them that all of these venues across the country, those relationships and doors were opened,” Phillips said.

Gibson and Phillips said TikTok is their best form of marketing. They also used a Taylor Swift fan Facebook group and gained more traction from word of mouth.

“Every time we post a TikTok, everyone’s like ‘Come to our city!’ so that has been really cool for us too,” Phillips said.

The company also offers an online form for people to request stops in their cities.

“We want to bring the parties to where people want it,” Phillips said. “Most of the time the cities that people submit are already on the list that we are working on.”

The Taylor Swift party has given people something to do and a place to go after a pandemic year when many bars and venues shuttered their doors.

“After being locked down, I think people were searching for places to go to feel safe,” Gibson said. “Who doesn’t want to go to a bar where you know all your favorite songs would be played with people who are going to like the same songs?”

Collin Sloan, a student who attended the Taylor Swift night at the Underbelly in Jacksonville, said he encourages anyone who is interested to try and attend a party.

“If you are a hardcore fan or even someone who casually enjoys music, personally it feels just as explosive and energetic as an actual concert,” Sloan said.

The Wooly, a venue in Gainesville, has been hosting other forms of these events as a way to bring people together after a period of time in which such events were not happening.

“We try to give something at least once a week for people to come out to,” Bailey Bruce, the events director at The Wooly, said. “We know it’s been a long year and a half with people not being able to go out and dance and have fun with their friends, so we’re trying to jam as many dance nights as The Wooly as possible.”

The Wooly recently hosted a retro pop night on Nov. 20, a “Von Dutch and Velour” 90s and 2000s pop night on Nov. 6, and a “Bedlam in the Belfry” goth night on Nov. 28.

“The Von Dutch and Velour 2000s party is something that I actually came up with,” Drew Love, who DJs events at the Wooly, said. “The Atlantic was doing a party and they were looking for people to do an open format thing. I went in and did an early 2000s set, and that night we had a breakdance battle in front of the DJ booth. I said to myself, ‘This is what I want, so why would I stop now?’”

The emo night at The Wooly has gained a following already, with attendees returning for every show, as well as new guests.

“It’s the same crowd,” Bruce said. “There’s always new people, of course, but they get the line wrapped around the block before doors open because people want to get in and guarantee their spot.”

Other venues in Florida, such as The Underbelly in Jacksonville and Soundbar in Orlando, have hosted similar events.

“It’s been amazing having people come up to me and say that they needed something like this,” Love said. “I have friends who said their first time coming out was to see a show, and it’s cool to see outside life coming alive again. Gainesville’s nightlife has always been a big part of the town, and it was weird to see it not going on for the time it was all shut down.”

About Josie Thode

Josie is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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