It was a Friday night in December at the Underbelly in Jacksonville. The crowd filled the dancefloor dancing and singing – except that there was no artist.
Instead, the room was filled with “Swifties,” who had gathered from all over Florida to attend a sold-out Taylor Swift-themed dance party called “You Need to Calm Down” after the one. hit songs by the pop artist.
Theme dance parties are becoming increasingly popular as clubs and concert halls reopen after pandemic shutdowns. In fact, some companies have made a profit by touring the country and organizing themed dance parties.
One in particular, Le Petite Fête, has traveled to host its show Taylor Swift in a handful of states across the country. The company describes itself as hosting ‘pop culture obsessed events’. Since its growing popularity, the company has added Olivia Rodrigo and Lady Gaga parties to its lineup.
And on January 22 of next year, the famous Taylor Swift party arrives in Gainesville at The Wooly.
“I think people really underestimate how much people love pop culture and are willing to go places to enjoy their fandoms,” said Courtney Gibson, CEO and Founder of Le Petite Fête.
Gibson met Caitie Phillips, Marketing Director of Le Petite Fête, through a pop culture podcast.
“It’s through things like this that you find people with the same interests as you,” Gibson said. “What’s great about our parties is that you go to a room with people who all have the same interests as you.”
Gibson said the idea for the Taylor Swift party came during a brunch after attending successful parties in Australia. She had been to a Britney Spears party before and wanted to see a Taylor Swift party come to Orlando.
The company focused on Orlando until August, when it noticed huge demand in Tampa and Miami. They then contacted The Orpheum in Tampa, where they were greeted enthusiastically by the owner. The Orpheum is a partner of a reservation agency.
“They believed in our vision and we thought it was a great partnership, and it was through them that all of these sites across the country, these relationships and these doors were opened,” said Phillips.
Gibson and Phillips have said TikTok is their best form of marketing. They also used a Facebook group of Taylor Swift fans and gained popularity through word of mouth.
“Every time we publish a TikTok, everyone is like, ‘Come to our town! “So that’s been really cool for us too,” Phillips said.
The company also offers an online form for people to request stops in their city.
“We want to get the parties where people want them,” Phillips said. “Most of the time, the cities that people submit are already on the list we’re working on. “
The Taylor Swift Party gave people something to do and a place to go after a pandemic year when many bars and venues have closed.
“After I was locked up I think people were looking 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 are going to be played with people who are going to like the same songs? “
Collin Sloan, a college student who attended the Taylor Swift party at the Underbelly in Jacksonville, said he encouraged anyone interested to try and attend a party.
“If you’re a die-hard fan or even someone who casually enjoys music, personally it sounds as explosive and energetic as a real concert,” Sloan said.
The Wooly, a venue in Gainesville, organized other forms of these events to bring people together after a period when such events did not occur.
“We try to give people something at least once a week,” said Bailey Bruce, The Wooly’s director of events. “We know it’s been a long year and a half that people haven’t been able to go out and dance and have fun with their friends, so we’re trying to jam as many dance parties as The Wooly can.”
The Wooly recently hosted a retro pop party on November 20th, a ‘Von Dutch and Velor’ 90s and 2000s pop party on November 6th and a Gothic ‘Bedlam in the Belfry’ party on November 28th.
“The Von Dutch and Velor 2000 party is something I imagined,” said Drew Love, who hosts events at The Wooly. “The Atlantic was having a party and looking for people to do something in open format. I went in and did a set from the early 2000s, and that night we had a breakdance fight in front of the DJ booth. I was like, ‘This is what I want, so why should I stop now?’ “
The emo party at The Wooly has already gained an audience, with attendees returning for each show, as well as new guests.
“It’s the same crowd,” Bruce said. “There are always new people, sure, but they’re lining up around the block before the doors open because people want to come in and secure their seats.”
Other venues in Florida, such as The Underbelly in Jacksonville and Soundbar in Orlando, have held similar events.
“It’s amazing that people come to me and tell me they need something like this,” Love said. “I have friends who said their first outing was to see a show, and it’s cool to see the life outside come alive. Gainesville’s nightlife has always been a big part of the city, and it was strange to see it not continue during the time that everything was closed.