As I drove to Baltimore on Saturday for the Baby Loves Disco event for families I was not sure what I was getting into: a party? A dance? A happening, except focused on babies? It was all of that and more – it WAS a happening but with activities for the whole family.
Perhaps it was the Mighty Flipside, the event's master of ceremonies, who summed it up best when he said the event was "sounds of the past, for the people of the future, bringing all generations together."
Or maybe he summed it up better later this way: "This is the longest recess ever."
Promotional material for the event said "Saturday afternoon is the new Saturday night in Baltimore Come join us!"
I was skeptical but by the end of the night I was convinced: Saturday afternoon IS the new Saturday night.
My first instinct when I got inside was to try to figure out how I was going to describe this event so I began immediately comparing this show to those usually held at this venue, the Rams Head. I noted, and photographed, a poster publicizing an upcoming show by the New York Dolls adjacent to one for Baby Loves Disco, and then began doing some serious comparisons:
The first thing I noticed was that instead of a bunch of people drinking beer there were tables filled with juice boxes.
Instead of fans with tattoos there were kids getting temporary tattoos, with the most popular offering being astronauts and dinosaurs.
Instead of smoke or other effects from the stage there were bubble machines.
Need a break from the dancing and festivities? There was a designated chill out area upstairs. But I'm guessing most concerts there don't have hula hoops and pup tents in the chill-out area.
Ok, I decided, this comparison thing can only get me so far.
I began talking to the participants, from the organizers to the staff to the parents to the kids.
Hanging out in the chill-out area was Sophia Boswell, 11 ½ months and her mother, Casey Boswell. While we talked, and Sophia played try-to-grab-the-mans'-glasses- Casey explained her thoughts about the event.
"I love it. It's all babies. It's not just a play date in someone's living room. It's something different and exciting," Casey Boswell said.
I think the Mighty Flipside, aka Darian Fripps of Philadelphia, best summed up the atmosphere, not to mention the reason why I, who love kids but am childless, requested this assignment: "Their youthful energy is contagious," he said. "They have so much love." The Mighty Flipside is the lead vocalist for the hip hop group Electric City and he hosts hip hop shows. He was enjoying doing his first Baby Loves Disco gig.
I asked him the advantage of working with kids versus and adults and he said, "they are amazed easier." I thought of the bubble machine and agreed but asked if another advantage wasn't that babies and kids don't have the inhibitions and wariness of adults when it comes to dancing and having fun? He agreed.
Sure enough he later told a crowd of kids: "You dance better than your parents."
One of those dancing up a storm was Julia Hansen, 3. Her father, Chris, said she just loves to dance everywhere she goes.
They loved the event. "It's very kid-friendly," he said.
When the disco songs came on encouraging everyone to "shake their booty," the kids and adults did exactly that even though I'm pretty sure some had no idea what their "booty" was.
There were always some people dancing on the dance floor though it started to empty out somewhat as the event went into its third hour. Then I noticed something odd and went off to investigate.
Cienna Szper did not let the fact she was less than one year old – she's 10 months old – stop her from dancing on the dance floor, albeit with some help from her mother, Michele. Both loved the event.
"I love it. She loves music. She loves to dance. It's fantastic," Michele Szper said.
"Kids can dress up and be goofy. The parents love the music."
Ah, yes, the music. The "disco" part of the name threw me and I wondered how crazy I was to voluntarily go to something featuring disco music.
A few times I found myself dancing then I'd stop and say, "Wait, since when is New Order or Pet Shop Boys or Madonna considered disco"?
Near the end of the event I talked to Heather Murphy Monteith, the founder of Baby Loves Disco and the organizer for Saturday's event.
When she used the term "disco" she meant it a place to go dance as opposed to restricting the event to the disco music genre, Monteith said. Most of the music is dance music from the 70s and 80s, she said. They do make a point of avoiding playing any music inappropriate for children.
Monteith explained the goal of the event is to have something for everyone, true synergy. She does not want it to be like some so-called family activities where there is something for one age group but nothing for other age groups, or a place where the parents just leave their kids.
Instead, she said, "We want to serve the kids at their level." Thus if the kids want to play with the scarfs and shakers, they can. If they want to chill out, they can. If they want to dance, oh, yeah, they can.
"We are not entertainment – we are an activity," she said.
This was the first event in Baltimore – they are returning on March 30 – and she considered the event a success.
On the way out the door, as the event ended, I stopped Susannah Moneith, who was the host mother for the event. Baby Loves Disco will only go to communities where they are asked to come and then the host mother has to help with the organization and promotion responsibilities.
She also thought the event was a definite hit and smash with kids and adults alike.
She dropped a bombshell when she told me Baby Loves Disco does no paid advertising.
But they sold out the event! 650 tickets sold? Actually, she said, there were about 750 people when you counted all the babies.
The whole event was essentially promoted through grassroots efforts, including word-of-mouth and family listserves on Yahoo.
If Baby Loves Disco comes near you, go check it out.