The Palace Lounge hosted one of its rowdier crowds last Saturday. People jumped off the second-hand couches and sprawled under pool tables. They yelled over pulsing music and gyrated through a shower of bubbles on the dance floor. When the DJ queued up ABBA, the place exploded. Some even cried. For four hours, the underground club pulsed with a giddy energy usually reserved for sugar rushes or roller coaster rides.
That kid-like vibe didn’t come by accident. Missoula’s second Kids Dance Party, an inventive event sponsored by Blackbird Kid Shop, attracted more than 100 toddlers, pre-schoolers and parents to a spot usually frequented by just the parents—when they were younger.
“I have a very musical family,” says Kia Liszak, co-owner of Blackbird and a former member of punk staple Sasshole. “Doug [Smith, of Volumen] and I met through our bands. Our son loves music. At home, we’re always just dancing in the living room to good music—not kids music, our music. We thought replicating that would be a way to be with our son and feel like we’re out again.”
Liszak launched the idea last month with overwhelming success—more than 180 showed up. The concept, which is loosely based on an East Coast phenomenon called Baby Loves Disco, transforms a popular nightclub into a child-proof—read: thoroughly cleaned—dance club. Parents are free to have a beer at the bar—although Shirley Temples are in much higher demand—while the little ones let loose to music that’s a cut above Raffi.
“They love disco and classic ’80s,” says Colin Hickey, a veteran of the Missoula music scene and the event’s DJ. “I guess they haven’t been scarred by it like the rest of us.”
Saturday’s event drew a smaller crowd than the first dance party, but faced stiffer competition from spring-like weather. Liszak says she hopes to make it a monthly event and has already booked the next date at the Palace—Sunday, April 19.
“The parents I’ve talked to love it,” says Liszak. “And the kids—well, by the looks of it, they seem to be having a great time, too.”
Even the ABBA part.