Almost everybody loves a dance party, regardless of age. It's just a matter of if they can get to bed on time after they're done cutting a rug.
You see it all the time at wedding receptions with a good DJ – grandparents, parents, kids, and toddlers packing the dance floor to a Prince or Beyoncé jam. Or that Journey song about a mythical place known as South Detroit. That’s because most everybody there hasn’t gone dancing in a long time and they miss it, because most dance clubs are just opening their doors when a lot of grown folks are getting ready for bed.
If you struggle to stay up until midnight to dance, but can't wait until the next wedding you attend, the quarterly Midlife Nightlife Dance Party at Lo-Fi Bar
, 220 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor, is the answer to your prayers. Doors for the party open at 8 p.m. and it's all over by 11 p.m.
The party started in 2019 as a bit of a joke. Midlife Nightlife creator Onna Solomon is a therapist, social worker, and mom by day, but give her some good tunes and she’s a self-proclaimed "sweaty dancing machine." She told her friends, "I want a dance party that starts at 7:30 [p.m.] and ends at 10:30 [p.m.]." Her friends shared her enthusiasm and told her she should make it happen.
Midlife Nightlife mastermind Onna Solomon.
"It just started with my own selfish desire to have a sweaty dance party that actually started early enough that I could go," says Solomon, 44. "I didn't want to go dancing with a bunch of 22-year-olds at midnight."
Lo-Fi's intimate basement space was the perfect spot for the event. Even though Solomon did little promotion, the night took off organically, with Solomon's friends and friends of friends filling the club. Solomon notes that dancing is always in full swing by 8:45 p.m, and the club is frequently at capacity by 9 p.m. Solomon observes that the crowd includes a lot of people and parents in their 30s through 50s. But you don’t have to be middle-aged to participate.
"Anyone who wants a dance party and to be in bed by 11 p.m. is welcome," she says.
The party had gotten its groove by its third outing in January 2020. And then the March 2020 party was canceled along with most everything else. When Solomon restarted the night last year, it settled into its current DJ lineup with her next-door neighbor Chad Pratt and resident York
DJ Aaron Batzdorfer, a.k.a. DJ Batz. Appropriately, both DJs are fellow parents.
Between them, Pratt and Batz have decades of DJing under their (turntable) belts. If you catch them at other venues, you'll usually hear them play a diverse and adventurous mix of tunes. At Midlife Nightlife, you’ll hear them play well-loved old-school and contemporary dance-floor classics to inspire you to venture onto the floor and shake it all night.
DJ Chad Pratt at Lo-Fi.
Pratt remembers with a laugh that Solomon came up to him early on and said, "Can you play something we know?" Also laughing, Solomon says, "I said, 'Stop being so cool.' I had to coach Chad a little."
The music is heavy on the '80s and '90s with current favorites like Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Beyoncé, and Harry Styles thrown in the mix – as Solomon puts it, "pretty much dance hits from every era." Batzdorfer adds, "We jump around a lot. We try to smash it all together." You can count on some Whitney Houston every time. And you can expect former Wolverine Madonna’s "Like A Prayer" to push the crowd over the edge.
"I remember the first time I played ['Like a Prayer']," Pratt says. "I had no idea. I've been DJing a long time and I've never had a crowd react like that."
"It’s like some Jungian archetype if you were born before 1982," she says.
Aaron "DJ Batz" Batzdorfer at Lo-Fi.
Batzdorfer sums it up.
"Madonna slaps," he says. "That’s what we’ve learned."
Midlife Nightlife has also created a pleasant surprise for Solomon.
"It's a very comfortable, safe place for women to come out dancing," she says. "It’s not a [singles] scene. It’s just people who really want to dance. It’s like, 'I want to get sweaty on the dance floor because I have a babysitter who needs to be home at 11:30.'"
True to her word, Solomon is out the door by 11 p.m.
The Midlife Nightlife crew: Chad Pratt, Onna Solomon, and Aaron Batzdorfer at Lo-Fi.
"But if you’re still feeling wild and crazy and you want to stay later, there’s still more music," Solomon says.
Batzdorfer and Pratt keep on DJing from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., and the night takes a turn as a younger crowd filters in and house and electronic music take over.
"We get weirder," Batzdorfer jokes.
While Solomon and the DJs don’t take themselves too seriously, they are serious about finding some-old fashioned dance-floor transcendence.
"When I was in my 20s, I had more investment in being cool," Solomon says. "And now I just want to have fun and find joy where I can. I feel like that's the vibe, right? There's just this lack of pretense, you know. There's some people who get dressed up in their cute little dress that they never get to wear while there are other people that come in their sweatpants. It's just 'come as you are.' And I love that."
The next Midlife Nightlife will be from 8-11 p.m. on April 22 at Lo-Fi. The event is free.
Doug Coombe is Concentrate's managing photographer. He also helped set up the first Midlife Nightlife dance party when he used to help Andy Garris with booking. Doug has moved on from booking and Andy has moved on to the Mighty Cock in Key West. DJ Batz will be at York from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, March 10. You can catch Chad Pratt drumming with Same Eyes at The Regal Beagle at 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 11.
All photos by Doug Coombe.