The pair behind Orlando's wildly popular Taylor Swift dance party is taking it on the road

The pair behind Orlando's wildly popular Taylor Swift dance party is taking it on the road
photo by Matthew Keller Lehman

"It's two girls who love Taylor Swift and who are really friends," says Courtney Gibson of Le Petite Fete, " and who just want to drink White Claw and sing with you."

As far as "elevator pitches" go, this one really drills down to the communal celebrations at the heart of Orlando party promoters Le Petit Fete — the duo of Gibson, CEO, and Caitie Phillips, CMO — currently selling out nightclubs all over Florida and beyond with their Taylor Swift tribute nights.

From an inaugural event at the Neon Beach bar in downtown Orlando this summer to sequels at Soundbar, road trips to Miami and Chapel Hill, and upcoming dates in Tampa and a return to Orlando later this month, it's been a series of sell-out crowds. And total mayhem and surrender to the siren song(s) of one Taylor Swift. Dubbing one of the events "You Need to Calm Down" now seems like a prescient move.

"The first time I saw girls dancing on tables at Neon Beach, I was like, 'What in the world, please don't bust your head open,'" remembers Phillips. "And our last party at Neon Beach, there were people crowd-surfing."

Who can blame them? These nights are based around a satisfyingly direct business model — blast the canon of pop maestro Swift (and nothing else) in a club and let the gathered audience of Gibson, Phillips and a few hundred of their closest friends all sing/scream their lives. And it's currently going gangbusters.

You see, Swift is a performer who inspires the same level of devotion among her fanbase as did, say Morrissey, back in the glory days of the Smiths, but on a mass scale. Pair that with intensely personal yet universal lyrics and strong drinks, and you've got a recipe for a good, cathartic evening out. "Her songs are just so relatable," Phillips says. "It just feels like she cracked open, like, your own personal journal."

"There's a community to it," Gibson says. "You can go to a bar and listen to music all night, but you would much rather go to a bar and listen to the kind of music you love with a bunch of other people that like that same music."

"I'm a really big believer in that people need other people. And this event provides a really cool way to get out to your friends again," says Phillips. "And also there's nothing better than screaming your favorite song with your friends. It's like free therapy, almost."

Le Petite Fete had seemingly accidental beginnings, born during a downtown Orlando brunch at which the two were sharing TikTok videos back and forth of Taylor Swift nights in Australia, all the while thinking, according to Gibson, "this would be so fun, I'd love to go to one here."

But like all the best moments of DIY inspiration, this brunch video viewing became concrete action. "At that point in the brunch we were like, 'We're going to walk to every bar down Orange Avenue until one of them says we can do it there," says Phillips. "We just did it." And as luck would have it, new nightspot Neon Beach said yes.

The promotion for Le Petite Fete's Taylor Swift nights are very much in line with that initial TikTok-fueled burst of inspiration, and very much of the moment. Gibson and Phillips use that ubiquitous video app, Instagram and even ol' Facebook (sharing to Swifties fan groups) to get the word out. You're not likely to find flyers around town, so if you know, you know.

Next up is a busy slate of one-nighters in early 2022 in new cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and several dates in Texas, where demand is already surging. "We've sold out Philadelphia, Baltimore. We posted a TikTok that almost had 500,000 views. It was just a wild response," says Phillips. "I mean, it's just wild. I can't believe it."

"There's a little bit of nerves, you know, branching out of your comfort zone," reflects Gibson. "'What if this doesn't work?' So when we sold out Gramps in Miami, the week prior to the, to the actual event, that was the first time I took a deep breath and was like, 'OK, this is going to work.' At both our Orlando shows, and even in Chapel Hill and Miami, people drive for hours to get there. This kid in Miami came up to me and he was like, 'I drove from Key West.' ... They're driving from all over to come to these. I get goosebumps even telling you that right now just because it's so incredible."

Gibson and Phillips are candid interviewees, even breaking down the best Swift songs to begin and end one of their nights. (The consensus was "Cruel Summer" to start and "Enchanted" to end, if you want juicy trade secrets.) Spirits are high right now and the two are determined to ride this wave wherever it takes them. Almost.

"A girl DM'ed me the other day asking us to come do a party in Maui because she was going to propose to her girlfriend," says Gibson. "It's a dream of mine that somebody proposes at one of these, I'm not going to lie, but I was like, 'I don't know that I could make it to Maui, but I'll try.'"

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