Why is This Dance Party Excluding Millennials?

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"We know how to keep people on the dancefloor."

Crowd at a live concert

We might never forgive Miley Cyrus for her remake of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, nor Alien Ant Farm, the noughties pop-punk band that went as fast as they came with a woeful rendition of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’. And whoever let Jessica Simpson near Nancy Sinatra’s walking boots has a lot of explaining to do.

“I love some of the variations I hear today,” says crooner Steve Clisby, an American-born blues-and-jazz scene native of more than 60 years. “But I’m not a big fan of mindless remixes that show complete disregard of the history of the tracks that they are using.”

“We know how to keep people on the dance floor. When we play, people want to dance.”

So he and Sydney-based DJ Stephen Ferris have banded together for 40UP – a dance party where you’ll only hear what Steve calls “the real deal”, from legendary ’70s, ’80s and ’90s artists including Barry White, The Temptations, Kool and the Gang (a US funk, rhythm and blues getup, for the uninitiated) and the ‘Purple Rain’ maker himself.

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But this caper comes with a catch: if you’re under 40, you’ll get turned away at the door (unless chaperoned by a 40-pluser). As far as Steve, Stephen and People magazine are concerned, 40 is the new 20. When we asked Steve, why? The Voice semi-finalist said: “It’s never been about age, it’s about attitude… It’s more about lifestyle and a youthful perspective. I know 90-year-olds that still have a sparkle in their eye that makes them ageless. My mum lived, walked, talked, listened to music and hung out with me – and was still trying to hit on the firemen across the road from her – until she was 103.” Hats off to Mrs Clisby.

But this caper comes with a catch: if you’re under 40, you’ll get turned away at the door (unless chaperoned by a 40-pluser).

Here’s how Steve and Stephen are busting out a new, ageless movement on Sydney’s party scene.

How did the idea for 40UP come about? I was inspired by something I saw on my last trip to Europe. I thought, that’s what is missing in Sydney and around Australia. The only places I could go to dance to music I love are my own gigs and wherever Stephen Farris is DJ-ing. We know how to keep people on the dance floor. When we play, people want to dance.

What if a millennial tries to sneak in? We don’t discriminate. People under 40 are welcome, but they have to come accompanied by someone 40UP. Bring your ID and your dancing shoes. We are definitely not ageists!

However, the 40UP events are tailored towards the 40+ group. I think a lot of millennials already know the music that they are going to hear, as it’s been recycled through the DJ community and lost a bit of musical history. This music was timeless and I still love to hear the original tracks.

Do you think 40+ is a bit of an untapped demographic? I was just checking out some stats and it’s one of the biggest, but most overlooked, markets in the country. That’s a bit of a bonus for us, because it leaves a real space that people under 40 seem to have forgotten about. My experience doing The Voice and the Commonwealth Bank feature track taught me that.

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What are your thoughts on the music being made today? Is it a case of ‘they don’t make it like they used to’? No. They make it like they used to and flip it. Sometimes in a good way and sometimes not so good. I suppose it’s subjective… The Rolling Stones acknowledged the blues masters that they imitated and gave them credit where credit was due, [and] I particularly respect DJs like Daft Punk because they actually included musicians like Nile Rodgers in the production process and credited them.

If you had the chance to impart some time-transcending advice to your 20-year-old self, what would it be? Think about the big picture, stay in the moment and find the right balance between art and business.

What are you hoping to achieve with the 40UP party concept? To give people back a sense of community that I think is sorely lacking in the Sydney nightlife. I’d like to give you all some place where you can go out like your kids do, and dance like nobody’s watching.

The next 40UP event is happening April 24 at Slide in Sydney. Grab tickets here.

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