“I love to bailar” is my Latina spitfire sister’s go-to party mantra. And she does! Homegirl can do all the Latin-type dances without missing a conga beat: bachata, cumbia, salsa, merengue, and my favorite, reggaeton (it’s my favorite because there’s no steps to remember — shaking the old tailfeather about does the trick). Lil’ Angie would feel right at home at Woody’s Latin Night, not just because she’d be partying with her big hermano, but because this weekly Thursday extravaganza boasts one of the loudest, sweatiest, and hip-swaying-est dance parties around.
Just don’t show up at 10pm expecting the fiesta to be in full swing. On several friends’ advice, I get to Woody’s around 11:30, and the upstairs dance floor is peppered with the only the merest suggestion of dancers. “It’s always like this,” my wingman Eric tells me, “And it doesn’t really get going till around midnight.” Since the party usually gets off to a later start, he tells me, Pure keeps the Latin Heat hot after-hours and many folks head out there once Woody’s closes shop at 2am. Then he says a bunch of stuff that I don’t pay attention to because the tattooed go-go boys have arrived, and they’re getting warmed up. And then I’m getting warmed up.
Next thing you know, everybody’s hot ’cause the eye candy just keeps rolling in. I’m pleasantly surprised to see a pretty substantial number of womenfolk out, sporting stiletto boots and giving the gay boys a run for their money in the groove department. By midnight, just as predicted, there’s a frothy mix of Spanish-speaking morenos guapos, African-Americans, White Boys, and the aforementioned ladies crowding the dance floor to shake what they mama gave â€˜em. And the DJ, Daniel, doesn’t disappoint, keeping the energy going one song after another. I can’t resist the urge to join in, so I tuck away my notepad and jump into the fray. Thalia’s “A Quien le Importa” comes stomping in through the speakers. With its defiant chorus of “Whose business is it what I do? Whose business is what I say? I am this way and I’ll stay that way”, the song is like a pride anthem for the Latinos in the house, and the crowd’s enthusiasm is so palpable it’s fogging up my contact lenses.
Afterwards, I ride a wave of my own sweat off the dance floor and mop up. This party is reminiscent of many of the celebrations my parents and their friends would throw when I was a kid: Dancing, dancing and more dancing, with no end in sight, right up until the wee hours. No wonder the party continues at Pure.
I chat up some folks at the bar, including Stir’s own diminutive-yet-irresistible bartender Kevin, and then make my way downstairs to chill out for a bit. On the ground floor, the music is a softer and the vibe is more laid-back, making for a nice respite from the excitement upstairs. Here, I have a nice conversation with two sets of roommates who are hitting the town together. By the time I’m done grilling them on their salsa skills (two can, three can’t, and the other one fakes it), it’s already 1:40.
I’ve anticipated heading to Pure to experience the full scope of Latin Night, but my ride and our companions are hungry something fierce, so instead we head to the other after-hours, the Midtown Diner at 11th and Sansom. The turnout at Midtown isn’t its usual weekend clusterfuck, but there are still a bunch of people here, hunched underneath the good light and engaging in gregarious post-bar banter. I meet a couple of drag queens from the Northeast, and theirs is the last picture I snap for the evening before housing an early (late?) breakfast and heading back to Fishtown.
All in all, Woody’s Latin Night is one of the best dance parties in the Gayberhood, with no cover charge to speak of. Depending on your perspective (or your work schedule), the late kick-off can be a boon or a bummer. Also, the music isn’t limited to styles that would require dance lessons, so you can let loose without worry. Trust me on this – ’cause see, I’m a lot like Shakira. These hips don’t lie.