A set of rickety wooden stairs carries you to the dance floor, where David Bowie and Madonna are on heavy rotation. The shaggy-haired bartender hands out fluorescent yellow and pink cupcakes for free.
Cute boys in hoodies make out with pretty girls in leopard print tights. One of the floor-length windows is fractured, but someone with OCD wrote “broken” on the glass five times, just in case you can’t see it the first four. Or maybe it was impromptu art.
This deliciously depraved scene unfolds
every Thursday at 9 p.m., without cover charge. Starting in August 2006, Ryan Soloby persuaded owner Sal Scaramuzzino to transform the second floor of the Italian restaurant into a nighttime haven for hipsters and poor college students.
Soloby booked DJs who spin the music he loves – retro, alternative and indie tunes.
The result is the polar opposite of dance clubs that leave Justin Timberlake on repeat. Instead, the soundtrack is filled with songs that most members of the MTV generation can sing along to, word-for-word.
“They played Spice Girls and everyone was dancing, because everyone had that CD when they were young. It brings back childhood
memories,” said Ali Sign, 21, a University
of the Arts student.
The four DJs who are responsible for these sweaty dance parties call themselves “Broadzilla,” and began spinning together at Sal’s in October 2006. With only a few months of professional experience under their belts, the 20-somethings found inspiration in what they knew best: their own record collections.
“We loved all the DJs at the parties
we went to, but there was a generational gap. They wouldn’t play stuff that we were nostalgic for, like the Cranberries,” said DJ Sarah Jacoby.But don’t expect these feel-good hits to rotate at exactly 9 p.m., because Broadzilla saves its best for last.
From opening hour until about midnight, the dance floor is barren and most people crowd around the watering hole chugging Sparks, an alcoholic energy drink.
“When people first show up, we play music you can relax and drink to. By the time you really start dancing though, we want you to be freaking out at every song,” Jacoby said.
And sure enough, when the clock strikes 12, the white-tiled floor is so full of bodies it looks like it might split in half. Boys wearing fashionable indoor scarves dance off-beat, moving their limbs as if they aren’t attached to their torsos.
The ladies aren’t much better, stomping
their flats whenever their spirit moves them.”I think everyone here is a bad dancer, and that’s part of the reason I like it. No one’s going to laugh at you,” said 21-year-old Grace Williams, a student at University of the Arts.
The low level of pretentiousness here is charming, and it shines through even in people’s clothing choices. Although the crowd is full of envious thrift-store finds, most partygoers don’t look like they spent all week planning their outfit.
“It’s a dive bar, so you don’t have to get all dressed up,” said Eric Olsen, a political science major from Temple. Soloby credits the hyper, judgment-free atmosphere as the basis for Sal’s rising popularity.
“Thursday night has always been the college party night, but we are more laid-back and have less of a stigma than other places.
“The number of people here is increasing
every single month,” Soloby said.
Holly Otterbein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.