Many people consider Ann Arbor’s best dance party to be at
The Bang!, where hipsters are decked out in crazy outfits and
everyone dances with energy. The party, which takes place at the
Blind Pig almost every month, was conceived by Jeremy Wheeler and
Jason Gibner, two art school graduates from Grand Rapids.

Julie Pannuto
The Bang! advertise their parties at the Blind Pig with vibrant posters. (Courtesy Jeremy Wheeler and Jason Gibner)

Bored by the stagnant atmosphere of Grand Rapids, Wheeler,
Gibner and some friends moved to Ann Arbor. Here they found a host
of house parties in town, especially at a place called the Pirate
House. When the police closed it down, Wheeler and Gibner decided
to create their own dance party, which they held in November 2001
at the East Quad Halfway Inn. Thus The Bang! was born.

Playing an eclectic mix of songs, The Bang! instantly became a
hit. Wheeler named the Kinks, James Brown and The Pixies as
examples of music artists that go on the mix tapes played at their
parties. “You always gotta play a little punk, some
’60s rock, some sort of crazy disco-punk, a little bit of
’80s but not too much to get to an ironic point.
There’s far too much good stuff to just do that,” said
Wheeler.

Gibner said they also enjoy surprising people by “playing
things that would normally never go side-by-side, like Andrew W. K.
and Puff Daddy.”

Aside from its unique mix tapes, The Bang! also stands out
because of its attention to style. Wheeler and Gibner create
posters with retro themes such as “ ’60s go-go girls or
really sexual men from the ’70s,” Wheeler noted.

The dance parties often incorporate holiday themes as well, such
as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. In
fact, the New Year’s Eve 2003 Bang! broke the attendance record, as
news of the frenetic dance party kept spreading. Gibner said of the
experience, “We were getting ready to start up the music, and
it was just weird. You looked out at the crowd, and the people were
just like a pull toy that you wind back and you just let go. People
were just so ready to dance.”

People who go to The Bang! also dress up for the occasion; Star
Wars characters, sailors and Girl Scouts are only some of the
costumes that attendees have worn. Gibner said, “More and
more people come in outrageous outfits. We want to see more of
that, actually.”

Wheeler agreed, adding, “I think people like to just go
all out for The Bang! ’cause they know other people are doing
it also, so it’s just like, ‘Why not?’

After the Halfway Inn temporarily closed because of problems
with people smuggling alcohol to various shows, The Bang! moved to
the Blind Pig. The venue’s bar was a welcome addition to the
Bang! crowd, which was typically older. Wheeler explained,
“It was a younger crowd at the Half-Ass. We were actually
getting a bunch of high school kids, which was starting to get kind
of weird. And when we did move to the Blind Pig, I read on Internet
message boards a bunch of angry kids saying that The Bang! sold out
and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’

Wheeler and Gibner have also tried to bring the dance party to
Detroit without much success. They felt that crowds in Detroit were
not as receptive, making The Bang! unique to Ann Arbor. When asked
to compare Ann Arbor hipsters versus those in Detroit, Wheeler
said, “What’s the difference between our hipsters and
their hipsters? Well, our hipsters know how to party and want to
party and they don’t give a fuck.”

According to Wheeler and Gibner, people drive out to Ann Arbor
from the Detroit suburbs just for The Bang! One person even signed
their online guestbook, “Thank you for giving me a reason to
go to a bar in Ann Arbor.”

The next Bang! will be April 17 at the Blind Pig.

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