A sea of sequins, shimmer and scrunchies added to the eclectic mix at Mercy Lounge Saturday night.
The occasion? Nashville’s second-annual Space Prom, organized by the man many consider the king of the city’s DIY scene, Nordista Freeze.
Ball gowns brushed with mom jeans as attendees filed into what felt like the school dance in the closing scenes of the best coming-of-age films, but in space.
“Space Prom is our way of reclaiming prom in case you didn’t have a great one in high school,” Freeze said. “Take the 80s, take outer space, bring it all to the Mercy Lounge to celebrate a moment.”
The usually minimally decorated venue took on new life with balloons, glow stick bracelets, streamers and star confetti scattered across the bar.
The move to Mercy was a leap from the Chinese restaurant where the event was held last year, but it still sold out on the day of, leaving hopeful attendees scrambling to find a ticket on Facebook.
Before the show, couples danced, while the wallflowers nodded along to hits like Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” and a-ha’s “Take on Me.”
As the room filled and it got closer to showtime, the atmosphere shifted from dance party to mosh pit, and the stage began to fill with smoke.
Local band Arlie took the stage to perform classics like “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Jessie’s Girl,” and the crowd erupted when frontman Nathaniel Banks grabbed a saxophone for a solo.
Later, keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Emma Spears moved from behind her keyboard to the front of the stage, saying, “We’ve heard enough songs about men tonight,” before launching into Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”
The band threw in two of its originals, “big fat mouth” and the mosh-inducing “water damage,” which left the first 10 rows of the audience engulfed in a circle pit.
When Arlie left the stage, the crowd swarmed the water coolers to recover and rehydrate for the rest of the night.
With costumes fit for the Village People, Freeze and his band took the stage with an electric energy that caused the room to light up. Opening with “YMCA” got the crowd moving and invested in the performance.
In a tender moment between songs, Freeze explained how he dreamt of playing Mercy Lounge ever since he first turned 18 and attended a Colony House concert there with his sister. Now, he got to perform on that same stage with some of the songs he grew up with.
The show felt like a reunion of friends, with guest performers popping on and off the stage throughout the performance. Songs like “Whip It” and “Burning Down the House” showcased the band’s talent and love of the alternative hits of the decade.
The group left the stage to chants of, “One more song!”
And when the crowd asks, Freeze delivers.
The stage quickly filled back up with all of the night’s performers along with some other friends for a mostly shirtless rendition of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Don’t Bring Me Down.”
Unlike most proms, the crowd lingered as the night came to a close to soak up the last moments of a truly special evening.
This article written by Katie Knipper. Video produced by Abigail Bowen and Katie Knipper, with videography from Colby Crosby and Jordan Shatto.