Ballroom Blitz

Ballroom Blitz

Written by Steven Bryan Bieler

How was your New Year’s Eve? New Year’s Eve, ring a bell? Someday this pandemic will end and we will return to celebrating the end of the old year and the birth of the new in the company of total strangers. To quote Prince: “dance, music, sex, romance.”

It’s my theory that my demographic cohort, the Baby Boomers, will be the last generation to plan ahead, dress up, pay an enormous sum for a passable meal, and dance to rock and roll or something close to it. Don’t count on the Gen Xers to take this baton. My people: we can’t afford to lose a year! We’re aging, our knees are degrading, we can’t stay up as late as we used to, and we’re definitely popping two ibuprofen with breakfast. It takes a nation of millions to pay for our health care.

I remember in the late 1980s when the Gen Xers figured out that the Boomers were sucking up all the oxygen on the planet. “It’s a hard world to get a break in/all the good things/have been taken,” the Animals sang. Back then, I had several discussions with these tiresome young people. They complained to me, with their imperfect command of their native language, that, like, you Boomers were always stealing the spotlight and like grabbing everything for yourselves, dudes, and what’s up with that? I always listened politely and then reminded them that we are really good-looking, too.


Dudes. Do you want to be in that number when the Boomers go marching in? Let’s not forget what to do on New Year’s Eve! What follows are a few thoughts on clothes and music from past New Year’s, based on 40+ years of counting down to midnight and raising glasses of cheap champagne at taverns, clubs, discos, restaurants, banquet halls, charity balls, and, once, a rave*.

* A note from AARP: Raves are not for older people. No one has ever gotten to the end of the line for the bathroom at a rave.

Clothes Make the Man

I don’t have to tell women to assemble a special outfit, as women understand that New Year’s is an occasion and an occasion is something you rise to. It’s men I’m speaking to. Don’t wear what you normally wear to the office, and definitely don’t wear what you wear to a Zoom call, since I’m guessing you don’t wear pants to a Zoom call. Go shopping, even if it’s in your own closet, and don’t go without your partner. Other people can look at you, shudder, and move on, but your partner will have to look at you all evening. Have mercy.

The best look for men is a snappy suit, but if you can swing it, get fitted for a tuxedo. Bonus points: a tuxedo with a swallow-tail jacket or with a vest. Any idiot can grind on the dance floor, but how many can pull that off from inside a tux? Master that skill and you will never lack for someone to dance with.

Once you’ve been cleared by the style council, grab your keys. It’s clobberin’ time.

Courtesy of Pexels/Areous Ahmad. (Well-dressed man wearing a tuxedo.)

Play That Funky Music

I don’t play an instrument. I type. So it is with some hesitation, but much respect, that I offer the following suggestions to the groups of nice old guys who usually end up playing for us on New Year’s Eve. You guys rock, whether you’re wearing black T-shirts, black button-down shirts, or something Hawaiian, and I love how you always massacre at least one oldie, then turn around and surprise us with a head-banging dance tune with an off-the-hook keyboard solo.

I’m just glad you’re not the band that played one of our events a few years ago. Everyone in that band was 25. They neutered everything, perhaps out of concern for our blood pressure. “Sweet Home Alabama” was about the weather. “Mustang Sally” was about a horse. The singer kept complimenting us on how beautiful we were. I think she was surprised that we were still alive.

Here goes:

  • Time your last set so you end about three minutes before midnight, which gives everyone a chance to freshen their drinks and get ready for the countdown. This should be obvious, but we heard a band on New Year’s Eve that stumbled to a stop 10 minutes early. After some onstage consultation, they tried to stall with “Free Bird,” which caused half the crowd to whip out their lighters and the other half their fingers. They would’ve been safer with “Love Shack.” When they finally escaped into “Auld Lang Syne,” it was obvious they hadn’t practiced it.


  • Please practice.
  • Your audience will begin to evaporate at one minute after midnight. Maybe they want to finish the evening in their bathrobes eating ice cream; maybe they want to get romantic at home rather than against one of your speakers. It’s not about you. You’re awesome.
  • We’re all trying to be woke today, so avoid songs celebrating relationships with underage girls: “Well she was just 17/you know what I mean,” “You’re 16, you’re beautiful, and your mine,” “Hey little girl won’t you meet me at the schoolyard gate,” “But you’re so young and we can’t go on this way,” and I’m concerned that I knew these four off the top of my head.
  • Between sets, the venue’s PA system will play watery hip-hop for people to do the line dancing they learned at corporate retreats in the 1990s. That’s not your problem, that’s ours. Enjoy your beer.

There’s Got to Be a Morning After

New Year’s resolutions are a minefield. How do you make a resolution and stick to it? How do you make a resolution and remember it two days later? There are two secrets to successful resolutions.

This is the wrong way to resolve to start a band: “I will start a band, make a ton of money, and meet a ton of chicks.” But this might work: “Step One: I will decide what kind of music I want to play. Step Two: I will jam with some like-minded musicians.”

If on January 31 all you have to show for your efforts is a dislike for Coldplay and a bass player who keeps forgetting to come to band practice, you will still be ahead of where you were on January 1 and much happier than the people who gave up on January 15.

You’re welcome. My people: Let’s try this all again on December 31, 2021. Happy belated New Year’s!

Header image courtesy of Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.

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