I’ve worked in the bar and hospitality industry for over a decade. I spend most of my time immersing myself in entertainment trends and new and innovative spirits and cocktail creations and figuring out how to weave those into a genuinely special experience for guests. All this time, I thought I was pretty damn good at throwing a party. That is until this past weekend, when I attended my friend Kelsie Smithson’s 30th birthday bash at the Shelby Park gem and new favorite spot of many, Trouble Bar, and I discovered everything I never knew I always needed. What made this celebration unique was that it wasn’t just any old 30th birthday, where friends gather with cake and libations. Kelsie decided to channel the musical reality series (an idea that originated on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and took off from there) and create Louisville’s own Lip Sync Battle. The event was so well executed and had attendees raving, I have a feeling this may be a recurring celebration for many years to come.
For those who haven’t seen the show, a lip sync battle is where contestants (celebrities, on the Paramount show) choose their song, plan a performance likely including costumes and props and lip sync their heart out for the crowd. On the show, two people typically battle one another for the win, but at Kelsie’s party, the idea generated so much interest that there were 30 performances from her family and friends. Attendees were asked to fill out a Google Form prior to the event so that the organizers could be aware of what song performers had chosen, make sure there weren’t duplicates, get information on props needed and song links, etc. We then were linked via email and told what “heat” we’d be performing in and any other information we may need to get ready to air-sing our hearts out.
Zack Pennington, owner of the soon-to-open NoraeBar, set up sound equipment and DJ HX (who coordinates the Spinsters DJ Union) spun music for performers. There were judges and categories for superlatives — I mean, this was professionally done, y’all, complete with Trouble Bar’s plethora of liquid courage, of course.
Upon arrival, my friend Ashley and I went straight to the bar. Local bourbon queen and Angel’s Envy Whiskey Guardian, Felicia Corbett, was already busy slinging cocktails for us eager to catch a buzz before our performances. “Shots?” Ashley asked, and I quickly obliged with two Frida Kahlo Blanco’s. Trouble carries the Frida Kahlo Blanco tequila for Nicole’s Famous Margarita (poured with lemon and lime juice, PF dry curacao and demerara), which I enjoyed later in the evening, but for now, I was gearing up to live out my secret dream of becoming a trap queen. I was dressed in my best Cardi B ensemble and remained busy repeating various Bodak Yellow lyrics in my head, trying to fight the nerves about my performance with 100%-pure agave. I’ve gushed before about Trouble’s cocktail inspired by fellow LEO columnist Minda Honey, The Storyteller, and I watched as many an attendee carrying a glass of berry colored goodness garnished with a lime wheel through the crowd. We’re going to have some stories to tell, that’s for sure.
Smithson started off the performances with her very own rendition of Lizzo’s, “Cuz I Love You,” which set the tone for the evening and had the crowd morphing into heart-eyed emojis far quicker than we can down a can of The Pinot Project Rose, a favorite of mine on the Trouble Bar wine list. Each act was unique. Some were sexy. Some were hilarious. Some had props pouring out of their pockets. Some executed the ad-lib of the artist so well, you’d think it were Mariah Carey herself. Some moments had the crowd screaming so loud that the uproarious cheers must have reached the walls of Logan Street Market.
Here’s why we should emulate this event and use it as inspiration for celebrations in the future. It wasn’t simply a party, it was an all out experience. “A couple people have reached out to say they are going to use the idea for their own parties. I can’t wait to see their take on it!” said Smithson.
“We got to express ourselves in a safe space without judgment,” said attendee Jess Amburgey, who performed the song “Closer” by Tegan and Sara. At the risk of becoming a complete and total Trouble Bar fangirl (see my column singing their praises a few weeks back), this isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone describe it as a safe place for community. What better place to surround such a genuine Louisvillian with love on her birthday than at the Rainbow Palace of Whiskey Dreams (or, in my case, on Saturday, tequila)? Said the birthday girl, “Trouble Bar and it’s mystical Troublemakers provided the perfect atmosphere and allowed us to all live out our rock star dreams for a night.”
What will they think of next?