Clubland: Flywheel’s family-friendly Saturday Morning Music Party 

  • Pancakes and other goodies, along with music and dancing, will be on tap this weekend at the Saturday Morning Music Party at Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton. Gazette file photo

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Fresh hot pancakes flipping, groovy records spinning — that’s what’s on the menu for Flywheel’s family-friendly Saturday Morning Music Party. 

The all-ages breakfast bash features flapjacks, fruit, juice and “pay what you can” admission, with all proceeds split evenly between Flywheel and Hilltown Families, both local nonprofit organizations. 

Easthampton parent Matt Dube called the event “one of the best antidotes I know for  New England cabin fever: Get the kids all hopped up on maple syrup and juice, then a little dancing and bouncing off the walls while the adults socialize.”

The griddle will be sizzling at Flywheel in Easthampton this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and DJ Youthelectronix (aka Jeremy Smith, one of Flywheel’s founders back in 1998) will work the turntables, creating “the best-ever dance party before noon” to help everyone work off the carbs.

The Saturday Morning Music Party was started in 2004 by Smith and fellow Flywheel volunteer, the late David Banigan-White. In an interview last week, Smith said they were influenced by a lively Washington, D.C. children’s show on cable access (and later PBS) called “Pancake Mountain,” which featured music from notable indie and punk bands.

“David had a daughter, which I think was part of his motivation. He was the first pancake maker,” Smith said. The event featured freshly flipped hotcakes and an airing of a “Pancake Mountain” episode on DVD. Later, local kids deejay Bill Childs (creator and host of the radio show “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child”) helped the two bring kid-friendly bands (The Deedle Deedle Dees, Mister G and others) to the Saturday morning festivities.

And when no band was available, Smith took to the turntables to throw a dance party, which “slowly seemed to be more popular than the bands,” he said.

The Saturday event has filled the room regularly ever since. “It’s been going so long that some of the kids who first came to the event when it started are in high school now. The age range is usually infant to 10. I think they get too cool after that.”

Around 2012, Smith and friends got in touch with the folks at Hilltown Families, who agreed to partner up to help promote the event, “They have such a huge network, via Facebook and mailing lists, of parents looking for unique fun things to do. [The Saturday Morning Music Party] then became a co-fundraiser for them and Flywheel. We split all the proceeds of the event down the middle. They handle the promotion and we handle the production. It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Smith said.

The breakfast-hour event hasn’t changed much in the last decade-plus — the pancakes are still cooking, the dance party still fills the floor, and often the day will include a local children’s entertainer, such as Scotty Swan, a veteran of the local punk scene, who does magic and a puppet show. This Saturday’s event won’t have a live performer (Swan returns for the March 10 edition), but a classic episode of “Pancake Mountain” will be shown.

When Smith dons his DJ Youthelectronix headphones, he said he avoids what would traditionally be considered “kids music,” instead rocking an eclectic mix of dance music that’s kid-friendly (aka free of profanity), serving up “contemporary pop and dance, classic hip-hop, ska, soul, funk, and whatever else I think people will like.” The regular audience faves include smashes by Beyonce and Mark Ronson, and old-school hip hop from Black Sheep and De La Soul.

“I occasionally take requests from the kids, which run the gamut from the latest Taylor Swift jam to ‘I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John (asked for by a big fan 5-year-old),” Smith said. “At the last event a girl requested a song (I can’t remember which one) and brought her own toy microphone and lip-synced it on stage.”

“The parents really seem to love [the event], because I assume most of them don’t get to get out much anymore. This is a way for the whole family to have fun together. Plus, it wipes the kids out for a nap that afternoon,” he said.

Florence-based writer/illustrator Anna Alter and her kids (aged 3 and 7) are regular attendees. She heard about the pancake and music party from Easthampton friends and was happy to find a unique family-friendly destination in the winter, when everyone’s usually cooped up at home.

“The Flywheel event has been great for them! They get to run around and dance with other kids, watch silly magic shows, and eat stacks of pancakes all morning,” Alter said. “As parents, it’s fun to see families we know, and hang out with our kids in a space where we don’t have to worry about them being too loud or running too far out of sight. My favorite part of the last party was watching my 3-year-old dance himself into a puppy pile of giggling kids on the stage. He would have stayed all day if he could.”