The people have spoken. And the people want Latin music. Free appetizers are cool, too.
By popular demand, it’s Latin Night every Thursday at Level 2 in downtown Harrisburg. The vibrant rhythms and infectious energy that Latino music is known for has been bringing people together for the past six years at the upscale nightclub, which advertises the longest running Latin Night in the capital region.
And, yes, there’s a complimentary buffet of appetizers.
Originally, Level 2 held its Latin Night once a month, explained owner Brian Fertenbaugh. As the audience grew, the event’s frequency increased from every other week to every Thursday.
The ages of regulars and newcomers that hit the dance floor for Latin Night can range from 24 to 50, said Event Coordinator Nikki Condon. With that kind of generational diversity in mind, the right mix of dance music is essential so that everyone likes what they hear.
“The DJs we like to work with can do everything,” said Condon, explaining that a good DJ will know how to move from traditional salsa, merengue and bachata into Latin fusion, Latin pop and more club and urban genres of Latin music.
Lancaster-based DJ Latin Leprechaun is Level 2’s Thursday night resident DJ and the founder of the South Central Pennsylvania Salsa Meetup Group. In addition, Latin Night often features popular DJs who hail from nearby cities, including DJ Gustavo from Baltimore and DJ Rockwell from Philadelphia.
The club also has hosted a number of local bands to do live performances. Recently, Level 2 even booked popular South American recording artists, El Caribefunk, for two shows as part of their second North American tour.
“One thing about Latin Night is that it really transcends all cultures,” said Condon. “On any given Latin night, our crowd is extremely ethnically diverse. People come together for their love of great music and dancing in a lively and fun environment.”
Fertenbaugh also noticed the laid back and friendly vibe of Latin Night.
“I think the social activity of the dancing removes the awkwardness and helps people take the edge off because, oftentimes, you’re dancing with someone you don’t know,” he explained.
Condon agreed, adding, “Everybody dances with everybody. People are very approachable. They’ll just come up to you and say, ‘Would you like to dance?’”
Doors open at 8 p.m., and the night gets started at 8:15 with a beginner salsa lesson led by professional dance instructors. Intermediate lessons for salsa or bachata run from 8:45 to 9:30 p.m., at which point the night’s featured DJ gets the party going until 2 a.m.
“If you come to the lesson, you sort of develop a relationship with the other people that are new,” said Condon. “I’ve seen that happen a lot.”
Fertenbaugh said that, every week, new people show up who have never before danced to Latin music.
“What’s great is the instructors and the experienced dancers welcome new people and help them feel comfortable on the dance floor,” he said. “It is this friendly atmosphere that keeps our numbers growing every week.”
On Latin Night, guests will see couples dancing on the main floor while others relax in the comfortably sleek couches, admiring the waterwalls and sipping a freshly made caipirinha or $3 bottled Corona. A full specialty drink list is available, as are $5 house sangrias. A small plates menu accompanies the free appetizer buffet offered on Latin Night, and everything is prepared by the chefs at Level 2’s downstairs sister business, Café Fresco.
The cover charge for Thursday’s Latin Night ranges from $5 to $10, depending on the entertainment.
“There’s no cover charge if you dine at Café Fresco prior to going upstairs,” said Fertenbaugh.
With Latin Night in its sixth year, the club recently added Latin Fuzion Friday to its monthly calendar. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 25.
“It’s something that our Thursday night regulars have been asking for,” said Fertenbaugh.
Condon explained that Latin Fuzion is more DJ-based, in which traditional Latin music meets pop and is fused together with other Latin genres. In contrast, Latin Night features a more relaxed environment where you can find your footing.
So, if it’s Thursday, it’s Latin Night. And beginners are always welcome. So, let’s dance.
Latin Night takes place each Thursday night at Level 2, 215 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit the Level 2 Facebook page or call 717-236-6600.