This Queer Dance Troupe Performs With Lasers In Their Butts

All photos via Young Boy Dancing Group unless indicated

One Saturday evening last October, I made my way to Bloc nightclub in east London’s Hackney Wick, an area home to factories, artist’s studios, the 2012 Olympic Stadium, and grotty warehouse raves. The occasion was Chapter 10, a recurring gay night that champions techno, house, and disco where Honey Dijon was set to headline. However, many people, myself included, had arrived early to catch a performance by Young Boy Dancing Groupa collective of contemporary dancers from across Europe whose performances are a mishmash of queerness and techno-futurism that could only exist in our digital age.

Upon entering the venue’s main room, it felt like some sort of Wiccan ritual was going on: candles marked out a large circle in the center of the dancefloor. A male performer with a jockstrap in the center of his face, a blonde woman with weave tracks repurposed as a belt, and other performers in bondage-y short shorts grazed through the space slowly. They waved metal amulets reminiscent of clergymen’s incense burners in the air to a chant-heavy tune from the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack, before crawling all over each other in what looked like a refined game of Twister.

Young Boy Dancing Group at Chapter 10 (Photo by the author)

Then, they scurried off to various corners of the room, and each inserted a green laser into their anuses. The performance quickly became total mayhem, with group members flailing wildly, creating a mosh pit, and running amok to a pitched-down, jittery dance remix of Enya’s “Only Time.”

Young Boy Dancing Group don’t only perform in a nightclub context, though. Their performance that night coincided with Frieze Art Fair, and since 2014, they’ve put on several shows in art world settings, including the Lithuanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Manifesta: The European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Zurich, Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, and MAMA in Rotterdam.

Prancing around art galleries with a laser in your butt could be seen as silly, or a cheap gimmick to demand viewers’ attention. However, curator Mette Wollerwho included Young Boy Dancing Group in an exhibition called “The Curves of the World” at Chart Art Fair in Copenhagen late last summerexplained to me that this seemingly outr act is deliberate. “They challenge notions of gender and sexuality and constantly question institutionalized settings,” she asserts. “It makes you either cry or get offended.”

To find out more about the concepts of queerness and sexuality behind Young Boy Dancing Group’s work, I recently spoke to one of the group’s co-founders, the Swiss-born Manuel Scheiwiller, who was “escaping the winter” on a jaunt to Puerto Rico and Cuba at the time. Check Young Boy Dancing Group’s Facebook page for upcoming performances, because trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen fluorescent laser light refracted in a million different directions off of a disco ball, the source of which is some dude’s asshole.

THUMP: Do most of Young Boy Dancing Group’s members have formal dance training? And, is there a core set of members?

Manuel Scheiwiller: Yes. Actually, most people met in the dance academies around Amsterdam. I studied dance in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and then visual arts in Vienna and Stuttgart. The funny thing about the group is that they are from everywhere: Croatia, Estonia, Holland, Germany. But actually, Young Boy Dancing Group is not really a fixed group, we try to keep it very . One of them you have to tape so they stay on, and it’s very annoying. So we found these ones that just stay on. But they’re all the same brightness. There’s this one guy who joined the show in Berlin one day and he had this huge laser. I saw him taking it outwe always put a condom over the laser to stay a bit cleanand his condom was just bloody. It was gross. I was like, “He’s going way too far, it’s too big!”

Are all of the performers OK with using them?

In the beginning, people were sometimes a bit doubting but now it’s OK. Sometimes it’s a bit painful. Everybody has to start at the same moment, and it’s like, “Let’s do it.” Also, one guy had hemorrhoids once and he couldn’t do it.

You’ve performed in art galleries, but also in nightlife environments like Chapter 10 and David Lynch’s club Silencio. Does one type of space feel more “right” for the project?

This is a good point. We did a show in Vienna in a club setting. There, someone, like a stranger, pushed Tommy’s laser back into his ass. And that was way too much. After that, we said, “Hey, we don’t want to perform in a party context.” Because how people value it is very differentsometimes people are watching it out of a drunken perspective. So we actually prefer to have it in art spaces. But, at Chapter Ten we had a very good experience.

I Wore A Music-Activated Vibrator To The Club Instead Of Doing Drugs

Photos via OhMiBod

There really isn’t a “bounce back” after you go crazy on drugs. It’s more like a slow crawl over glass shards from the primordial soup of your brain into the high-contrast world outside. Once you’re sober, heaving in the blazing sun of crippling regret, it’s on you to evolve out of knuckle-dragging addiction and become mentally bipedal with the aid of therapies, intentional living, and the realization that life is a magical mystery forever.

Suddenly, everything becomes both a trigger and a sign. From the sound of an empty Chateau Diana bottle rolling around in the wind to a girl crying behind you on some commuter train, you’re due to receive a backlogged cache of data from the universe. Returning to the life you left behind is impossible. Repressing emotional damage with 36-hour parties, anxious hugs, and blistering gossip just doesn’t work. Since you’re ostracized from the nightlife scene anyway for doing psycho shit you don’t remember while you were fucked up, you opt to spend your time in church basements with other sober people, or alone, sobbing, practicing breathing exercises, eating Twix and watching Sailor Moon.

Partying With Depression Turned My Life Upside Down

Eventually, your internal dialogue with the Devil disappears and so does that victim complex mirage world you’d been living in for the last seven or so years. Gone, too, are the delusions and hours-long panic attacks. Left with human size case of the sads, you push through each day like a warrior of the mundane, sporadically battling the urge to get high af and have weird experiences.

OhMiBod’s Club Vibe 2.OH

Then, one day, your editor-friend offers you to test a new wireless vibrator called Club Vibe 2.OH that pulses according to live sound and is specifically made for use in the club. Your every catatonic neural pathway wakes the fuck up and urges you to try it out. That’s how I wound up reactivating PTSD HQFacebookand clicking through to pack my weekend with events for the first time in almost a year. I unearthed a punk show, a lecture and a queer DJ afterparty. Going out the entire weekend after having a nervous breakdown was fucking scary, but armed with my noise sensitive sex toy and bottles of White Label Yerba Mate Soda, I figured being really caffeinated and wearing a vibrator would make the experience surreal enough to handle.

I’ve always felt like an outsidertoo ADHD, not straight enough. My Club Vibe, the as yet inert wireless vibrator in my bag, was a perfect example of all the stupid marketing I’m supposed to fall prey to. A tan, toned woman adorned its box appearing mid orgasm, her ample rack glistening with cis hetero desirability. This same hottie appears on the toy’s website, except with a broseph pointing the wireless controller at her like she’s a sex TV girl robot there for him to watch, unaware that genderless aliens have genitals too.

A promotional image for the Club Vibe

Weird outsider feelings made punk my first love. So on a night last weekend, I followed a girl loaded down with 40’s through a labyrinth of practice spaces toward a distantly skronking punk venue to see a take-no-prisoners girl punk band. Once inside the venue, I ducked into a dark corner and slipped the vibrator through the slit in my boy underwear. The toy comes with a free black lacy thong, but I didn’t want my experience mediated by an all-night wedgie.

I fumbled with the egg-shaped controller and tried out settings: Tease Mode lets you (or whoever is in, ugh, control) “feel the vibe” for however long the button is pressed. Groove Mode lets you make your own vibe pattern, and Club Mode responds to live sound. I clicked into Club Mode and screamed. A band had begun and the vibrator’s mic couldn’t discern any singular noise, so it revved furiously. With this whirring thing between my thighs, I couldn’t really behave normally, but thankfully nobody seemed to notice or care. The small venue was filled with drunk people screaming about destroying 8-Chan and effects pedals. I didn’t really know anyone, so was left alone to try and buzz into an orgasm through the remainder of the show. The intensity of the vibe was too great, and I left feeling numb in my nether region. Lols rang in my brain hole, ready for round two.

If I’m going to be dominated by evil corporatist overlords, I’m going to do it sober and cumming everywhere.

Next day, I headed to a lecture held in a large former factory-turned-art-space that was holding an all-day music event. I decided to wear my little friend to see if it would respond to the sound of talking. After a totally fruitful convo with my vag during the bike ride over, I arrived at the function very ready to hear the lecture. Once I sat down, it was weird pretending the silent phone I had in my hand was generating the loud buzz sounds reverberating off the metal chair I was sitting on, but people will believe anything.

One Night in Kit Kat, Berlin’s Most Notorious Techno Sex Club

After failing to cum at a human rights lecture, I set off to my favorite kind of triggerthe cluband was greeted immediately by the propulsive cuntiness of Vitalic’s “You Prefer Cocaine,” an ironic tune set against my sober entrance into the smoky queer venue packed with people slipping on their drinks and making out.

I set into a Quaker-like involuntary dancing fit, spurred on by the vibrator that seemed to work perfectly with the electroclash and ghettotech served up by the DJ. A bizarre freedom seeped into my consciousness. I was totally sober, totally sane, half orgasming, and OK with seeing several people I knew hated me. I sucked on my Blow Pop and the viscosity of time shifted. Feeling held by the moment in a comforting orgasmic gel, I spun round the room and smiled. If I’m gonna live in this feudal anime future dominated by evil corporatist overlords, subsumed by debt and badgered by Christian crusaders, I’m gonna do it sober and cumming everywhere.

Lindsey Leonard is a force of nature. Follow her on Twitter.

Inside INDEX, A New Festival That's Like Afropunk For Electronic Music

Last Saturday (February 18) afternoon, I walked into the Knockdown Center, a gloriously dilapidated former glass factory in Queens, to find Richard Kennedy and DonChristian burning sage and painting a sign that said “Very Black” on the wall. The two musicians, both regular figures in New York’s queer underground scene, were putting the finishing touches on their ambitious new project called INDEX Festival: A Living Archive, which was set to open its doors later that afternoon.

Similar to festivals like Afropunk, INDEX was conceived a platform for and by people of color, with a focus on Black and Latinx artists. But while you might go to Afropunk to check out a blockbuster Grace Jones set or a sick new punk band, INDEX, with a staggering lineup drawing primarily from the electronic music sphere, was where you found your new favorite club music DJ. The festival was stacked with headliners like the shape-shifting experimentalist Yves Tumor, revered Philly club duo SCRAAATCH, ballroom queen La’Fem Ladosha, sculptor/poet Rin Johnson, and dozens of other performers spread across five stages and 10 hours. Our trusted photographer Erez Avissar was around to capture the scenes below.

Photos by Erez Avissar

DonChristian

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor

Richard Kennedy

SCRAAATCH

Mal Devisa

Gooddroid

Futurehood

Bearcat

Artist Of The Year: The Black Madonna On The Beautiful Paradox Of Being A Catholic DJ

To look back on this long year, we’re paying tribute to some of the people who shaped the look, sound, and feeling of club culture in 2016. Today, The Black Madonna (n Marea Stamper) is THUMP’s Artist of the Year.

The Chicago-based DJ and producer’s recent, meteoric rise to global superstar comes at a turbulent time when the rave scene needs politically “woke” figures like her the most. Whether she’s throwing down jubilant house and disco-leaning sets, on the dancefloor hugging her fans, or speaking out against bigotry, Stamper is always fully and passionately engaged, driven by her belief that dance music is a haven to outcasts of all genders, races, and walks of life. Despite her undeniably huge year, she also remains resolutely humble. I’ll never forget her response when I told her, earlier this year at a festival, how much I looked up to her. “Honey,” she said with a laugh, “you need better role models.”

Below, Stamper writes about one of her own role models within the Catholic churchthe Black Madonna icon that inspired her DJ aliasas well as her messy, often contradictory, quest to reconcile her faith and her feminism.Michelle Lhooq

The Black Madonna: I am a terrible, no good, petulant, freerangeyet somehow still practicingCatholic. As a progressive and a feminist, I disagree with the church on more things than I can count. Yet the iconography, ritual, and allegory Catholicism has found its way into almost every piece of art I’ve ever made. My Catholic faith is a part of me and there’s no getting away from it.

My family’s religious roots started with my grandfather, who had a mystical experience as a young man. Before that, he had wanted to be a sports announcer on the radio (Kentucky Wildcats basketball, if anyone’s asking!). But one day, he said he heard God’s voice clearly directing him to become a minister. The experience changed the course of his life forever, leading him to become a Methodist minister before eventually joining the Catholic church.

The rest of my family went along with him. I grew up going to Holy Cross church in Jackson, Kentucky, and I loved everything about it. The rituals. The singing. The scholarly tradition within the church. The simple, gentle act of turning to your neighbor and saying, “Peace be with you.” I became friends with a nun and dreamed secretly of wearing her habit someday myself. I was a bad student. Sister Wendy said it didn’t matter if I could say the Ten Commandments as long as I knew that God loved me. And I did know it. I felt accepted, loved and a part of something much bigger.

For my progressive family, God was synonymous with mercy, service, social justice, scholastic life and art. My grandparents fed and sometimes even housed students who didn’t have quite enough money for books and food. They were active in the civil rights movement. My grandfather had the kind of faith that made you feel good just being around him. It wasn’t fussy, or chaste or conservative. He was friends with the Catholic writer and monk Thomas Merton, and he corresponded with C.S. Lewis. Our dinner table was always full of family, as well as visiting theologians and professors on occasion, debating into the night long after dinner was done. But late in his life, when recounting that first mystical experience to me, my grandfather admitted, almost incredulously, that God had never spoken directly to him again the way he had when. When I heard this, I couldn’t believe that God would speak once to someone, change their whole life, and then go radio silent. It seemed like such a betrayal.

I poured myself into dance music and discovered God isn’t silent. God is loud.

As I got older and grew into a passionate young feminist grappling with my own queer identity, I found that God wasn’t “speaking” to me in the way he once had either. The idyllic experiences of my childhood church life didn’t jive with the values I’d developed as an adult. I wasn’t alone; the hope that many Catholics had held for progressive reform within the church, including allowing women to be ordained as priests after Vatican II, had not materialized. In fact, as the AIDS crisis grew in the eighties, the church made a hard right turn, with reprehensible, inhumane stances on birth control which doomed untold lives. As I matured, I barely saw myself reflected in the faith that had meant so much to me as a girl. While other Catholics protested abortion, I worked for abortion rights and distributed condoms. It was clear that I would never be Catholic with a capital “c” again.

My faith and my reason were in painful conflict, and reason was winning.

Thank God I found dance music.

The connection between house music and gospel is well documented. Frankie Knuckles, for example, described Chicago nightclub The Warehouse as “church for people who have fallen from grace.” My heart, hungry for that feeling of transcendence and acceptance again, zoned in on this connection immediately. I loved everything about dancing. The records booming out of a speaker. For the next twenty years, I poured myself into dance music and discovered that for me, God isn’t silent. God is loud.

Going out to the club became a new kind of ritual, akin to attending mass as a child. There were so many analogs for my early spiritual life waiting for me on the dancefloor, including the simple, gentle act of turning to your neighbor and hugging them simply because you’re having the same beautiful experience. Indeed, many of the most powerful experiences of spiritual connection have happened on a dancefloor. I am at my most in-tunemy best selfwhen the music lifts the whole room together, and all the separations between us dissolve for a little while.

The Black Madonna resonates with me because she is a more humanized depiction of the Holy Mother. She is simple and humble.

You might expect that dance music would completely replace my complicated relationship with Catholicism. But I found thatin spite of my firmly held disagreements with the churchthe ritual, contemplation, and allegory of my faith continued to provide guidance and comfort to me. Whereas nightlife can be joyful yet transitory, my faith keeps me tied to more permanent traditions and to my family. Often, I find myself resolving conflicts between the two parts of myself, as a Catholic and a musician, in my work. I have accepted that the symbology and ritual faith are here to stay, while casting out the parts which are no longer acceptable to me as a rational, compassionate adult.

Many aspects of my work and my spiritual life are deeply connected. The name I perform under is a reference to European statues or paintings of the Virgin Mary dating back to the medieval period or earlier. The tradition of this icon is ubiquitous in Catholic and Orthodox countries in Europe, where they primarily appear. She is the national icon of Poland, the patron saint of Catalonia in Spain, and there are 200 Black Madonnas in France alone. Black Madonna icons are often particularly associated with miracles, sudden endings of wars, and political struggles for freedom. The color is a result of these icons typically being made of dark wood or stone, or turning dark over time from candle smoke and sometimes then reproduced, but they carry deep mystery within them.

The Black Madonna: “Clubs Are Dangerous for Women”

As with many other elements of Christian (and especially Catholic) iconography, this Madonna has much older roots in European pagan imagery and practice. Time and time again we find la moreneta sites directly on top of ancient temples of goddess worship. For example, the shrine at Montserrat, thirty miles outside of Barcelona, Spain, one of the most visited of these vierges noires, was previously a Roman temple to Venus. My mother and I visited her on pilgrimage there last year. It was the trip of a lifetime.

My name, on one hand, is in honor of my own mother and this aspect our family’s tradition, my identity, and the saint that I remain personally most devoted to. One of my most treasured belongings is a book about the Black Madonna passed with an inscription from my grandfather to my mom, and then to me about 25 years ago. But past the familial bond, the Black Madonna resonates with me because she is a more humanized depiction of the Holy Mother, in comparison to her more bejeweled and extravagantly decorated counterparts in Catholic art. She is simple and humble. She tells our stories, as well as a story which is much older. Her iconography is steeped in mysterya central value of the Catholic faith. She is our earth mother. She is loved. She is the peacemaker, the heroine. She is meek, yet miraculous.

Just as Venus was adopted by the church and became a new kind of goddess, The Black Madonna is a goddess archetype that resonates not only within my faith but with people outside of it. This is good. I belong to a faith, but that faith does not belong to me, and I would not presume to tell another person how to walk their own spiritual path or what any symbol should mean to them. I describe my own culture and our traditions, but I do not erect a theological boundary around them.

Synchronizations and iterations of tradition are a part of how we look for God; God makes us in his image and then we remake God in our own. We seek the magic and the symbols that resonate with our own lives. We burn sage and Palo Santo after a bad breakup. We meditate. We go to yoga and some of us pray the rosary. The tools of spiritual practice help us try to make sense of a world which does not make sense. It’s a messy quest but a worthy one.

My faith is not a promise to agree with the old men in charge.

For Catholic women like me, in our own messy quests for the divine, contradiction is unavoidable. We deal heavily in paradox because we have towe have had damn near every trace of the average human woman wiped from the Bible, yet here we are. The few relatable women we see in our faith are often unfairly besmirched in our communities, as Mary Magdalene once was. We look for remnants of these women in the shadows of the gospel.

When I think about the search for the feminine in a decidedly patriarchal body like the Catholic Church, or dance music for that matter, I am reminded of the feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, who wrote, “We are, I am, you are by cowardice or courage the one who find our way back to this scene carrying a knife, a camera, a book of myths in which our names do not appear.” In both dance music and the church, I seek our names, our mythology. I want to be transformed, and I want to transform the people around me. I search for peace and mercy.

I guess at this point, I would describe myself as a Christian humanist who happens to practice Catholicism. My faith isn’t so much about magic, the supernatural, or big guys in the sky. If there’s a mystical component, I think of it more like the Force in Star Wars“an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Like my grandfather’s, my faith is more interested in the humanity of the gospel, Christ’s revolutionary social ideas, and the concept of grace, embodied perfectly for me by Mary. I long ago ditched religious dogma in favor of universal human dignity, individual freedom, and service to others.

How God Inspired Robert Hood’s Floorplan Classic “We Magnify His Name”

Many, many Catholics are progressive just like me. Many American nuns in particular are deeply involved in social justice, feminist activism, and other causes close to my heart. We progressive Catholics oppose the death penalty and war. We believe in science and reason. We believe that poverty is a moral issue that we are all called upon to resolve. We are pro-choice because we believe that the sanctity of life cannot be reduced to a medical decision that should between a woman, her doctor and her own faith. We believe showing mercy is an imperative and showing judgment is forbidden. We are working hard for reform in the church, women’s ordination, and total inclusiveness. There are promising signs of change, but there’s a long, long way to go.

Yet, in spite of my remaining deep conflict with aspects of the church, the rituals of communion and other practices are concrete traditions that tie me to my family, faith and community. Communion connects me directly to grace. My faith is not a promise to agree with the old men in charge. My shrine at home has statues of the Holy Mother from around the world, pictures of my family, and votive candles with images of Freddie Mercury and Divine on them. There’s room for everyone, and doubt is welcome. I don’t profess to have a single view of religion and my own perspective is sure to evolve. I am a daily meditator, and like Merton, I find a close connection between the contemplative aspects of the Catholic tradition and Buddhism.

Rather than coming into conflict with my life as a DJ, Catholicism complements it. For me, an ideal life nourishes both kinds of spiritual experiences. And when all’s said and done, whether I’m in meditation, prayer, on a dancefloor, or in the DJ booth, the goal is still to turn to my neighbor, whoever they are, and say, “Peace be with you.”

Follow The Black Madonna on Twitter

A Night Out In Texas' Underground Vogue Scene

Photos by Jackie Lee Young

Texas’ scrappy electronic music scene is steadily growing, but it’s still hard to find artists like the members of House of Kenzoa San Antonio-based vogue crew that has become a force in the local DIY music community over the past year. Vogue dancing was House of Kenzo’s initial focus, but they’ve also branched into performance art, DJing, and music production.

House of Kenzo’s Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF

roxy rnbwstrchld is the house’s de-facto “Mother,” a dancer, and the group’s main MC. Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF, is both a dancer and a DJ/producer who began his career playing at strip clubs; he makes unsettling tracks that mix Chris Brown’s “No Air” with samples of someone choking. Antonio Padron, AKA TonePadron, started dancing in high school at quinceaneras, evolved into krumping, then settled into his own of vogue. He’s also splits DJ and production roles with LEDEF, citing Jersey club music as an influence. Bobby bearz is the only non-Texan in the group an acrobatic dancer, he splits choreography duties with Antonio and holds down a side gig teaching cheer and gymnastics to high schoolers. Breezy and Karma no longer live in San Antonio and weren’t performing that night, but are still considered family, with Karma credited as house “Fatha.

House of Kenzo’s roxy and Antonio

Whenever they enter a room, heads turnpartly because they’re dressed in what looks like a mix of Hood by Air and The Fifth Element with a Texan twist, like stereotypical cowboy boots paired with a skirt of orange construction netting. But mostly, the attention derives from the fact that their outrageously theatrical dancing always becomes the talk of the night. During a typical show, the crew will spontaneously drag ladders onto dance floors, break-dance in high heels, and wrap crowds in neon string. Since their formation in 2015, they’ve already shared the stage with Mexico City club collective NAAFI and have national and international tours in the works.

Bobby

The competitive NYC vogue culture most famously chronicled in the 1991 film Paris Is Burning, and more recently in Kiki and Walk! this year, isn’t as prominent in Texas, so the members of Kenzo learned the basics of vogue dancing from friends in Philadelphia’s House of Blahnik and Karma, who plays a major role in House of Ninja. In my ten years as a DJ in the Austin dance music scene, I’ve never seen anything like them, so naturally I wanted to learn about how a vogue house sprung up in a city most commonly associated with Tex Mex and metal.

Antonio

When I reach out to the crew in November to ask if I could follow them around San Antonio for a night, they agree immediately, inviting me to “Deconstructed Attitude”a DJ set by LEDEF and TonePadron at Hi-Tones, a divey venue that claims to have invented the pickle shot. Roxy was incredibly friendly on the phone, peppering her sentences with the word “cunt”a complimentary term within the ballroom scene.

Roxy’s shoes

On the appointed evening in mid-November, I drive down to San Antonio and arrive at Bond’s 007 Rock Bar around 7PM. Like most nights, the House of Kenzo crew first assembles to pre-party at this metal bar. When I step inside, roxy sits at a table superglueing her platform heels. She introduces me to the bar owners, who happen to be her parents. Meanwhile, Antonio is quietly organizing tonight’s DJ set on his laptop, while Bobby, dressed in a sweater with an embroidered heart, trades barbs over whose outfit is the most “cunt” with Gemel, who wears combat boots and slashed sleeves. Gemel claims victory thanks to an S&M collar around his neck that’s on loan from an escort.

Gemel and roxy

Throughout the night, everyone is referred to with female pronouns like “she” or “her,” myself included. When I ask Gemel why, he says, “That’s just a reaction to cis-het a non-binary male,” he continues to explain. “It’s not a hard identity to me at allI feel very fluid with it. A daytime look can be very masculine or go super cunt. I think it’s stupid to confine yourself to any identity when you can easily recreate it any day.”

Bonds 007, a metal bar owned by roxy’s parents

“Crawling” by Linkin Park blares out of the bar’s speakers as the group moves on to discuss a recent series of House of Kenzo shows called the Fuckwave Trilogy thrown at the Blue Star Arts Complex over the summer. One involved roxy wearing a wedding dress that was sliced off during the performance. They mention how they saw an attendee masturbating in the middle of the dance floor, agreeing that it crossed a line, but they still loved it.

roxy drinking a Jager and Coke

Polishing off a round of Jager and Cokes, the Kenzo crew tells me what to expect at tonight’s performance. They explain that it won’t be highly choreographed, more of a b2b DJ set between TonePadron (Antonio) and LEDEF (Gemel), with roxy emceeing and Bobby dancing. The members of Kenzo are keenly aware of how vogue dancing and MCs are not typically associated with house and techno parties. But they tell me that they’re proud to be considered outsiders in club culture.

Gemel up front, roxy behind

“We’re kinda pursuing a role as official performers based in experimental movement,” says roxy. “That element of hypemenpeople who motivate and encourage the audience to immerse themselves in the musicthe experimental techno dance scene needs that. We’re filling that void.”

Bobby and friend at the art gallery

At 8 PM, we leave the bar and drive to a compound of art galleries in the South Flores Art District. There’s an open house tonight, and hundreds of people circulate throughout the 11 studios. We’re here for a show at Gravelmouth Gallery by the Essentials art collective, who exhibit black and white collages of dominatrix and couture imagery that match Kenzo’s post-fashion, post-apocalyptic, post-everything vibe.

Local DJ crew Sweedish Erotica plays diva house when Kenzo arrives, and when Antonio hears the filtered grooves of “Back in the Days” by Alfonso Deep Touch, he’s inspired to dance. No one else in the room is moving, so Antonio easily draws the crowd’s attention.

Antonio dancing

His stoicism turns fierce, like a mannequin come alive. Arms swing and click at obtuse angles, then his body unlocks, falling in a violent dip turned drop. The vogueing only lasts a couple minutes before we have to leave for soundcheck at Hi-Tones, a rough and tumble rock club that roxy jokingly refers to as a cholo bar.

Soundcheck is supposed to be at 9 PM, but when we arrive there’s a snagroxy and Gemel don’t have ID, and the bouncer doesn’t seem to care that they’re performing later. The group now needs a new place to do their hair, makeup, and wardrobe while to sort out their situation.

Nate, House of Kenzo’s makeup artist for the night

They call in a favor with their friends at vegan cantina La Botanica. The queer-friendly venue is a big supporter of Kenzo, and allows them to turn the dining area into a green room. Outside on the patio, DJs associated with record shop Southside Vinyl play tasteful house like Byron the Aquarius’s “Aquarian Voyage” as customers share plates of empanadas.

Nate’s makeup spread

More friends of Kenzo arrive, including their make-up artist Nate Ryan, who walks into the room with white lace covering his eyes and black fake blood on his nose. It’s hard to believe that he’s only two hours sleep. He lays out his cosmetics on the table and prepares to do Kenzo’s makeup.

Tonight’s makeup theme is “alien skin, but way more toxic and beautiful,” says roxy.

Nate doing Gemel’s makeup

At 11PM we head back to Hi-Tones with hopes that the bouncer will soften his ID policy. I don’t really understand why he was such a jerk, but changing an evening’s plans on a moment’s notice doesn’t seem too unusual for Kenzo. He still seems angry, but relents and lets the group inside.

Hi-Tones Club

This dive is not the most likely place to find harsh club music. Mexican blankets line the stage and dusty religious candles hang on the wall. The night starts with DJ Der Kindestod playing un-Shazamable experimental club tracks as the bar’s mostly middle-aged regulars nod curiously along.

Hi-Tones interior

Next, Saakred, a songwriter with an electronic slant on San Antonio hard rock, takes the stage at midnight, violently scraping the mic stand across their guitar strings. All four members of House of Kenzo head bang along on stage.

Saakred performs before Kenzo

At 1AM, LEDEF and TonePadron go b2b for a chaotic set that starts with demonic vocal samples over booming half-time kicks and violent swashes of noise. The DJs move through genres fluidly, with techno, drum and bass, jungle, and R&B rubbing against each other, sometimes in combative ways. (Check out a recording of their set here.)

LEDEF and TonePadron

Bobby and roxy dance violently on stage, pairing deep squats with rapid-fire foot kicks and violent ass-thrusting toe touches taken from a workout instructor’s playbook.

roxy

They command the crowd to “open the portal” and their friends erupt on the dance floor. Although the bar isn’t packed, the energy makes it feel like a full room.

A friend of Kenzo’s named Rainey on the dancefloor

Dancers form a circle and an LED mounted on Jackie’s camera becomes a spotlight for twerking and vogueing clubbers. roxy and Bobby chant authoritatively on the mic.

“Real ass bitches, fake ass world.”

“If you’re not sweating, you’re not learning.”

“Fearless love, fearless expression, fearless fucking dancing.”

Plus a dozen refrains about pussy and what to do with it.

Bobby

Suddenly, a clearly wasted girl crashes into the stage with all the chaos of the dance floor, but none of the grace. Bobby turns frantic. “This bitch isn’t with us! Drag her! She’s falling into the CDjs! Drag her! ” he shouts to venue staff. It’s the moment of the night where it becomes clear that even in the laissez-faire world of Kenzo, there is definitely such a thing as the wrong type of chaos. Security escorts the girl out.

Gemel

The lights rise at 2AM, marking the end of the night. The fifteen or so kids left standing shuffle towards the exit. At the curb outside, there’s talk of an afterparty, but no plan materializes. As fun as a late night with Kenzo would be, I’m relieved. The group couldn’t have been more welcoming, but I’m mentally, physically, and socially exhausted. Seven hours is a long time to spend in a situation so defiantly fierce.

Friends of Kenzo at the show

Hanging out with the crew opened my eyes to a side of club culture I hadn’t really seen up close before in my time in the Texan dance music scene. I’m surprised by how vibrant San Antonio feels, with DJs and art seemingly around every corner, and how the city’s traditional stereotypes like metal bars and taco joints have been reclaimed in the name of Kenzo. The dancefloor really did feel like a portal created to allow these kids to move, look, and feel like themselvesor whoever they feel like in the moment. As for the House of Kenzo, it was just another Saturday night.

Dan Gentile is a freelancer writer and DJ based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter

A Night Out In Texas' Underground Vogue Scene

Photos by Jackie Lee Young

Texas’ scrappy electronic music scene is steadily growing, but it’s still hard to find artists like the members of House of Kenzoa San Antonio-based vogue crew that has become a force in the local DIY music community over the past year. Vogue dancing was House of Kenzo’s initial focus, but they’ve also branched into performance art, DJing, and music production.

House of Kenzo’s Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF

roxy rnbwstrchld is the house’s de-facto “Mother,” a dancer, and the group’s main MC. Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF, is both a dancer and a DJ/producer who began his career playing at strip clubs; he makes unsettling tracks that mix Chris Brown’s “No Air” with samples of someone choking. Antonio Padron, AKA TonePadron, started dancing in high school at quinceaneras, evolved into krumping, then settled into his own of vogue. He’s also splits DJ and production roles with LEDEF, citing Jersey club music as an influence. Bobby bearz is the only non-Texan in the group an acrobatic dancer, he splits choreography duties with Antonio and holds down a side gig teaching cheer and gymnastics to high schoolers. Breezy and Karma no longer live in San Antonio and weren’t performing that night, but are still considered family, with Karma credited as house “Fatha”.

House of Kenzo’s roxy and friend

Whenever they enter a room, heads turnpartly because they’re dressed in what looks like a mix of Hood by Air and The Fifth Element with a Texan twist, like stereotypical cowboy boots paired with a skirt of orange construction netting. But mostly, the attention derives from the fact that their outrageously theatrical dancing always becomes the talk of the night. During a typical show, the crew will spontaneously drag ladders onto dance floors, break-dance in high heels, and wrap crowds in neon string. Since their formation in 2015, they’ve already shared the stage with Mexico City club collective NAAFI and have national and international tours in the works.

Bobby

The competitive NYC vogue culture most famously chronicled in the 1991 film Paris Is Burning, and more recently in Kiki and Walk! this year, isn’t as prominent in Texas, so the members of Kenzo learned the basics of vogue dancing from friends in Philadelphia’s House of Blahnik and Karma, who plays a major role in House of Ninja. In my ten years as a DJ in the Austin dance music scene, I’ve never seen anything like them, so naturally I wanted to learn about how a vogue house sprung up in a city most commonly associated with Tex Mex and metal.

Antonio

When I reach out to the crew in November to ask if I could follow them around San Antonio for a night, they agree immediately, inviting me to “Deconstructed Attitude”a DJ set by LEDEF and TonePadron at Hi-Tones, a divey venue that claims to have invented the pickle shot. Roxy was incredibly friendly on the phone, peppering her sentences with the word “cunt”a complimentary term within the ballroom scene.

Roxy’s shoes

On the appointed evening in mid-November, I drive down to San Antonio and arrive at Bond’s 007 Rock Bar around 7PM. Like most nights, the House of Kenzo crew first assembles to pre-party at this metal bar. When I step inside, roxy sits at a table superglueing her platform heels. She introduces me to the bar owners, who happen to be her parents. Meanwhile, Antonio is quietly organizing tonight’s DJ set on his laptop, while Bobby, dressed in a sweater with an embroidered heart, trades barbs over whose outfit is the most “cunt” with Gemel, who wears combat boots and slashed sleeves. Gemel claims victory thanks to an S&M collar around his neck that’s on loan from an escort.

Gemel and roxy

Throughout the night, everyone is referred to with female pronouns like “she” or “her,” myself included. When I ask Gemel why, he says, “That’s just a reaction to cis-het a non-binary male,” he continues to explain. “It’s not a hard identity to me at allI feel very fluid with it. A daytime look can be very masculine or go super cunt. I think it’s stupid to confine yourself to any identity when you can easily recreate it any day.”

Bonds 007, a metal bar owned by roxy’s parents

“Crawling” by Linkin Park blares out of the bar’s speakers as the group moves on to discuss a recent series of House of Kenzo shows called the Fuckwave Trilogy thrown at the Blue Star Arts Complex over the summer. One involved roxy wearing a wedding dress that was sliced off during the performance. They mention how they saw an attendee masturbating in the middle of the dance floor, agreeing that it crossed a line, but they still loved it.

roxy drinking a Jager and Coke

Polishing off a round of Jager and Cokes, the Kenzo crew tells me what to expect at tonight’s performance. They explain that it won’t be highly choreographed, more of a b2b DJ set between TonePadron (Antonio) and LEDEF (Gemel), with roxy emceeing and Bobby dancing. The members of Kenzo are keenly aware of how vogue dancing and MCs are not typically associated with house and techno parties. But they tell me that they’re proud to be considered outsiders in club culture.

Gemel up front, roxy behind

“We’re kinda pursuing a role as official performers based in experimental movement,” says roxy. “That element of hypemenpeople who motivate and encourage the audience to immerse themselves in the musicthe experimental techno dance scene needs that. We’re filling that void.”

Bobby and friend at the art gallery

At 8 PM, we leave the bar and drive to a compound of art galleries in the South Flores Art District. There’s an open house tonight, and hundreds of people circulate throughout the 11 studios. We’re here for a show at Gravelmouth Gallery by the Essentials art collective, who exhibit black and white collages of dominatrix and couture imagery that match Kenzo’s post-fashion, post-apocalyptic, post-everything vibe.

Local DJ crew Sweedish Erotica plays diva house when Kenzo arrives, and when Antonio hears the filtered grooves of “Back in the Days” by Alfonso Deep Touch, he’s inspired to dance. No one else in the room is moving, so Antonio easily draws the crowd’s attention.

Antonio dancing

His stoicism turns fierce, like a mannequin come alive. Arms swing and click at obtuse angles, then his body unlocks, falling in a violent dip turned drop. The vogueing only lasts a couple minutes before we have to leave for soundcheck at Hi-Tones, a rough and tumble rock club that roxy jokingly refers to as a cholo bar.

Soundcheck is supposed to be at 9 PM, but when we arrive there’s a snagroxy and Gemel don’t have ID, and the bouncer doesn’t seem to care that they’re performing later. The group now needs a new place to do their hair, makeup, and wardrobe while to sort out their situation.

Nate, House of Kenzo’s makeup artist for the night

They call in a favor with their friends at vegan cantina La Botanica. The queer-friendly venue is a big supporter of Kenzo, and allows them to turn the dining area into a green room. Outside on the patio, DJs associated with record shop Southside Vinyl play tasteful house like Byron the Aquarius’s “Aquarian Voyage” as customers share plates of empanadas.


Nate’s makeup spread

More friends of Kenzo arrive, including their make-up artist Nate Ryan, who walks into the room with white lace covering his eyes and black fake blood on his nose. It’s hard to believe that he’s only two hours sleep. He lays out his cosmetics on the table and prepares to do Kenzo’s makeup.

Tonight’s makeup theme is “alien skin, but way more toxic and beautiful,” says roxy.

Nate doing Gemel’s makeup

At 11PM we head back to Hi-Tones with hopes that the bouncer will soften his ID policy. I don’t really understand why he was such a jerk, but changing an evening’s plans on a moment’s notice doesn’t seem too unusual for Kenzo. He still seems angry, but relents and lets the group inside.

Hi-Tones Club

This dive is not the most likely place to find harsh club music. Mexican blankets line the stage and dusty religious candles hang on the wall. The night starts with DJ Der Kindestod playing un-Shazamable experimental club tracks as the bar’s mostly middle-aged regulars nod curiously along.

Hi-Tones interior

Next, Saakred, a songwriter with an electronic slant on San Antonio hard rock, takes the stage at midnight, violently scraping the mic stand across her guitar strings. All four members of House of Kenzo head bang along on stage.

Saakred performs before Kenzo

At 1AM, LEDEF and TonePadron go b2b for a chaotic set that starts with demonic vocal samples over booming half-time kicks and violent swashes of noise. The DJs move through genres fluidly, with techno, drum and bass, jungle, and R&B rubbing against each other, sometimes in combative ways.

Left: Antonio, Right: Gemel

Bobby and roxy dance violently on stage, pairing deep squats with rapid-fire foot kicks and violent ass-thrusting toe touches taken from a workout instructor’s playbook.

roxy

They command the crowd to “open the portal” and their friends erupt on the dance floor. Although the bar isn’t packed, the energy makes it feel like a full room.

A friend of Kenzo’s named Rainey on the dancefloor

Dancers form a circle and an LED mounted on Jackie’s camera becomes a spotlight for twerking and vogueing clubbers. roxy and Bobby chant authoritatively on the mic.

“Real ass bitches, fake ass women.”

“If you’re not sweating, you’re not learning.”

“Fearless love, fearless expression, fearless fucking dancing.”

Plus a dozen refrains about pussy and what to do with it.

Bobby

Suddenly, a clearly wasted girl crashes into the stage with all the chaos of the dance floor, but none of the grace. Bobby turns frantic. “This bitch isn’t with us! Drag her! She’s falling into the CDjs! Drag her! ” he shouts to venue staff. It’s the moment of the night where it becomes clear that even in the laissez-faire world of Kenzo, there is definitely such a thing as the wrong type of chaos. Security escorts the girl out.

Gemel

The lights rise at 2AM, marking the end of the night. The fifteen or so kids left standing shuffle towards the exit. At the curb outside, there’s talk of an afterparty, but no plan materializes. As fun as a late night with Kenzo would be, I’m relieved. The group couldn’t have been more welcoming, but I’m mentally, physically, and socially exhausted. Seven hours is a long time to spend in a situation so defiantly fierce.

Friends of Kenzo at the show

Hanging out with the crew opened my eyes to a side of club culture I hadn’t really seen up close before in my time in the Texan dance music scene. I’m surprised by how vibrant San Antonio feels, with DJs and art seemingly around every corner, and how the city’s traditional stereotypes like metal bars and taco joints have been reclaimed in the name of Kenzo. The dancefloor really did feel like a portal created to allow these kids to move, look, and feel like themselvesor whoever they feel like in the moment. As for the House of Kenzo, it was just another Saturday night.

Dan Gentile is a freelancer writer and DJ based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter

It’s Time To Start Thinking About How Queer Nightlife Can Move Forward Under Trump

“I can’t, I can’t…” sobs a young black woman who has collapsed on a flight of stairs at the Boiler Room Weekender festival in Pennsylvania. She has just gotten caught by security for allegedly possessing a small amount of weed. In footage THUMP obtained of the incident, four men in black police uniforms loom over her in a tight circle.

Following the woman’s arrest earlier this month, escalating tensions between the local police and crowd forced Boiler Room to shut down the festival early. Many, including Boiler Room themselves, criticized the police from Lake Harmonya rural town in one of the swing states that swerved red during the presidential electionfor targeting people of color. Even headliner Dev Hynes said he had every page of his notebook searched as his white friends walked by without a second look.

Ever since the festival, I can’t get Jones’ cry out of my head, perhaps because it echoes the last words of Eric Garner: “I can’t breathe.” These words, shouted over and over by Black Lives Matter activists over the last few years, convey the despair of a society where racially targeted policing is not an aberration but a normand where a black person is shot every two days by the authorities.

“We want to breathe,” wrote feminist scholar Roxane Gay in a 2015 New York Times op-ed about safe spaces. Gay defines a safe space as “a haven from the harsh realities people face in their everyday lives” because of their race, sexual orientation, or other identities. In electronic music, events are usually called “safe spaces” when they promote a set of values best summarized by a banner that hangs at Brooklyn’s Afropunk festival every year: no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness.

The Boiler Room Weekender fiasco was a jarring reminder of both the importance and fragility of safe spaces in nightlifeas were, on a much more horrific level, the shootings at Pulse in Orlando and the Bataclan in Paris. It was also, as my colleague Ezra Marcus noted, a wake-up call about the danger of uprooting these safe spaces from the social and geographical context in which they arose (in this case, the ultra liberal New York underground), and transplanting them into a conservative Trump town that does not necessarily share their values.

A festivalgoer at Afropunk (Photo via Aaron Paschal/AP2 Photography)

The festival took place more than three weeks ago, but since the election results rolled in, it feels like our collective hangover has only gotten more painful. In considering what role (if any) safe spaces will play in the electronic music community over the next four years, we are faced with a number of tough but critical questions: Do safe spaces in nightlife even exist? If so, how do we keep our safe spaces “safe”?

Electronic music history suggests that safe spaces have never been free from conflict; in fact, they have always been permeable to hostile intruders. Perhaps safe spaces are neither a myth nor an impenetrable sanctuary, but as Boiler Room put it, a “moving target.” How the rave community has responded during previous times of crisis is what really mattersand previous experience suggests that there are a number of approaches we could take to move forward.

Do safe spaces in nightlife even exist? If so, how do we keep our safe spaces “safe”?

The first is to fight backjust like in the 50s and 60s, when police began raiding gay-friendly bars in New York’s Greenwich Village. According to the research of scholar and activist Moira Kenney, the idea of “safe spaces” actually originated at gay bars on and around Christopher street, because anti-sodomy laws and harassment at the time made it dangerous to be “out” publicly. Tensions between authorities and the LGBTQ+ community had been brewing since at least Prohibition, but when one confrontation between cops and an unnamed lesbian exploded into widescale riots on Christopher Street in 1969, it kickstarted the modern gay rights movement in America.

A Timeline of Christopher Street, New York LGBTQ Nightlife’s Most Storied Thoroughfare

Fighting oppression has a way of bringing people together. Go to an anti-Trump protest today, and you’re likely to see activists from Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter marching next to Muslim-American parents, Bernie-supporting environmentalists, and feminists of every color. In the dance music world, many parties in the weeks after the election (including a White Material showcase I attended in Brooklyn) donated proceeds to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, bolstering them with funds and new supporters. Beyond offering collective catharsis, dancefloors can be potent breeding grounds for political mobilization.

The crowd at a recent Loft party in New York (Photo by August Goulet)

Another option is to withdraw. One foundational tenet of rave culture is that the spaces we party in are “temporary autonomous zones,” where marginalized misfits can escape from oppression. This utopianism came from dance music’s roots in black, Latino, and queer communities in cities like Chicago and Detroit, and is threaded throughout our history. The late David Mancuso fostered a culture of secrecy around his legendary Loft parties by refusing press, sending out personalized invitations, and requiring memberships for entryall to keep his party’s LGBTQ+ crowd, and its culture of tolerance, safe. For the same reason, historically gay spaces like the Paradise Garage and Berghain have always been strict about who gets in. Treating safe spaces as hermetically sealed sanctums is both a form of self-protection and a means of liberation, fostering a sense of anarchic freedom, and a world apart from the unequal one outside the rave’s confines.

However, I would argue that there is a danger in thinking of safe spaces as divorced from reality. What happened at Boiler Room a few weeks back is a pretty harrowing example of that. But it can also endanger situations where people wrongly conflate safety with a lack of discourseas Trump himself did earlier this month. At a recent Hamilton show that Mike Pence attended, an African-American actor from the musical’s notably diverse cast addressed him from the stage, imploring him to “work on behalf of all of us.” Trump responded on Twitter calling the cast “very rude” and demanding an apology for Pence. He tweeted: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. fuck up by not knowing how racist the environment would be? Yes. But white people don’t think about how black people live on a day to day basis,” he said. Still, he praised the Boiler Room team for putting on such a diverse festival with so many black headlinersnoting that no other organization has attempted something like that before. What he said next could be a rallying cry for all of us: “You can’t move on with anything unless you take a risk.”

Michelle Lhooq is THUMP’s Features Editor. Follow her on Twitter.

How Will "Safe Spaces" In Nightlife Survive The Trumpocalypse?

“I can’t, I can’t…” sobs a young black woman who has collapsed on a flight of stairs at the Boiler Room Weekender festival in Pennsylvania. She has just gotten caught by security for allegedly possessing a small amount of weed. In footage THUMP obtained of the incident, four men in black police uniforms loom over her in a tight circle.

Following the woman’s arrest earlier this month, escalating tensions between the local police and crowd forced Boiler Room to shut down the festival early. Many, including Boiler Room themselves, criticized the police from Lake Harmonya rural town in one of the swing states that swerved red during the presidential electionfor targeting people of color. Even headliner Dev Hynes said he had every page of his notebook searched as his white friends walked by without a second look.

Ever since the festival, I can’t get Jones’ cry out of my head, perhaps because it echoes the last words of Eric Garner: “I can’t breathe.” These words, shouted over and over by Black Lives Matter activists over the last few years, convey the despair of a society where racially targeted policing is not an aberration but a normand where a black person is shot every two days by the authorities.

“We want to breathe,” wrote feminist scholar Roxane Gay in a 2015 New York Times op-ed about safe spaces. Gay defines a safe space as “a haven from the harsh realities people face in their everyday lives” because of their race, sexual orientation, or other identities. In electronic music, events are usually called “safe spaces” when they promote a set of values best summarized by a banner that hangs at Brooklyn’s Afropunk festival every year: no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness.

The Boiler Room Weekender fiasco was a jarring reminder of both the importance and fragility of safe spaces in nightlifeas were, on a much more horrific level, the shootings at Pulse in Orlando and the Bataclan in Paris. It was also, as my colleague Ezra Marcus noted, a wake-up call about the danger of uprooting these safe spaces from the social and geographical context in which they arose (in this case, the ultra liberal New York underground), and transplanting them into a conservative Trump town that does not necessarily share their values.

A festivalgoer at Afropunk (Photo via Aaron Paschal/AP2 Photography)

The festival took place more than three weeks ago, but since the election results rolled in, it feels like our collective hangover has only gotten more painful. In considering what role (if any) safe spaces will play in the electronic music community over the next four years, we are faced with a number of tough but critical questions: Do safe spaces in nightlife even exist? If so, how do we keep our safe spaces “safe”?

Electronic music history suggests that safe spaces have never been free from conflict; in fact, they have always been permeable to hostile intruders. Perhaps safe spaces are neither a myth nor an impenetrable sanctuary, but as Boiler Room put it, a “moving target.” How the rave community has responded during previous times of crisis is what really mattersand previous experience suggests that there are a number of approaches we could take to move forward.

Do safe spaces in nightlife even exist? If so, how do we keep our safe spaces “safe”?

The first is to fight backjust like in the 50s and 60s, when police began raiding gay-friendly bars in New York’s Greenwich Village. According to the research of scholar and activist Moira Kenney, the idea of “safe spaces” actually originated at gay bars on and around Christopher street, because anti-sodomy laws and harassment at the time made it dangerous to be “out” publicly. Tensions between authorities and the LGBTQ+ community had been brewing since at least Prohibition, but when one confrontation between cops and an unnamed lesbian exploded into widescale riots on Christopher Street in 1969, it kickstarted the modern gay rights movement in America.

A Timeline of Christopher Street, New York LGBTQ Nightlife’s Most Storied Thoroughfare

Fighting oppression has a way of bringing people together. Go to an anti-Trump protest today, and you’re likely to see activists from Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter marching next to Muslim-American parents, Bernie-supporting environmentalists, and feminists of every color. In the dance music world, many parties in the weeks after the election (including a White Material showcase I attended in Brooklyn) donated proceeds to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, bolstering them with funds and new supporters. Beyond offering collective catharsis, dancefloors can be potent breeding grounds for political mobilization.

The crowd at a recent Loft party in New York (Photo by August Goulet)

Another option is to withdraw. One foundational tenet of rave culture is that the spaces we party in are “temporary autonomous zones,” where marginalized misfits can escape from oppression. This utopianism came from dance music’s roots in black, Latino, and queer communities in cities like Chicago and Detroit, and is threaded throughout our history. The late David Mancuso fostered a culture of secrecy around his legendary Loft parties by refusing press, sending out personalized invitations, and requiring memberships for entryall to keep his party’s LGBTQ+ crowd, and its culture of tolerance, safe. For the same reason, historically gay spaces like the Paradise Garage and Berghain have always been strict about who gets in. Treating safe spaces as hermetically sealed sanctums is both a form of self-protection and a means of liberation, fostering a sense of anarchic freedom, and a world apart from the unequal one outside the rave’s confines.

However, I would argue that there is a danger in thinking of safe spaces as divorced from reality. What happened at Boiler Room a few weeks back is a pretty harrowing example of that. But it can also endanger situations where people wrongly conflate safety with a lack of discourseas Trump himself did earlier this month. At a recent Hamilton show that Mike Pence attended, an African-American actor from the musical’s notably diverse cast addressed him from the stage, imploring him to “work on behalf of all of us.” Trump responded on Twitter calling the cast “very rude” and demanding an apology for Pence. He tweeted: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. fuck up by not knowing how racist the environment would be? Yes. But white people don’t think about how black people live on a day to day basis,” he said. Still, he praised the Boiler Room team for putting on such a diverse festival with so many black headlinersnoting that no other organization has attempted something like that before. What he said next could be a rallying cry for all of us: “You can’t move on with anything unless you take a risk.”

Michelle Lhooq is THUMP’s Features Editor. Follow her on Twitter.

Stream The Electrifying Debut EP From New York Nightlife Fixture Richard Kennedy

Photo by Eric Johnson

Back in March, I went to a party called Kwik in a Italian restaurant tucked deep in Bushwick, safely hidden from Resident Advisor listings. It felt like everything worth giving a fuck about in New York nightlife was in that small, dark room: in the back, over a crooked table lodged between twin speaker stacks, DJs flitted between dancehall, reggaeton, techno, rap, industrial, and other kitchen-sink productions, blowing out the system constantlynot that anybody cared. The sloping floor was rammed with queer people of color convulsing in collective catharsis, apathy giving way to earnest, libidinal joy.

The night was put together by Richard Kennedy, a New York-based singer and artist with deep roots in Brooklyn’s queer underground. On October 25, Kennedy is releasing his debut solo EP, Open Wound In a Pool of Sharks, on Sweat Equity, a New York label that’s become a sort of incubator for local club producers. Like the parties he frequently throws, Open Wound feels like more than the sum of its parts. Its six tracks of what Kennedy calls “noise-soul” are collaborations with daring DIY musicians like Jeremiah Meece, Stress, and Bottoms’ Michael Promassit, all of whom stretch Kennedy’s powerful voice in myriad directions; on “Mercy,” PAN affiliate Yves Tumor drenches them in ethereal piano chords and luscious reverb, while on “Living a Lie,” Light Asylum’s Bruno Coviello channels Kennedy’s angsty cries into noirish synth-pop perfection.

Below, Kennedy explains how the EP, which has been in the works for four years, charts his own journey through the New York party sceneand how the emotional turmoil, self-questioning, and heartbreak he grappled with along the way helped him find his own voice, and ultimately, perhaps, the chance for redemption.

THUMP: Let’s start with the EP title, Open Wound In a Pool of Sharks. It’s a really poetic, evocative phrasehow did you come up with it and what were you hoping to evoke?

The title Open Wound in A Pool of Sharks was inspired by this experience I had on the subway one morning. This man was screaming on the phone on a silent morning commute across the Williamsburg bridge about how he beat up some man. He kept screaming, “I was a shark, I was a shark; I told my grandma I could beat his ass!”

I am not a native New Yorker but I have lived here for ten years. New York inspires me now but it used to intimidate me. This EP was written over the course of about four years, and I started working on it at a confusing point in my New York life. Moving here alone with a big dream competing for space in a city saturated with so many incredible artists can be overwhelming. Sometimes I felt like I was the open wound, and I was trying to swim safely to shore, cautious of the sharks you must encounter along the waynot all dangerous, but all on their own hunt.

I completely feel that! The careerism in New York where everyone’s vying to get ahead can get really exhaustingor turn you into a cynical person. Can you tell me more about this confusing point in your life that served as the starting point for the EP?

I moved to New York for the first time in 2004 to be in for a while, and he has supported me since day one. I didn’t want to release on a label I fit into or a label that I’d get lost in. Sweat Equity and Andrew Nerviano have been down and not asked me a lot of questions. They gave me time and space and that’s the best gift on a first release an artist can ask for.

Now that your first solo release is out, what else you got coming up?

I’m working on a ballet set to Chino Amobi’s “Airport Music for Black Folk,” debuting my new opera “Comeuppance” at Signal Gallery, and finishing my MFA at Bard! I’ve started demos for my full-length album and I want to creative direct for other artist more in 2017. I’m loving life and I’m so excited and humbled to be able to share my music with the world!

Open Wound in a Pool of Sharks is out October 25 on Sweat Equity

Follow Michelle Lhooq on Twitter

Stream The Electrifying Debut EP From New York Nightlife Fixture Richard Kennedy

Back in March, I went to a party called Kwik in a Italian restaurant tucked deep in Bushwick, safely hidden from Resident Advisor listings. It felt like everything worth giving a fuck about in New York nightlife was in that small, dark room: in the back, over a crooked table lodged between twin speaker stacks, DJs flitted between dancehall, reggaeton, techno, rap, industrial, and other kitchen-sink productions, blowing out the system constantlynot that anybody cared. The sloping floor was rammed with queer people of color convulsing in collective catharsis, apathy giving way to earnest, libidinal joy.

The night was put together by Richard Kennedy, a New York-based singer and artist with deep roots in Brooklyn’s queer underground. On October 25, Kennedy is releasing his debut solo EP, Open Wound In a Pool of Sharks, on Sweat Equity, a New York label that’s become a sort of incubator for local club producers. Like the parties he frequently throws, Open Wound feels like more than the sum of its parts. Its six tracks of what Kennedy calls “noise-soul” are collaborations with daring DIY musicians like Jeremiah Meece, Stress, and Bottoms’ Michael Promassit, all of whom stretch Kennedy’s powerful voice in myriad directions; on “Mercy,” PAN affiliate Yves Tumor drenches them in ethereal piano chords and luscious reverb, while on “Living a Lie,” Light Asylum’s Bruno Coviello channels Kennedy’s angsty cries into noirish synth-pop perfection.

Below, Kennedy explains how the EP, which has been in the works for four years, charts his own journey through the New York party sceneand how the emotional turmoil, self-questioning, and heartbreak he grappled with along the way helped him find his own voice, and ultimately, perhaps, the chance for redemption.

THUMP: Let’s start with the EP title, Open Wound In a Pool of Sharks. It’s a really poetic, evocative phrasehow did you come up with it and what were you hoping to evoke?

The title Open Wound in A Pool of Sharks was inspired by this experience I had on the subway one morning. This man was screaming on the phone on a silent morning commute across the Williamsburg bridge about how he beat up some man. He kept screaming, “I was a shark, I was a shark; I told my grandma I could beat his ass!”

I am not a native New Yorker but I have lived here for ten years. New York inspires me now but it used to intimidate me. This EP was written over the course of about four years, and I started working on it at a confusing point in my New York life. Moving here alone with a big dream competing for space in a city saturated with so many incredible artists can be overwhelming. Sometimes I felt like I was the open wound, and I was trying to swim safely to shore, cautious of the sharks you must encounter along the waynot all dangerous, but all on their own hunt.

I completely feel that! The careerism in New York where everyone’s vying to get ahead can get really exhaustingor turn you into a cynical person. Can you tell me more about this confusing point in your life that served as the starting point for the EP?

I moved to New York for the first time in 2004 to be in for a while, and he has supported me since day one. I didn’t want to release on a label I fit into or a label that I’d get lost in. Sweat Equity and Andrew Nerviano have been down and not asked me a lot of questions. They gave me time and space and that’s the best gift on a first release an artist can ask for.

Now that your first solo release is out, what else you got coming up?

I’m working on a ballet set to Chino Amobi’s “Airport Music for Black Folk,” debuting my new opera “Comeuppance” at Signal Gallery, and finishing my MFA at Bard! I’ve started demos for my full-length album and I want to creative direct for other artist more in 2017. I’m loving life and I’m so excited and humbled to be able to share my music with the world!

Open Wound in a Pool of Sharks is out October 25 on Sweat Equity

Follow Michelle Lhooq on Twitter

Baltimore’s Creative Community Still Looks To Queer Icon Miss Tony For Inspiration

Photos by Elliott Brown

During the first week of summer this year, Baltimore lost one of its most promising artists when beloved rapper, 23-year-old Lor Scoota, was gunned down after playing a charity basketball game focused on limiting violence in the cityan irony lost to no one. In 2014, Scoota released “Bird Flu,” a song about slinging drugs to rise above the poverty and bleakness commonly associated with Baltimore City. The song, which has a just-as-popular dance to go with it, attracted artists like Meek Mill, Diddy, The Game, Shy Glizzy, and more to collaborate with Scoota, generating a wave of interest in music from Baltimore that hadn’t been present since Baltimore club’s second wave in the mid-to-late 2000s.

Bmore club distinguished itself from offspring like Jersey and Philly club with its tendency to have fairly conventional song structures: a vocalist singing or spitting verses, often describing the glory and challenges of being molded in Baltimore City. Just as Scoota spearheaded the new wave of local street rap by being its most charismatic and impactful voice, eccentric hometown hero Miss Tony did the same for Baltimore club music in the late 80s and early 90s.

Miss Tony was a 6-foot, 300-pound queer icon you’d frequently see voguing through dancefloors, dressed in drag. Widely recognized as the first club music emcee, he’d often snatch the mic at a club to complement the DJ’s skills, threaten to take people’s men home, and shout out different neighborhoods (for a fee). His local legend is equally about music as it is identity. His songs like “Pull Ya Gunz Out?,” “How U Wanna Carry It?,” and “Living in the Alley” turned what started as DJs editing house records into proper tracks where he would talk about everything from being a social outcast, to the struggle of everyday life, to just wanting to party. Without Tony, there would have been no blueprint for some of Baltimore club’s most iconic songs like Rod Lee’s “Dance My Pain Away” or Blaqstarr’s “Rider Girl.”

Tony’s audacity to fully be himselfa gay man in drag talking about his sexuality in spaces where he may not have been fully acceptedthat has made him a hero to many. Yet when Baltimore locals discuss his music, Tony’s sexuality is never the primary focus. He wasn’t pigeonholed or marginalized for his lifestyle. If anything, he was the connector that the city needed to construct a booming nightlife scene that drew attention from cities along the East Coast. As Scottie B, legendary club DJ and co-founder of label Unruly Records, pointed out in the 2014 Baltimore club documentary, Baltimore Where You At?, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, if you didn’t have Tony talking shit and shouting out neighborhoods on the mic at your party, you hadn’t arrivedhis co-sign meant that your party was one that needed to be attended.

That colorful personality and ability to control a party’s tempo has immortalized Tony as a musical superstar, but also as a constant beacon of inspiration for young, queer and alternative artists coming out of the city. Even though Tony died in 2003 at age 37, today, people in Baltimore’s creative community still celebrate his self-acceptance, whether that was in a club, through song, or walking around West Baltimore. Over the summer, I talked to a handful of the city’s creatives from DJs, to business owners, and rappers to hear what memories people have and lessons they’ve learned from Tony.

Eze Jackson, 36, rapper:

I met him in middle school. My homegirl was from around his way, and I was around there one time walking around. He was sitting on the steps. She introduced me like, “Tony, this my boy Eze.” He may have been her cousin or uncle or something like that. So, he was like, “What’s up Eze, you cute.” That shit scared me. I was super homophobic. But, his energy was just so magnetic. Everybody that was around him was glad to be around him.

Through the years, with me just getting older and partying, I would see him out at The Paradox, and when he changed his life, it was funny because I remember one time he was at the club and somebody tried to say something about him going to Christ. They tried to call him out and he said the funniest shit. He just started going in about undercover dudes on the mic like, “Half of y’all I done fucked so don’t even come at me with that shit.” He was so bold and I think that kind of energy as an artist inspired me to just be myself. He’s one of the people that inspired me to just do me, no matter what it is. Don’t follow no trends or anybody else’s norms.

Mia Loving, 29, co-founder of Invisible Majority with husband, Baltimore club legend Blaqstarr

Growing up, we would see him around and everybody on 92Q was a local celebrity so anytime you saw somebody whose voice you heard, it was so exciting. As a kid, everybody like that is bigger than life to you, so I remember being in West Baltimore around Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, walking to the corner store and Miss Tony would walk in with a crazy hairstyle or a piece of track hanging off his hair. It was so amazing. It wasn’t like he was being made fun of but more like, he was this bigger than life person who was much different than what you were accustomed to.

We always talk about homophobia in the black community or the black church but if you go into the church, you’re gonna see gay people because that’s where some feel most comfortable. Even in the neighborhoods, it’s misunderstood. When you grow up in the hood, in comparison to more contrived areas like the suburbs, it doesn’t seem diverse but it’s more diverse because you have to accept people’s differences. Looking back on Baltimore Club and seeing how it was accepting to a lot of different people, even with its challenges, it shows a unique culture being birthed here. I’m sure Miss Tony went through a lot when it came to his sexuality in the scene but he transcended it at the same time. Miss Tony wasn’t anything to us. He was just a being. He got the party hype and that’s all that mattered. Every time we hear club music we say “Rest In Peace K-Swift,” but I don’t feel like Tony has gotten the same thing.

Kevin Brown, 56, cafe owner and former Baltimore Sun reporter:

He was a person who was inclusive that brought everybody together: black, white, straight, gay. They loved his music and his message. It was about inclusivity. I think Frank Ski got him on the radio because he was just playing at clubs like Fantasy and The Paradox. I can’t think of the other places. He was a club figure because he brought the gayness and he was flamboyant. I mean, the wig, the nails, the makeup, the hair. And he brazenly did it. It wasn’t like Ima be a drag queen, it was Ima be a draaaaag queen. He was larger than life in that sense. It was clear to me, and a lot of his followers, once he abandoned his outwardly gay and outwardly feminine demeanor, he went into the church. A lot of people really rebuked that action. It was like he was turning against a crowd that made him, adored him and revered him. He found God and something in his mind told him that he couldn’t dress like Miss Tony no more. So he stopped and then started to speak against people who did.

DJ Trillnatured, 27, DJ:

I don’t have any memorable stories, but I’ve always been really intrigued by Miss Tony ever since I started listening to club music, which was about 2001. At that point, I understood very little about gender, so it was wild hearing this presumable male voice calling himself Miss Tony. But still, the vocals, the energy, the queerness (before I knew I was queer) just kind of drew me in when I would hear Miss Tony’s tracks, usually in the weekend mixes on 92Q. Now that I’m very intentional about studying Baltimore club music and its history, Miss Tony’s story is probably the most meaningful. To be who he was, vogueing through hip-hop parties, the most hyper-masculine men rocking with his lyrics — that was crazy and it still is. Although I doubt Miss Tony ever used the word to describe himself, I do identify as queer, and visibly so. For me to be able to move in spaces where I supposedly don’t belong and capture all kinds of audiences, yet still be myself and present my gender the way I do, that kind of speaks to the power of the queer artist, and Miss Tony embodied that. When I play his tracks in the club, it just kind of feels right. Short of actually making club music, I feel most connected to it when I play Miss Tony tracks. I see myself; and I feel like I’ve been personally given permission to be that self.

DJ Juwan, 19, Baltimore club producer/DJ:

Funny story happened when I was about five or six years old. I remember sitting in the living room with my mom and sister, and listening to 92Q. The track “How You Wanna Carry It” came on. I remember hearing “Miss Tony said how you wanna carry it?” over and over. I swear for a few years straight I was saying, “Miss Tony said how you wanna CARROT.”

He influenced me as a producer/DJ because of his tracksI always loved the high energy house/club beats. When I would hear his voice on tracks, I already knew in my mind that this track is gonna be fire. All of his tracks would just get you moving, and when I was younger I told myself I wanted to make tracks like that, and to get people to dance like his tracks did.

Baltimore’s Creative Community Still Looks To Queer Icon Miss Tony For Inspiration

Photos by Elliott Brown

During the first week of summer this year, Baltimore lost one of its most promising artists when beloved rapper, 23-year-old Lor Scoota, was gunned down after playing a charity basketball game focused on limiting violence in the cityan irony lost to no one. In 2014, Scoota released “Bird Flu,” a song about slinging drugs to rise above the poverty and bleakness commonly associated with Baltimore City. The song, which has a just-as-popular dance to go with it, attracted artists like Meek Mill, Diddy, The Game, Shy Glizzy, and more to collaborate with Scoota, generating a wave of interest in music from Baltimore that hadn’t been present since Baltimore club’s second wave in the mid-to-late 2000s.

Bmore club distinguished itself from offspring like Jersey and Philly club with its tendency to have fairly conventional song structures: a vocalist singing or spitting verses, often describing the glory and challenges of being molded in Baltimore City. Just as Scoota spearheaded the new wave of local street rap by being its most charismatic and impactful voice, eccentric hometown hero Miss Tony did the same for Baltimore club music in the late 80s and early 90s.

Miss Tony was a 6-foot, 300-pound queer icon you’d frequently see voguing through dancefloors, dressed in drag. Widely recognized as the first club music emcee, he’d often snatch the mic at a club to complement the DJ’s skills, threaten to take people’s men home, and shout out different neighborhoods (for a fee). His local legend is equally about music as it is identity. His songs like “Pull Ya Gunz Out?,” “How U Wanna Carry It?,” and “Living in the Alley” turned what started as DJs editing house records into proper tracks where he would talk about everything from being a social outcast, to the struggle of everyday life, to just wanting to party. Without Tony, there would have been no blueprint for some of Baltimore club’s most iconic songs like Rod Lee’s “Dance My Pain Away” or Blaqstarr’s “Rider Girl.”

Tony’s audacity to fully be himselfa gay man in drag talking about his sexuality in spaces where he may not have been fully acceptedthat has made him a hero to many. Yet when Baltimore locals discuss his music, Tony’s sexuality is never the primary focus. He wasn’t pigeonholed or marginalized for his lifestyle. If anything, he was the connector that the city needed to construct a booming nightlife scene that drew attention from cities along the East Coast. As Scottie B, legendary club DJ and co-founder of label Unruly Records, pointed out in the 2014 Baltimore club documentary, Baltimore Where You At?, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, if you didn’t have Tony talking shit and shouting out neighborhoods on the mic at your party, you hadn’t arrivedhis co-sign meant that your party was one that needed to be attended.

That colorful personality and ability to control a party’s tempo has immortalized Tony as a musical superstar, but also as a constant beacon of inspiration for young, queer and alternative artists coming out of the city. Even though Tony died in 2003 at age 37, today, people in Baltimore’s creative community still celebrate his self-acceptance, whether that was in a club, through song, or walking around West Baltimore. Over the summer, I talked to a handful of the city’s creatives from DJs, to business owners, and rappers to hear what memories people have and lessons they’ve learned from Tony.

Eze Jackson, 36, rapper:

I met him in middle school. My homegirl was from around his way, and I was around there one time walking around. He was sitting on the steps. She introduced me like, “Tony, this my boy Eze.” He may have been her cousin or uncle or something like that. So, he was like, “What’s up Eze, you cute.” That shit scared me. I was super homophobic. But, his energy was just so magnetic. Everybody that was around him was glad to be around him.

Through the years, with me just getting older and partying, I would see him out at The Paradox, and when he changed his life, it was funny because I remember one time he was at the club and somebody tried to say something about him going to Christ. They tried to call him out and he said the funniest shit. He just started going in about undercover dudes on the mic like, “Half of y’all I done fucked so don’t even come at me with that shit.” He was so bold and I think that kind of energy as an artist inspired me to just be myself. He’s one of the people that inspired me to just do me, no matter what it is. Don’t follow no trends or anybody else’s norms.

Mia Loving, 29, community organizer and wife of Baltimore Club legend Blaqstarr:

Growing up, we would see him around and everybody on 92Q was a local celebrity so anytime you saw somebody whose voice you heard, it was so exciting. As a kid, everybody like that is bigger than life to you, so I remember being in West Baltimore around Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, walking to the corner store and Miss Tony would walk in with a crazy hairstyle or a piece of track hanging off his hair. It was so amazing. It wasn’t like he was being made fun of but more like, he was this bigger than life person who was much different than what you were accustomed to.

We always talk about homophobia in the black community or the black church but if you go into the church, you’re gonna see gay people because that’s where some feel most comfortable. Even in the neighborhoods, it’s misunderstood. When you grow up in the hood, in comparison to more contrived areas like the suburbs, it doesn’t seem diverse but it’s more diverse because you have to accept people’s differences. Looking back on Baltimore Club and seeing how it was accepting to a lot of different people, even with its challenges, it shows a unique culture being birthed here. I’m sure Miss Tony went through a lot when it came to his sexuality in the scene but he transcended it at the same time. Miss Tony wasn’t anything to us. He was just a being. He got the party hype and that’s all that mattered. Every time we hear club music we say “Rest In Peace K-Swift,” but I don’t feel like Tony has gotten the same thing.

Kevin Brown, 56, cafe owner and former Baltimore Sun reporter:

He was a person who was inclusive that brought everybody together: black, white, straight, gay. They loved his music and his message. It was about inclusivity. I think Frank Ski got him on the radio because he was just playing at clubs like Fantasy and The Paradox. I can’t think of the other places. He was a club figure because he brought the gayness and he was flamboyant. I mean, the wig, the nails, the makeup, the hair. And he brazenly did it. It wasn’t like Ima be a drag queen, it was Ima be a draaaaag queen. He was larger than life in that sense. It was clear to me, and a lot of his followers, once he abandoned his outwardly gay and outwardly feminine demeanor, he went into the church. A lot of people really rebuked that action. It was like he was turning against a crowd that made him, adored him and revered him. He found God and something in his mind told him that he couldn’t dress like Miss Tony no more. So he stopped and then started to speak against people who did.

DJ Trillnatured, 27, DJ:

I don’t have any memorable stories, but I’ve always been really intrigued by Miss Tony ever since I started listening to club music, which was about 2001. At that point, I understood very little about gender, so it was wild hearing this presumable male voice calling himself Miss Tony. But still, the vocals, the energy, the queerness (before I knew I was queer) just kind of drew me in when I would hear Miss Tony’s tracks, usually in the weekend mixes on 92Q. Now that I’m very intentional about studying Baltimore club music and its history, Miss Tony’s story is probably the most meaningful. To be who he was, vogueing through hip-hop parties, the most hyper-masculine men rocking with his lyrics — that was crazy and it still is. Although I doubt Miss Tony ever used the word to describe himself, I do identify as queer, and visibly so. For me to be able to move in spaces where I supposedly don’t belong and capture all kinds of audiences, yet still be myself and present my gender the way I do, that kind of speaks to the power of the queer artist, and Miss Tony embodied that. When I play his tracks in the club, it just kind of feels right. Short of actually making club music, I feel most connected to it when I play Miss Tony tracks. I see myself; and I feel like I’ve been personally given permission to be that self.

DJ Juwan, 19, Baltimore club producer/DJ:

Funny story happened when I was about five or six years old. I remember sitting in the living room with my mom and sister, and listening to 92Q. The track “How You Wanna Carry It” came on. I remember hearing “Miss Tony said how you wanna carry it?” over and over. I swear for a few years straight I was saying, “Miss Tony said how you wanna CARROT.”

He influenced me as a producer/DJ because of his tracksI always loved the high energy house/club style beats. When I would hear his voice on tracks, I already knew in my mind that this track is gonna be fire. All of his tracks would just get you moving, and when I was younger I told myself I wanted to make tracks like that, and to get people to dance like his tracks did.