Swarmy bod-to-bod clubs are good for making you feel like a piece of meat. But what if you don’t want to be the beef?
Go with the alternative – underground queer parties that give gays a new cutting-edge outlet that’s decidedly different, losing the oversexualized pressure and the labels. Don’t call it gay. Just gayer.
“Let’s be real: This is the future of gay bars,” says the spokesperson and writer for Super Gay Detroit (who wishes to remain anonymous), a site that often riffs on – and rips at – local gay bars and regularly blogs about these alternative outings. “It’s not like we don’t want to listen to Madonna, but we don’t necessarily want to listen to Madonna sequestered away from all our other friends.”
There’s no exclusivity going on here. Everyone’s invited. And everyone comes – a melting pot that you’d expect from a moddish, anything-goes New York City hot spot. The Guerillas, a gay group who crash straight bars, were the pioneers of this strategic tactic, thus becoming controversial for abandoning the traditional gay scene. To those partiers, it felt fresh, invigorating and even hopeful. Here they were – a bunch of gays – co-mingling with a bunch of straights. Holding hands. Kissing. Being themselves.
More options have surfaced: Doggie Style at the Park Bar every Tuesday, Latitude at Atlas Global Bistro on Wednesdays and Fierce Hot Mess on the first Friday of each month at Oslo, a Detroit sushi restaurant. All attract a sophisticated, laid-back bunch – from students to working professionals.
Macho City, held every fourth Saturday at Detroit’s leather digs R&R Saloon, swaps all gay-bar ubiquitous Top-40 for disco and relives what DJ Mike Trombley calls “a more progressive era” when clubs in New York City and Chicago were “breaking the rules on a nightly basis.” Sometimes there’s a core crowd; other times a lot of stragglers. Earlier this year, a similar scene broke into Ypsilanti, where the Elbow Room holds an alt-hipster night called Elbow Deep on the last Tuesday of every month.
“If you talk about gay culture in Detroit, we’re actually adding value to it because it’s not just about going to the same old place and everyone acting like we’re on the set of ‘Queer as Folk,'” says Adriel Fantastique, who heads Fierce Hot Mess. “This is about providing the same types of things that we see in other major cities.”
Cities like L.A., Chicago and New York, where there’s the Madonna-playing, horny hotness of a sweaty gay club, but also a substitute – a chill, sophisticated sit-down-and-talk foodie venue for anyone and everyone. The selection for the latter – at least in the gay scene – is slim in Detroit. Gay and straight venues are still being labeled, but this underground scene is trying to change that. It’s geared toward a mixed mingling of people who don’t want to wander awkwardly through a bar, attract lingering eyes or see the same dude who thinks he’s hot stuff dancing in his skivvies. Again.
“It’s not designed to be a pick-up scene,” says Supergay Detroit’s blogger. “It’s really more about creating visibility for the gay community that lives downtown.”
Supergay’s spokesperson blames some of it on the local gay bars, calling most of them unnecessary, out-of-touch establishments that rely on old crowds to keep them in business.
“What we’re doing isn’t a front to traditional gay culture,” adds Fantastique. “It’s an addition to it. It’s important for the healthy functioning of a culture. If we can do our part to provide another cultural offering that helps in retaining people in the region, it helps in how people self-view it. It changes the conversation from, ‘God, there’s nothing for me to do’ to ‘there’s something for me to do.'”
They’re not here – and queer – to steal business from gay clubs. Fusses like the one OutPost had with the Guerillas, when the local gay-club rag decided to dog their efforts, shouldn’t even exist, says Fantastique. “The people that are coming to our events may on occasion go to other places, but the reality is that the people that we’re attracting aren’t going to these places anyway.”
So they go to events like Fierce Hot Mess, which is meant to be empowering despite any negative connotations attached to its name and boasts a grab-bag of music, presenting something crisp, contemporary and not always rainbow-gay for each party. Latitude’s more lounge-y, serving midnight munchies and snazzy cocktails in a chic atmosphere. And, in fact, it wasn’t even Atlas’s idea. Gay patrons hijacked Wednesday nights, regularly hanging out like it was their night. Eventually, it was. The Bistro decided to brand it.
“A lot of the clientele really appreciate it because it’s not a noisy, smoky club,” says manager Scott Masters. “It’s a little bit more refined. People don’t want this high-pressure meat-market feel. They want to go out and hang out with their friends and people with similar interests.”
Other than sex and Lady Gaga.