Thursday, February 22, 2007

Death to Disco

Death to Disco. If there is any trend in contemporary gay culture that I wish would dry up and blow away, it's the resurrection of the moldering corpse of disco. Look at the biggest alternative parties in the city, like Bus Station John's The Rod, and you'll see that shambling vampire sucking the life out of any spark of originality in the gay club scene. For the DJs who spin it, it's emblematic of a nostalgic age when being gay was fabulous and crazy and everybody was into the party-party lifestyle, or, in other words, t's emblematic of gay culture before AIDS, when you could go into any bath-house and get laid and not worry about the consequences - because we all know that's the height of gay club culture.

Death to disco; it makes the past seem like the only time when it was fun to be gay, when parties could be sexy, when we exercised some creative power in the world. Disco is existential bad faith.

Death to disco; it holds us back from being anything except caricatures, freezing our cultural identities in an era when most of us didn't even know we were gay yet. Is this the reason we so willingly embrace it, because it holds out a ghost to us as something real and substantial, a way to think about ourselves when we've become too lazy to create anything new?

Death to disco; it makes for lazy DJs, ones who don't have to think about what they're playing because it's all already been vetted for them, ones who think they can bypass essential skills because that's how they did it "back then," ones who are more focused on the rarities in their collections than trying to uncover something new and interesting. Show me a DJ who only plays disco, and I'll show you a DJ who really isn't trying.

Death to disco; dancers aren't reacting to the music, they're reacting to their own associations to it. Spin a track that no one's ever heard, that has no lyrics, and if they dance, it's because something in the music itself moves them. Spin a disco track and they're dancing because they've been conditioned to do so, dancing that becomes the embodiment of camp irony rather than real emotion.

Death to disco; the gay dance scene will never go anywhere until DJs start taking chances and playing contemporary music, engaging in the real work of digging through what's out there and finding ways to use it to bring a dancefloor together. The mission of the gay club DJ should be to find what exists in contemporary culture and dance music, think about how it can relate to a gay sensibility, and then put it all together in a coherent vision of a gay club experience. Which, when you think about it, is what gay DJs in the 1970s and 80s were doing, not rehashing something that had already been digested for them. Do we want pre-digested baby food, or do we want to cook for ourselves?

Death to Disco; we need a new, joyous, ecstatic, utopian vision for ourselves, not a threadworn hand-me-down. Drive the stake through the heart of the disco vampire, it only sucks away our psychic energy.

Death to disco, death to disco, death to disco.

2 comments:

Sylvester said...

Um, did disco kill your parents or something? The disco revival scene in NYC is smoking hot. And fyi, a sweeping judgement of any musical genre is ill-advised. It makes you seem, er, like a narrow-minded simpleton?

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

If you have a response to the points I make, please put it forward; I don't think that calling me a "narrow-minded simpleton" really counts. And just because a scene is hot, doesn't mean it's good, or that it's not a manifestation of the things that I think are problematic about the disco revival in the gay scene in San Francisco.