Saturday, July 26, 2008

Event Review: Fuck Shit, Let's Dance! at Deco Lounge

Friday's turnout for FSLD was frankly disappointing, and as a result August will be the last installment, at least at Deco. We're a bit bummed about it, as you might expect, but also fairly sanguine, since even if this experiment didn't play out quite as expected, we did have fun with it and learned some things for our next venture.

I think we had a number of factors working against us this month, not the least of which was being forced out of what would have certainly been our best night, Pride Friday, last month. Had we had access to Deco on that date I think we could have had a very successful event that would have helped us attract a larger following. Instead, we essentially had to start up all over again after a two month break. My being out of town for a week after Pride also threw off our usual promotional schedule, then, this week I got laid up with a serious case of strep throat, so I didn't have the resources to dedicate to promoting the way I would have liked. This was also the first month we went without a headliner.

This isn't to say that we didn't have some fun this time; I particularly enjoyed watching two men in their mid-40s quasi slam dancing to Hearthrob's "Futures Past," which I can guarantee has never happened in a gay bar before. We also had a good turnout of friends and several groups of very cute alternaguys. When we talked to one group as they were leaving they told us that they thought the music was excellent and we should keep doing it, which was certainly encouraging in contrast with the older fellow who got into a long discussion with Lord Kook about how he should "make compromises" and "play some older stuff that people like to to dance to" if he wanted to be a successful DJ who got flown to New York and paid $5000 a gig. Lord Kook's response was that he would be perfectly happy to be flown to New York, sleep on somebody's couch, play for three hundred people, and have *no* expenses paid without having to compromise on his music.

I think that contrast, between the small group of younger guys who seemed to dig what we were trying to do, and the older guy who wanted us to cater to popular taste despite whatever our own aesthetic might be, sums up the whole FSLD experience for me so far. Our focus has always been contrarian, an insistence on our own aesthetic, and on presenting what we think is the most interesting and fun dance music beyond anything else. If we had played the usual fare, and gone for the usual gimmicks - baby oil wrestling and Abba, anyone? - we probably would have been a lot more popular because that's what people want and expect. As it was we did, every time, attract the kind of people we wanted to engage with, but we were never able to make the transition into being a consistent scene.

We certainly made some miscalculations and missteps along the way, and there have definitely been times when I've wondered about the effect of the opinions expressed in this blog on our status within "the scene". At the same time we also expected more support from certain quarters, but now we also have a better sense of who is really into our aesthetic and what we're trying to do, and where to focus our energies and creative engagements in the future

Just because we'll be leaving Deco in August doesn't mean we'll be leaving the scene; on the contrary, this experience has only emboldened me to be even more contrary, and to keep cultivating our small patch of the scene. I still believe in techno as some of the most interesting , fun, sexy music being produced today, and that it can serve as the foundation for nights of wild hedonism. I still believe that Lord Kook is one of the best young DJs on the scene and deserves a much wider audience. I still believe that there is a market for a dance night that strips away the shit and gets down to the heart of the matter, which is boozing, cruising, having fun with your friends, and dancing. And I completely believe that we will keep trying, again and again, until it all comes together. If you believe any of these things, come out to Deco with us on August 22nd, we'll do our best to show you a good time and lay the groundwork for the future.

FSLD August :: Your last chance to hear us for the first time!

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whatever you do, lose the cover! The bar should pay you, not the patrons.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Uh, unfortunately, that's not the way it works, or has ever worked. There are usually only two options: charge a cover, or get paid a percentage of the bar. The risk you run with the second option is that there's usually a bar minimum, and if you don't hit that minimum, you don't get paid. The only time a club will pay you directly is if you are an official in-house promoter, which is a very rare gig indeed.

Anonymous said...

Paying a cover just to enter a bar is ridiculous. The drinks at Deco are expensive enough as it is.

SeanF said...

ah yes, the eternal debate about popularity versus artistic integrity. Hmmm, well my feeling is that as soon as you decide to have money be a part of the equation, there's a fine balance between giving ppl what they want versus presenting your artistic vision. Getting the mix down is crucial and insisting on purity can kill things. Of couse, how do you ever know "what people want"? =)

p.s. there's never anything wrong with boys wrestling in baby oil!

Anonymous said...

What you're trying to accomplish would be more appropriate at house parties than at bars. Just showing up at a bar and playing whatever you like is not enough. You give nothing back to the people, yet have the audacity to force them to pay you. Cover was insulting.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Well, we always advertised exactly what we would be doing every night, who would be playing, etc., so I assumed that folks who came did so because they wanted to hear what we were doing. I take issue with the idea that we were "forcing" anything on anyone, insofar as that's pretty much what happens at any bar. DJs play what they want, and if, as a patron, aren't into it, then you take your patronage elsewhere - I don't go to bars that play music I don't like, and I know pretty well what to expect from most DJs I see on a line-up.

I don't see how asking people to pay a cover is "insulting;" we have expenses to cover, like paying for flyers and posters, and music too, and when we had guest DJs we had to pay them for their time. Every other bar night at Deco charges a cover, as do most bars in the Castro, plus we always advertised that you could get in for free before 10PM.

We saw ourselves as trying to introduce a different musical sensibility to the gay scene, one that got away from nostalgia and empty pop, one that tried for a slightly more sophisticated sound and that attempted to show the different ranges of music being DJed and produced by others around the scene. We thought that would attract a different sort of crowd who was into that, and it did, it just wasn't as large, or consistent, a crowd as we wanted. I don't know what else you would have us do, other than to reiterate what everyone else does, and apparently do it for free.

SeanF said...

uh, lord kook: I never said anything about "fleecing people" so get it right, please. Fuck, i was trying to be supportive. I'd say get over being so defensive or this'll get real boring real quick.

and all the talk of artistic vision comes from the author of this blog.

Lord Kook said...

Lord Kook here, the other half of FSLD. Feel like I need to speak up over some of this...

@ seanf :: Charging people 5$ to cover our expenses for the night is not fleecing them. You make it sound like anyone that might present something new and different should do it for free. Does that mean no one should be charged to go to the MOMA because there might be some art there they don't like? Art and commerce are not mutually exclusive, and throwing a club night isn’t cheap.

As for "getting a mix down", or avoiding "purity" because it can "kill things"... go to Kontrol @ the End Up and tell them to drop some Jackson 5 in because the dance floor isn't hot enough. Better yet, go to Berlin and watch thousands of people go ape-shit for alien techno music half of SF hasn't even heard of yet. It's all about set and setting, and what it *really* comes down to is Deco wasn't our setting, and we obviously haven't teamed up with the right set.

And Jesus, come on, all this talk of artistic vision... this is still dance music. This isn't some reincarnation of Stravinsky we're dropping on you people. This stuff is made to make you shake your ass, albeit in a slightly different way than most other stuff getting played out there right now.

@ anonymous (the last one) :: yeah, I actually agree with you about the house party idea. We’ve come to realize bar culture is, for the most part, incredibly commercial and rigidly dependent on a very specific set of things to make a night successful. The author of this blog and I have long rallied against these signifiers, and it shows in how we presented ourselves @ FSLD. We were, without getting too heady, interested in deconstructing the blatant, boring club paradigms that seem so prevalent, and distilling things down to what we were most interested in. Predominantly, this was music, but above all we wanted people to have a good time. We struggled with the concept of our night and what we could do to make people more comfortable, but the one thing we would not compromise on was what we played. Turns out that our music is probably better suited to undergrounds, house parties, Pink Saturday, Love Parade, Burning Man, and nights like Kontrol at the End Up. There’s a lot of people at all those places that feel what we do, and what techno does, gives them plenty. You should have seen people go off when we dropped our shit at Pink Saturday.

We give lots back to the people that are either tuned to our wavelength or like stepping out of their bounds and moving their asses. You give us nothing with your poorly thought out comment, and have the audacity to do it anonymously. Cheers to that. Putting yourself out there is neither easy nor 100% fun when you’re not solid on what your scene is, but at least we did it with our names on the posters for everyone to see.

Lord Kook said...

@ seanf

Sorry, I accidentally lumped responses to the other two anons into yours. You’re right; you never said anything about the cover. My apologies.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Sean, I believe LK was looking at another comment, rather than yours. When these threads get long it's easy to confuse comments.

As for "artistic vision," well, yeah, I do believe that anybody who does a club night has some vision of what they're trying to do, that's why they're doing it. But LK is right, it's not like we're doing anything as crazy as trying to lay the Rite of Spring on people, we just wanted to play music we really like and that we believe is interesting and fun to dance to. I often think part of the problem is that, the minute you say "techno," people leap to conclusions about it being difficult music or too abstract or something like that. Really, it's all still dance music, just, as LK said, of a different sort than the overproduced diva pop you usually hear in gay bars.

Sure, we get a little defensive about this because it's important to us, and because it seems like people are often responding not to what we're doing, but to some cockeyed idea of what "techno" is. Plus, if you read the comments here (which I think are mostly the product of one person, but it's hard to say when they're all anonymous), I think they'd make anyone feel a little defensive. We're not doing anything beyond what promoters have done for years, it's just that when you get into the world of gay bars and clubs, there's a whole different set of rules for the game, and because we're gone against those rules, some folks seem to think that means we're doing something wrong. If I or LK feel the need to defend ourselves, it's only because there's a feeling that we're being attacked, by anonymous, by the guy who came to FSLD, for trying to do something that might be a little challenging to some but is pretty common, and accepted, elsewhere.

SeanF said...

ok guys, fair enough. The "why are you guys charging a cover" comments are ridiculous. Here's my review of FSLD: I went a couple months ago, I loved the music, was totally into it. Finally, something different that you could get lost in. Such a relief to hear something other than the gay anthem play list. My two friends liked it but after an hour got bored and missed the gay anthems so we went to the Cafe.

But I think the real problem was, it didn't feel like enough of a scene cuz of low turnout. I don't know if that's the fault of the venue, that most ppl really do just want pop music, or what? It's probably just a chicken/egg situation, where it hasn't reached that tipping point where everything falls into place.

Maybe these are my L.A. roots showing, but I'd want a bigger room than Deco so maybe not doing it there is a good thing ultimately. Anyway, will check out the last installment in August and say "hi" if i can find you!

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

I think you put your finger dead on it, Sean - we never got that "scene" feeling because we never got the right number of people in that space at the same time. We actually managed to turn anywhere from 90 - 120 people at every event (except this last one), and we even got repeat customers, but it never hit that critical mass that you need for the scene energy to materialize.

I have a lot of ideas as to why we never got there - I think some of it was the location (we had to convince people to go someplace unfamiliar), some of it was the music (asking people to get into something other than what they typically expect), and some of it was the advertising - I absolutely have no doubt that guys on the flyers and a go-go boy on a box would have drawn in at least a larger random crowd. I also think we made a couple missteps - if we'd gone with the "faggot techno" idea right out of the box and stayed with it, I think we would have done a better job of creating a consistent vibe. As it was we were all over the place, and some folks who came out expecting one thing got another and didn't come back.

So this was a really big learning experience for us, and, as I said, we'll be back. I would like to find a better venue that's more familiar to folks, and to make it clear right up front that this night is about a specific kind of music. If we do that, I think we'll do better at creating a consistent vibe. The question of whether or not there's a large enough market, though, to make it a really active club night is something I don't think we can adequately answer at this point. I think it's possible, but given the current market, and what people are going for, even with nights that are musically focused, makes me think we might be better doing a fag-friendly techno night rather than a fag night where we play techno.

Lord Kook said...

@ seanf

You're totally right. We can play the best music in the world, and if there's not enough people to make it feel like a party, it's still playing to an empty room, and the people that are there are gonna feel uncomfortable, like they've gone to the wrong place. They might even feel like they got cheated, especially if they had to pay a cover.

zenosf said...

Hi guys. I thought you guys were doing a great job. it's tough starting a new venture, and takes time to attract the sort of people interested in what you're doing. Don’t give up: I believe in what you are doing.



One particular night does not make a trend and might not signify anything more than a slow night. For me, I had to work the next day and had already had a very exhausting week. So going out was out of the question. I’ve noticed similar patterns. Some nights, no matter how ready I am to party, the vibe’s just not cooperating.



That being said, I have rather unusual tastes in music, men, reading material, and thought patterns. I’ve never in my life been able to talk about Heidegger or the Fibonacci sequence at a bar, and yet that happened at your party at Deco. When a people gather themselves together, things can happen, conversations can arise, music can be listened to. And it is the music that makes me want to go out. Seriously. I do think I might be alone in this, but I select places to go based on the music. I don’t want to hear what I could hear on the radio. I want to hear a music connoisseur ply his (or her) craft and show me something I haven’t heard before, or help me listen to it in a new way. I’ve heard songs at FSLD that I never thought people even new about, and you guys have introduced me to artists that I didn’t know about before. You probably know how exciting it is to hear a DJ play a favorite song, I mean a really favorite song, one you think no one else knows about. It’s not just about validating my own musical taste, it’s about getting the music out there, getting other people to hear the same great music. Musical discovery – and adventure – is the driving force here. But that’s me. And your blog reinforces this opinion I have, that going out should be about the music, about the community, about stripping away those masks that divide more than they unite.



And this is precisely what makes your mission so vital for San Francisco. We are a world-class city. We are big enough to have room for all musical tastes. DJs, for better or worse, promote a certain musical vision. They encourage musical consumption. They can make you dance. They can make you walk out of a club too.



The debate over cover charges is a straw man argument. I’ve never chaffed at cover charges. I’d rather pay a cover and show up when I want to. There are times when a cover becomes a huge factor, but then the party had better be worth it or the clubbers will be really pissed. Cover charges are just one way for me to direct my dollars to where I think they should go. (And believe me there are plenty of places where I do not want my dollars to go.)



There are some comments about this particular venue, Deco. I happen to like Deco. It’s not in the Castro. It’s not too far from BART and MUNI. It’s close to the best all-night doughnut factory in San Francisco. It’s open late. And it has lots of interesting rooms. It kind of reminds me of an Alice in Wonderland type of house. You can wander around and find a place to hang out. I’ve had lots of fun in Deco at various parties, and I expect this will continue to be a great place that stays just a little off the main drag, so to speak.



Since you want the party to be musically focused, there could be something to say about other music-centric parties that happen frequently. What comes to my mind is Popscene, which rotates DJ sets with various live acts of up & coming artists. I’m sure there are other music-centric parties too, well TransAm comes to mind. The point is that I think there’s plenty of room for more music-focused parties, which will help people connect on a musical level, and that (at least in my experience) is a better facilitator for connecting on a social level as well.



That’s my two cents, from my perspective as part of the audience you have attracted and who believes we need more DJs doing what you are trying to do: deconstruction and all.

Anonymous said...

Sick is free. Charlie Horse is free and includes a show. The End Up is free until Midnight, and numerous other bars are free. Free before 10pm means nothing. The whole world is free before 10pm and no one shows up until after 11pm anyway, even in SF. We're not buying it.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

And as I have pointed out before, those bars likely have different arrangements with the promoters for taking a percentage of the bar. Our arrangement with Deco, which is their standard, is that we only get a percentage of the bar once the bar makes a certain amount of money. In the case of the past three months, we did not hit that minimum, thus, if we hadn't charged a cover, we would have had three events in a row in which we would not have even made enough to cover our expenses, and even in the months where we have hit the minimum, it wasn't enough to pay those expenses plus the guest DJs. As it is, that's really all we take home, enough to cover the costs of flyers, posters, and getting new music. In the past I've also had to pay to rent a car to transport our equipment, since Deco didn't have CD players or a mixer that was suitable to DJing. In addition, when we've had guest DJs, we've had to pay them for their time. How do you suggest that we meet these expenses without charging a cover if we can't rely on making the bar minimum, or when our percentage of the bar doesn't come anywhere near meeting those expenses? That's what lets anybody who promotes at The End Up have free admission before 11; it's the fucking Endup, for god's sake, you know that you're going to have several hundred people through there in the course of the night, and there's no question of being able to make your expenses for the night.

So what do you want? Do you expect us to do this for free? Do you think DJs and promoters shouldn't make some money for what they do, even if it's just covering their expenses? It's a pipe dream to think that the bars are ever going to straight out pay promoters and DJs, because that's not the way the industry works. I'm willing to bet that if you asked Anna Conda, and she was willing to tell you, they probably walk out of there with 10-20% of the bar tab, with no minimum, plus they have almost no expenses. Same with Sick; they just want to get people in the bar and drink, so I'm sure there's a different deal.

If you don't want to pay a cover, then don't come; but if you want to help support what we're doing, I think $5 once a month is no big deal.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Oh, I would point out that we didn't charge cover until after 11 this past time, and we won't be charging a cover for our last one next month because we want it to be more like a party for our friends.

Lord Kook said...

@ anonymous (with the cover charge issue) :

our august FSLD is completely free. our days of charging a cover for the night are done, as is the night itself. happy?

and hey, to show what nice guys we are, here's what i'll do. email me your paypal email to lordkook (at) gmail (dot) com and i will personally refund whatever cover you and your friends payed to get into our shitty club. then you can walk away vindicated and we can hopefully kill this nonsense argument once and for all.

sheesh.