Sunday, January 30, 2011

Event Review: Elektroschock at Grand Central (Baltimore)

This was one of those weekends when none of my social plans managed to come together; my Friday night bootie call got sick, and I wasn't able to get in touch with the guys who I wanted to have over for a movie night on Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon. So, faced with the prospect of another night holed up in the apartment playing video games (Fallout: New Vegas, if you really want to know), I decided to check out Elektroschock, a goth/industrial night at Grand Central, the "disco" that's about a half block from my apartment in Baltimore. It was fun to get in touch with my industrial roots once again, and the $2.50 Jack and cokes until 11 AM put me in a convivial mood, but, like many nights out I've had in Baltimore, Elektroschock felt more like I was sneaking into someone's private party, full of their friends, than going out to a club.

The disco at Grand Central is a good space, with a horseshoe-shaped main bar, and a spacious dancefloor with another bar in the back (though for this party it remained unstaffed). The intelligent lighting system threw biohazard symbols around on the floor and walls, but the overall space was suitably dark - it would have been nice to have had some visuals on the flatscreen that hovered above the back of the main bar, but this crowd was more interested in socializing than watching a TV, something that should commend the night as already being an improvement over the typical sports-on-TV experience of most Baltimore bars. I can't quite figure out how Grand Central competes against "the" Baltimore gay dance space, The Hippo, which is on the opposite corner of Charles Street, but I think it's because it presents a more intimate, and honestly comfortable, space than the Hippo, despite the latter's far more elaborate sound and light system. There's no sitting at the bar in the Hippo dance space, and a crowd this size, probably no more than a hundred or so at the peak, would seem rather sparse in the Hippo. Overall Grand Central presents a much better space for a small crowd, most of whom seemed to already be on a first-name basis with each other, to just hang out and make an occasional move toward the dancefloor.

It's been a long time, probably a decade, since I've been to an industrial night, though I was seriously involved with that scene in Atlanta in the 90s. I was so involved, in fact, that I got a bit tired of the scene, and what seemed like an endless rehash of the same tracks over and over again. One of the best things about Elektroschock was that I couldn't name a single track that played in the two hours or so that I was there. The DJ was taking requests, which resulted in some odd juxtapositions, and it was easy enough to recognize the genre markers in various tracks - heavy stomp beats perfect for clomping around the dancefloor in combat boots, wistful lyrics sung in German backed by shimmering synth pop for twirling around in a skirt - but what really struck me was the was the heavy influence of trance, from the tempo of the tracks to swirling arpeggation to lyrics like "A-B-C, D-M-T, M-D-A." It made for a much more European sound than what I had expected, having always associated industrial with guitar-driven bands like Ministry and even KMFDM. Clearly the current crop of industrial producers have been spending some time listening, and probably dancing, to influences from other electronic genres. In talking to one local industrial kid this past week I was surprised to hear him name Juno Reactor as a band he was really into, so now my curiousity is piqued to hear more of what's being produced in the industrial scene these days. (You can check out setlists from previous nights by hitting the link above.)

When I used to go out a-gothing in Atlanta, it was to a club night, Pandora's Box, where I knew the promoter and almost everyone else who showed up. It was small, tight (some might say incestuous) scene, and it was more like our weekly social get together than a club night. Much the same vibe prevailed at Elektroschock; I briefly talked with a guy who had just moved here from Philadelphia who wanted to know about other nights, so I steered him toward The Depot, but, so far as I know, Elektroschock is the only regular goth/industrial night in Baltimore, and I got the sense that the folks who showed up are much like that group I knew in Atlanta - there were lots of excited greetings as people made their way into the club, and lots of clustering in groups around the bar and to the side of the dancefloor. Everyone seemed friendly enough, and if I had been feeling more outgoing I might have made some further conversation, but, like most of my experiences in going out in Baltimore, I couldn't get over the feeling that I was crashing someone's private party full of their friends. I did enjoy the many variations in industrial fashion and watching the dancefloor, and even found myself nodding along to the beat, though I never felt it really move down into my feet. I don't stomp so much as shuffle these days, to be honest.

Elektroschock happens on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays of the month at Grand Central, and, at $6, the cover seems a little heavy to me, but between 9 and 11PM all drinks are $2.50. If you're into dressing in black and raging against the machine every now and then, then it's a great Saturday night destination.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Burning Man on Market Street?

From Hank Drew at the San Francisco Public Press comes word that the Burning Man Arts Organization is considering a move from its HQ in China Basin to the Warfield Theater building at 6th and Market:
The group that builds a temporary city of more than 40,000 creative vagabonds at the end of each summer is in talks to move into the nine-story early 20th century Warfield Building, at Market Street where Taylor and Sixth streets converge
As I've said many times in the past, Burning Man, as both an organization and event, contributes more to the life of The City than most people realize. If you've ever been involved with a camp, large or small, you know how that kind of cooperative undertaking brings together a very diverse group of people, and creates a bond between them, and other participants, that goes well beyond those few days in August. Bringing the organization to mid-Market would not only provide some potential relief for the blight in that area, but would also make a statement about the values and ideas that are at the literal heart of San Francisco's civic life, and would be an acknowledgment of Burning Man's role in promoting them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hey Bitches, I'm Back!

Okay, well, I'm not back *in* San Francisco just yet, but yeah, this summer, look for the return of the Jaded Gay DJ and SFScene. After a year and a half in Baltimore, and lots of personal upheaval (for example, the Boyfriend is now the Ex), I've decided to make the "bold" (as one of my colleagues put, it though "foolish" might be the better adjective) move of resigning a tenure-track job to come back to Sodom by the Bay for - well, I'm not sure yet, but I'm looking forward to the chance to find out.

Why, you might ask, would I do such a thing? Because on New Year's Day in San Francisco, in the middle of the dancefloor at Cafe Cocomo for the Stompy/Sunset party, dancing for the first time in months, hanging out with my friends, I realized that San Francisco is home, and no job, no matter how long one has worked to obtain it, is worth it if it takes you to place where all you feel when you're not working is boredom and loneliness. There are people who really dig Baltimore, and some who I expect thrive here, but it's not for me - weighed against the sensibility of staying in a stable job where, in three years, I'll have tenure, there is the fact that this is the first place I've ever lived where I considered going on anti-depressants. I can see the path before me in Baltimore pretty well, and I've seen where it's lead some of my colleagues, which is into a secure, stable, isolated, bitter existence. It's also clear to me that if I ever want a real opportunity to fall in love again, rather than just hoping that some accident of fate will bring it my way by means of Manhunt, I need to be in a place where I can meet and get to know the kinds of guys I want to have a relationship with.

There is plan, which brings me to San Francisco in July, and a place to stay for a couple months while I get on my feet, and for income there are some ideas but nothing dependable yet. SFScene will definitely be back, and I'm hoping it will appear under a sponsorship that will not ony increase the readership, but maybe pay for some nights out as well. I'm also hoping to channel a little more Michael Musto and a bit less Lester Bangs in my reportage. Meanwhile, keep watching this space for reports on the Baltimore scene (such as it is), and continuing episodes in The Return of the Jaded Gay DJ.