One Night in Heaven - Well Not Exactly
If you ask me about my most favorite DJ sets/club nights of all time, I would say Don Diablo at ADE 2008, Julian Marsh in Atlanta 1999, DJ Russell Yarbrough debut at Connection in Nashville 1995, Flamingo at ADE 2007, Benny Benassi in Miami 2007, and Paul Van Dyk in Nashville 2009 off the top of my head. Also on that list would be the night that I danced all night at Heaven to the wonderful music of Wayne G back in 2000. With my goal being to dance to twee hiNRG music, the obvious choice would be G-A-Y night at Heaven.
On the G-A-Y Facebook page, they advertised a special performance by Alexandra Burke (X-Factor) so I knew it would be packed. The club started at 10:30pm, so I arrived close to 10:45pm. There was already a queue on both sides of the door - VIP and regular. Since I had not arranged guestlist, I went to the regular line. I waited in the queue and when I got to security, the security guard asked if I was a "member." I thought this was some sort of code to weed out straight people, so I said - "Yes, I am gay - does that make me a member?" The security guard then said, no, only members are allowed. I told him that I had traveled from the US and would love to relive the wonderful night that I had a few years back. He said that I should speak to a woman standing next to him.
With a smile on my face, I waited my turn to speak to the woman and told her that I had come from the States and that I was a big fan of G-A-Y and Heaven. She looked at me blankly. I said that I would love to party with y'all tonight and that my previous visits to Heaven have been highlights of my clubbing life. I also mentioned that I was a journalist looking to cover the club as part of a wrapup of London nightlife. She pretty much said, "No, members only" and then went on to the next person. Being gracious, I said thanks for your time, gave her a button and walked away.
Honestly, I was quite shocked by this. To me, gay clubs have always been about embracing diversity. As an internationally known club, I would think G-A-Y/Heaven would welcome guests from around the world.
Time to Go XXL
Not wanting to let the situation ruin my Saturday night, I moved on to the Arches for the XXL party. The XXL party is aimed at bears - or the more manly, robust and hairy sect of the gay male community. I arrived at the venue and was greeted by a queue of men who were.. get this .. smiling. I was ushered right in after paying my cover and found the place was already pretty full (about 11:30pm.)
The main dance room was filling up as people filtered in and DJ Christian was starting the night with some fun discohouse. Heavy on the vocals with lots of Freemasons and Moto Blanco remixes, the music was just what I wanted to dance to. Being in a strange city where I didn't know anyone, I worked my way into the middle of the dancefloor and had a great time.
It was then that I noticed the crowd. Around me were people of all sizes, races, stature, builds, etc - and none were afraid to take their shirts off. In case you didn't realize, the gay male community often objectify each other the same way the straight men objectify women (and even worse.) The sense of joy and camaraderie was quite liberating.
I looked up to the dj booth and saw DJ Christian having as much fun as we were. The best comparison would be to Carl Cox, another man of size, who is known for bouncing from side to side as he is spinning. Christian's energy and vibe was translated loud and clear as he seamlessly transitioned from discohouse to electro to commercial tracks seemlessly. His segue from the Freemasons mix of Kelly Rowland's "Work" to the Cahill mix of Agnes "Release Me" was especially perfect - and those are two hard tracks to mix together. Two songs that I need to figure out and track down for my own sets are "I Rock, I Sweat, I Dance" and "One Love." Another standout was a sick mashup of deadmau5 "Ghosts" and Lisa Stansfield "People Hold On."