It may be 2012, but queer artists remain shadow warriors. While house music has long been an exception, boasting multicultural backgrounds and a safe space for the queer-identified, other artists like Gaga continue Madonna’s lip service to queer subcultures, and EDM largely seems like hetero stomping grounds. For example, take the 2010 anti-Ed Banger rant about French electro being “a chance for straight guys to be into dance music without seeming gay” voiced by John Maclean, a.k.a. Juan Maclean, who played Bardot Saturday.
Even in ostensibly progressive indie quarters, Cut Copy’s Zonoscope overshadowed the near-mythic gay and multiracial Blue Songs by DFA Records’ realest and truest house gods Hercules and Love Affair. And in Buzzfeed’s “44 Wonderful Things About Music in 2012” a straight white rapper’s anti-homophobia song and an article by a straight white girl on rappers who happen to be gay, won out over actual inclusion of (radically diverse) gay rappers Mykki Blanco, Le1f, or Angel Haze. Again, coverage of the gay community wins out over, you know, actual diversity.
Maclean, it should be noted, has long championed upholding the queer tenets of dance culture. And it’s been up to those like him to keep the house in order, so to speak. Nevertheless, this lip service was somewhat reinforced Saturday by his choice of venue, Bardot, a half-cool ’70s-ish dive adorned with euro-chic signifiers like Jean-Pierre Melville’s Un Flic as entrance hallway wallpaper, and light fixtures that look like discarded props from Fassbinder’s World on a Wire hanging over the bar. The other half of Bardot, however, is a sleazy disappointment. Cutouts of Michel Foucault’s face pay empty homages to the omnisexual nature of erotic liberation, while the rest of the decor comprises a playboy pinball machine, a painting of girl-on-girl cunnilingus, and multiple, mutilated collages of female pin-ups — it could be straight out of American Apparel CEO and perv Dov Charney’s basement.
Maclean walked in around midnight wearing a red T-shirt and jeans in full DGAF mode — a stark contrast to the makeshift college party, Brooks Brothers entourages, and upscale bachelorette parties that seemed to congregate. Disconcertingly, the passing of the torch between the DJs was uneventful; no one seemed to notice. I was worried I’d spend the night pulling a Larry David, shushing everyone.
Thankfully, some kind of crowd started to form on the strip. During Ultraviolet’s “Denney,” with its Inception-like thud, a lone dude in a red button-down slowly paced around some couples, with his hesitant hand gestures saying “I’m about to break it down, but maybe not.” Then Andre Crom and Martin Dawson’s “Gonna Be Alright,” which looped a “Hypnotize” sample under a sultry, calming delivery of the titular line, suggested people watching should be all right, even if the setting felt a little weird.
Shortly after the Deep Dish remix of Madonna’s “Bedtime Story,” with its endless loop of the “Let’s get unconscious, baby” lyric, I turned around and thought I saw a girl doing a line off the piano. It turned out she was just putting her head down for a moment before letting out a laugh to remark, “I am soo fucked up.” She was then handed over from one guy she was grinding on to another. Somewhere near a cut-out mug of The Night Porter’s Dirk Bogarde lay a decontextualized headline reading “was it a question of consent?”
Later, perhaps pointedly, a remix of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” in particular the “players only love you when they’re playing” line, washed over the crowd. I tried to find a spot between dance floor couplings, but roving lights overhead were on a Running Man “FIND HIM” tip. Or rather, “Not Boo’d up? GTFO.”
After watching a woman edge out some guys at the pool table to what may have been Son of Raw’s awesome 2001 riff “A Black Man in Space,” I took a breath of fresh air streetside. While George Fitzgerald’s “Child” was spilling out the doors, two men struck a conversation about some time when some “gay guy” was “swinging his dick” on the dancefloor, obviously weirded out by it. The subject soon changed, and they traded stories about fingerbanging in the club.
In 2012, it seems, only the latter is still “normal.”
–By Adam Katzman