In the contemporary American culture, queers and the electronic music provide a forum for discussion about the possible reasons why there are so many gay people who attend after-hours clubs and raves with house music. The presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in popular culture venues of the United States is the evidence that they are attracted to this music, particularly in the underground nightclubs. Queer people who have invented this style of music prefer to gather in such clubs. Many DJs are also gay themselves. There are no many gay people in regular commercial clubs with commercial pop music because they prefer to gather in special gay clubs where they can not only listen to music, but also communicate with each other, having similar interests. After-hours clubs are much more than a venue where those who share a sexual identity can come together. They are also sites of creativity, imagination, and performance where the identity is simultaneously affirmed in the process.
Queers and electronic music are a cultural movement of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons that began in the 1980s. As a musical genre, it deals with sexual and gender identity. Actually, it stands against the standard norms of the society that oppose the gay movement. Queercore bands mainly originated from the punk scene with the elements of the industrial music culture. Queercore bands express their position in the society in a rather serious and passionate manner. These bands encompass many genres such as power, hardcore punk, noise, indie rock, and others. Queers and electronic music have been a part of every aspect of the gay counterculture, playing important roles in the lives of probably every person who is a part of the “movement”. Sometimes, instead of addressing specific issues or advocating for particular counterculture lifestyles, the music has been more generally pro-experimental, anti-violent, pro-youth, and anti-commercial. Sometimes, however, music and the extra-musical world seem to be closely linked.
Queers and electronic music have been understood as music of rebellion and liberation for gay men. It has provided a focal point for the process of becoming politically visible and winning civil rights within the American culture. Moreover, it has allowed gay men who owned underground nightclubs and served as DJs and producers to become highly visible and respected within the music scene (Brill, 2008). Admittedly, it has been a flourishing period for the gay political activism and culture. The after- hours clubs with queers and electronic music have made the growth of gay liberation concrete. These clubs helped gays to imagine a sexual community and coordinate their gay identity. Hundreds of gay troops could gather in order to communicate with each other instead of simply listening to music at home.
Although gays were making political and cultural advances in the 1980s, their achievements were widely resisted by those who claimed that homosexuality threatened the society and had to remain invisible and illegal. Despite political and cultural backlashes and strivings to desexualize mainstream culture, as well as despite the terrible toll of AIDS in the 1980s, struggles for gay civil rights and dignity continued unabated. Gays and lesbians continued to fight for visibility and over the issues of sexual equality and sexual difference. Moreover, musicians who presented themselves queerly continued looking for commercial claims.
Electronic music attracts listeners with the wilderness of sound. Some of the songs are made for dancing, while other songs help people think. There is so much happening that it is easy to get lost in it. People cut loose in the dance halls in basements filled with flashing lights. With everybody moving in a tightly packed space, the crowd becomes one being. Dancers at early raves wear spandex, lycra, and other stretchy and shiny materials. Often, their dancing becomes a performing art. It has become popular to listen to such music in the clubs rather than do this alone at home. The music encourages individual movements. However, people also feel like they are a part of something larger. The whole crowd has its own dance going on. A dance club is like a big stage. DJs fill video screens with moving pictures. Patterns of light can move across the walls, floors, and ceilings. Dancers use props such as light sticks, horns, and other objects as if they were in a play.
The electronic music makes dancers move their arms in a blur. Then, they slow down and draw out their movements as if stretching. They spin, jump, bend, and do anything to expand into the space around, above, and below them. Some dancers just close their eyes and listen. Then, they feel their bodies moving. Gay people from all walks of life come to clubs to listen to electronic music. Thus, they feel as a unique group. The beat can not only be heard, but it can also be seen in their movements and felt in their bodies. Nelson (2010) observes that gay people involved in the EDM culture are fans, DJs, and producers who care deeply about the sound. The sound is the force that drives people to dance. The sound motivates DJs to play a particular record at a particular time. Thus, many gay people who attend after-hours clubs come there in order to relax and enjoy their time with other fans. Electronic music can help queer people understand their mood, behavior, and emotions. Those who have electronic music experience claim that this is one of the best places where they can spend their time with joy and satisfaction.
Sodomy laws are still enforced in the majority of American cities. Some gay bars operate after-hours. Police officers often inspect these bars because many of them are not licensed. Some of them are known for being involved with prostitution or gambling. Typically, their clients include college students associated with the beat culture, musicians, lesbians, and gay men. As in other cities, Philadelphia’s bohemian and beat culture provides a setting for the emerging lesbian and gay identity. Even though coffee houses in the area are not primarily identified as gay, their availability as venues for same-sex identification has added to their perception by reformers from the business community to some extent as places attracting an “undesirable element” (Collins, Schedel, & Wilson, 2013).
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After-hours music clubs are rather popular with gay people. Many of them keep dancing in such clubs for long hours, sometimes for twenty-four or even forty-eight hours. Clubbers come to listen to the same music often played by the same gay DJs every night. The gay after-hours club scene has spread all over the United States. Many clubs have developed into popular places with a great number of followers. These clubs are open for people who do not want to go home. Some of them do not want to feel alone, others have different reasons. Admittedly, queer people, who are addicted to after-hours clubs, do not only dance there. Many of them find communication and new relationships there because they cannot achieve this outside the clubs. Long working hours make people busy and lonely to some extent. They need someone who shares their values and interests. Gays’ after-hours music clubs are the best means for this.
Actually, these clubs have become a part of the queer culture. They prefer to stay there instead of having rest at home. Most attendees have flexible working hours. Others are self-employed or phone in sick. Often, clubbers can stay so long because of drugs. This is not a secret that most of them take drugs in clubs.
House is one of the most important post-disco genres of the EDM. House emerged in underground dance clubs in Chicago and New York during the early 1980s. In many respects, it retains the most effective element of disco, a steady mid-tempo bit with R&B or funk grooves. However, house updates disco by using sampled rather than performed vocals in the upper register of the track and replaces some of disco’s acoustic instruments with synthesizers. A seminal early track is Frankie Knuckles’ “Your Love” (1987). As house began to attract listeners outside Chicago, it evolved into acid house, which was a faster, more frenetic variant of house featuring more flung-up samples. House music has become rather popular among the EDM fans. Many artists have incorporated this genre into their work. Among them, there are Madonna, Björk, Janet Jackson, C+C Music Factory, and Kanye West. House music has become rather popular in clubs all over the world. It has become massive on the dance-scene since the 1980s.
Collins (2009) observes that the EDM is a successful business in the United States. It can be compared with rap and disco. House music is one of the most integral aspects of the black gay subculture. It has become so because it is a musical genre that emerged within the context of the black gay dance clubs. Preceding the emergence of house music, there is the concept of the “house party”. The research asserts that a hundred-year-old black lesbian Ruth Ellis and her partner Ceceline “Babe” Franklin bought a house in Detroit that became a safe haven for black gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. Between 1941 and 1971, Ruth and Babe’s house was the “gay spot” for black homosexuals denied admission to the city’s white gay bars. It was also a shelter for those who had been disowned by their families and needed a place to stay until they “got on their feet” (Bergquist & McDonald, 2006). Ellis recalls that most people who frequented their house were black gay men. She and Franklin even helped many of them attend college.
The sense of compassion and community-building explicit in Ellis’ description captures the ways in which the term “house” has evolved in the black gay community. In general, the notion of “house party” is derived from the black people’s practice of creating their own spaces to socialize because white racism often blocked entrance to public spaces. House parties were not only agents of solidarity against racism, but also communal sites where black homosexuals could love and support each other. The definition of “house” dovetails as ball houses serve as places where black gay men who may be homeless or in need of shelter can go. Thus, being one of the most important post-disco genres of the EDM, house is very popular in after-hours clubs and raves with house music because many people feel at home there.
People who are searching for family support come to after-hours clubs. It looks like the main reason to them to do so in order to meet people who can understand them. Unfortunately, many people do not find understanding at home. That is why, they come in raves with house music. Houses are much more than a venue where those who share the same sexual identity can spend time together. They are also sites of creativity, imagination, and performance where the identity is simultaneously affirmed in the process. Bergquist and McDonald (2006) argue that gay people gather in raves with house music in order to feel free from the standard norms of the society. For a member of after-hours clubs, the concept of “family” is less about biological relationship and more about kinships formed through a sense of belonging to a community.
Queer people often have limited access to public places such as churches or private institutions. They try to create spaces for themselves where they can feel comfortable and relaxed. After-hours clubs are the places where gay people can gather and spend their time together. Although all members of these clubs have different reasons to stay there, the common thing is that they want to express their identity without any concerns about traditional norms. Actually, many after-hour clubs have their own members and do not want strangers to get there. Being queer does not guarantee entry to these clubs. Moreover, not all queer have a desire to do so. Many queer dance clubs charge an admission fee. Some queer music clubs are classified by age, race, sexuality, status, and beauty. For instance, not all people who have same-sex attraction have embraced similar notions of “gayness” or “queerness”. Some informants spoke of their “SSL”, short for same-sex lovers, but never use the term “gay”, “lesbian”, “bisexual”, or “queer” to describe themselves or their peers. In addition, individuals and groups have asserted other identifications such as race, ethnicity, gender, and class as central points in the production of self-knowledge (Brill, 2008). In clubs, clothes and looks are rather important for their members. These are vital play activities and expressive performance tools for self-fashioning. Members of music queer clubs should learn how to dress, interact, and use in-jokes and the argot.
Nelson (2010) observes that interrelations in queer electronic music after-hours clubs are different. Some experiences and observations of the club participants have shown the power, potential, and frustrations of the social improvised dancing in a queer club. Queers attend after-hours clubs in order to realize themselves in their specific lifestyle. They come there to interact with each other and seek pleasure. Dancing and listening to electronic music are however flexible spheres of social life. These activities can generate a variety of meanings, depending on the contingent historical, social, and psychological contexts in which they take place. Dance, for example, is not only a feature within a context of its creation, but also a way to understanding the context itself. Gay spaces, such as after-hours clubs defined as adult establishments by the City of New York City Planning Council would be forced to relocate to areas less accessible for potential customers. In order to remain open in their current locations, such establishments would have to purge themselves of the adult material and performances, the presence of which would render them subject to the zoning law (Nelson, 2010).
Historically, most after-hours clubs, for example in New York, are those places where race, queerness, ethnicity, HIV awareness, and capitalism are mixed. These places are full of extraordinary energy and styles of dancing. The images of improvising, dancing, and deriving joy from experiencing the power of the creativity of one’s own body are effective. The only way to begin getting to grips is to do it. A person can experience the sight of other dancers often in a fragmentary and disorienting way as lights flash and bodies move in front of, behind, and around others within a mass of movement, which makes it difficult to isolate individuals. A person can feel the impact of physical movement on one’s body and on others. Participants feel the impact on their bodies through their breathing and sensations like heat, sweat, and exhaustion. The position of body parts can be processed as the stored information about laterality, gravity, verticality, balance, tensions, and dynamics, as well as integrating and coordinating rhythm, tempo, and sequences of movements. These sensations are produced by the body as the location of experience and knowledge rather than just a visual apparatus. Actually, club-goers lose themselves in the flow of electronic music and dancing.
Door people in the after-hours clubs have certain responsibilities. Thus, they do not only have to monitor ages of the participants, but have to select the type of people they want in a club. The way people dress is one way of deciding this. Along with deciding what to wear, participants also have to decide what to take. They usually take sunglasses, gum and candies, cigarettes, lighters, money, bankcards, and breath spray. Often, clubs are so loud and busy that it is difficult at times to have a conversation. These items often look like a medium of friendship along with water and cigarettes as they are offered and passed between people. Sometimes, drugs are taken in after-hours clubs. Admittedly, many DJs in this scene are also gays.
The issue of queers and the electronic music in the modern American culture has evoked numerous heated discussions amid those who approve and disapprove of the right of gay people to attend after-hours clubs and other venues with house music. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people, whose number in the modern American society is colossal, demonstrate their interest to this type of music, which is played predominately in the underground nightclubs. Queer people who are said to be the inventors of this style of music tend to get in large numbers in such clubs. In most cases, they see these places as the ones where their sexual orientation is not discussed or criticized, but shared and understood. Moreover, these are the sites of creativity, imagination, and performance where people feel free to express themselves. Because of many reasons, the number of gay people who visit regular commercial clubs is not big. It can be explained by the fact that in special gay clubs they can listen to music they like and to communicate with others who share their preferences and interests. Queer people often have limited access to public places such as churches or private institutions. Moreover, they do their best to find places where they can feel comfortable and relaxed. So far, after-hours clubs are exactly the places where gay people can gather and spend their time together.