GRAPEFRUIT featuring SHANE PERCY at Tequila Lounge (794 Bathurst), Friday (January 16). $7. www.grapefruitonline.ca Rating: NNNNN
If you saw some guy dressed up in a big bunny suit handing out candy in the gay village on the weekend, you weren't hallucinating. Chances are it was Shane Percy promoting his Grapefruit party, which is about to go weekly after a successful year as a monthly event. Grapefruit is a bit of an anomaly - a gay night outside the ghetto, and it doesn't feature any circuit house. There are no international guests, no corporate sponsors, and Percy had never DJed in public before he started the event in November 2002.
A year and a bit later, he's reaching capacity every month, the club (Tequila Lounge) has picked up another fringe gay night (DJ Blackcat's popular urban night, Stylin) and he's been able to quit his day job. Who'd have guessed that Bloor and Bathurst would suddenly have such a heavy queer presence?
Percy gives credit where it's due, though, since his night wasn't the first to bring a gay crowd out of the ghetto (or to Bloor and Bathurst, for that matter) and is simply part of a growing movement of promoters throwing nights that eschew the stereotypes of a sea of shirtless gym bunnies swaying to circuit anthems in favour of a more inclusive attitude.
"Will Munro (Vazaleen) was probably the first to throw a gay party outside the village. He sensed that maybe we don't all fit into one mould and that people were looking for something else to do. I had serious doubts at first, but I figured if people knew they were going to have a good time it wouldn't matter where they were."
Not that this is a carbon copy of Munro's night. Grapefruit started off as a gay retro night with a much more mainstream mandate than Vazaleen but now includes complementary contemporary sounds as well.
"My interpretation of retro is very loose," says Percy. "I draw from a lot of different sources: 70s glam rock, funk, disco, new wave and late 80s dance pop. It's a funny term - people can be turned on or off by it, so I try to find an all-encompassing way to approach it.
"Over the past year, I've been working in other styles that I think are interesting and fun, and people have responded really well. Personally, I'd love to go to a gay night where I could hear everything from Donna Summer to New Order to Weezer to Hole. Hopefully, other people are also getting that excitement of not knowing what will come next."
It takes a bit of guts to start a night when you've never DJed before and don't own a set of decks to practise on, but let's face it, nobody is that impressed with mixing any more.
Likewise, obscure selections of rare records don't thrill many people beyond the other DJs crowded around the booth, so now's a good time for simply playing party music for people to dance to.
"The first night was terrifying. I'm getting more comfortable with it, but DJing is a craft and it takes years to get really good at it. I'm still learning, and that's OK - I think what makes a good DJ is passion for the music. If you have that, the technique will follow.
"I have the utmost respect for turntablists, but I'm not one."