JUICY featuring DJs KIKI , VIOLCA , HOLLY ROCK and SUE SETO with musical performances by KIYOMI and GALAXY at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Saturday (June 26). $12, advance $10. www.hotpinkproductions.com Rating: NNNNN
From gay hiphop nights in Parkdale and queer rock parties in straight bars to the growing number of sexually ambiguous electro nights, you can't help but wonder, will the gay ghetto still be relevant for the next generation of queer youth? Looking at the party listings for this year's Pride celebrations, it seems that there are almost as many queer events happening west of Yonge as there are in the actual village.
This trend has been growing over the past few years, spearheaded by a younger generation of queers who either feel left out of the mainstream gay culture or don't feel the need to sequester themselves from the straight world.
Among the newer faces in the west-end scene are Juicy, four young funky girls who are just about to celebrate their first full year of throwing monthly parties at the El Mocambo.
"The ghetto's kind of passé," Kirsten Iversen (aka DJ Kiki) says over coffee. "I think a lot of the people who find their comfort in the village have come from out of town and haven't had that queer influence in their lives. A lot of kids who grew up here don't really identify with that."
"We wanted to do something new and big and exciting," adds co-organizer Violca Yryku.
Their core concept is deceptively simple but has proven effective.
"We realized that there wasn't a lot in the female community for girls to go out to, especially in the gay ghetto," Iversen explains. "We wanted to have a queer-positive space that was mainly women and provided by women, but where everyone could come. We didn't want to be segregated like so many of the other girl nights."
This anti-segregationist attitude also extends to the musical policy, which is impressively inclusive. Each DJ brings something slightly different to the mix - Sue Seto drops the house and tech-house, Violca brings more of a retro, punk-funk and new wave flavour, Holly Rock is the dedicated hiphop enthusiast, and Kiki plays a lot of disco and pre-house classics.
Besides the music, there are also go-go dancers, theme nights, projections, occasional live bands, even wet T-shirt contests. It's a light-hearted, fun party - a formula that's consistently drawn crowds and endeared the girls to the owner of the El Mocambo, who talks up the night at every opportunity.
For years, the gay village was an oasis of safety and acceptance for queers ostracized from the larger straight community. While homophobia is still an everyday concern in smaller towns, in most metropolitan centres straights seem more fascinated than repelled by gay culture.
This changing social climate, combined with zoning laws that prevent new clubs from being developed in the village, has encouraged the next generation to make their mark in the wider club scene. Hip straight people are finding themselves at gay events, while gays are making themselves at home in supposedly straight clubs.