We’re here, we’re queer… we’re bored!
The local queer nightlife is in a funk. The 2am closing is lame all right, but that’s not the only factor that keeps Boston’s queer scene off the fun map. In the past few years, the club scene has mostly remained unchanged and the nightly options seem to be pre-programmed for years to come. In perfect Beantown fashion, no one seems to mind…
Besides having minimal options, the queer scene is also segregated. After dinner or the occasional drink, the lesbians go where the girls are and the gay boys get down at the boy bars. Aliza Shapiro used to be frustrated by the situation. “I hated how I had to hang out with my boy friends at some clubs and with my girl friends at different ones." She envisioned bringing together the boys, the girls and everyone in between. After several venue negotiations and format discussions, Shapiro’s vision materialized. Her queer lounge and club concept, CandyLand, happens every Sunday at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.
CandyLand is probably the only all-queer, all-gender club night in Boston. In theory, it sounds like a great opportunity to bring the whole “family" together. But how easy is it for queers to break away from their own scene, and party with each other? Dana Moser, whose video art has been presented at CandyLand, thinks it will be challenging to convince the gay men to stick around. “After 11, the disco boys start heading out the door toward Landsdowne Street," he notices, referring to the grandmommy of gay nights, Avalon Sundays. But, Moser remains optimistic about the "all-gender" concept. “I am looking forward to seeing if there is a community of queers who like the ‘mixed-up’ environment enough to make it work."
Queers band together well as a political minority, but socially, it’s a whole other ball game. Music, for starters, doesn’t always make the people come together. To assume that gay boys and gay girls get down to the same beat is downright dangerous. While most gay boy clubs blast the latest in techno and diva house, CandyLand’s resident DJ spins “an eclectic mix of old school funk and hip hop," which caters mostly to lesbians’ musical tastes. “It’s harder to appeal to gay men," DJ Jamila acknowledges. Shapiro promises that in CandyLand’s future, a techno-oriented DJ will spin on alternate nights to bring in the gay men.
Besides the music, the club setting is another important element in achieving the “all-queer" concept. Karen Malme, a local comedic performer, thinks the Milky Way is the sort of venue that can accommodate diversity. “It’s spread out and has a stage, a bar, and the added attraction of great food and a bowling alley," she explains. The crowd on a recent Sunday seemed to be enjoying the many options of the space. The choices don’t end with the venue. Shapiro’s unconventional programming aims to please everyone under the queer umbrella. The lounge part happens early, starting at 7:30, and includes everything from "Fire Balls: Drag Bingo with hostess Toni Lawrence" (every second and fourth Sunday) to gay boy bands, bad poetry slams, drag king performances, readings and more. The club part starts after 10 when the DJ moves the action from the stage to the dance floor.
Glimpsing at CandyLand’s denizens, there are boys who like boys who like girls and there are girls who look like boys who look like girls. All kinds and types of hipsters are hanging out, drinking, shooting pool, dancing or posing. Could it be that the “all-queer" concept is already working? That would not be in perfect Beantown fashion now, would it?