Finding Gospel on the Dance Floor

(Photo: Neptune Angel at Battle Hymn Sunday night at Flash Factory in Chelsea. Credit: Sato Hilario)

 

Some New Yorkers are finding gospel on the dance floor. Club life in the city in the 80s and 90s was often defined by queer culture — a portion of the LGBT community that pushed back against mainstream society. Their late-night parties were full of costumes, gender bending, sexual liberation….and lots of dancing. These parties are making a comeback.  And, as Tyler Pratt reports, the old spirit of Queer nightlife is being reclaimed by one new Sunday night party.

 

 

(MUFFLED CLUB MUSIC)

PRATT 1: A Chelsea dance club might seem like an unexpected place to have a massive stained glass window.

 

PRICE 1

That was the most memorable thing being at that club. Seeing that behind the Djs. It was sort of like a halo almost?

 

PRATT 2: That’s Clark Price. He’s a DJ from Pittsburgh visiting town, but he just had to stop by the new club Flash Factory on Sunday Night.

 

PRICE 2

Cus a bunch of people were telling me how much money they dumped into this place It’s pretty new and it shows. Laughs. It’s a

 

PRATT 3: The 10,000 square-foot club got a seven-million dollar religious-inspired makeover before opening its doors in January. Soaring archways stretch to the ceiling and the VIP lounges are made up of wooden church pews. So may seem fitting that this is the home of a new Sunday party New York’s queer community and club kids can’t stop talking about. it’s called Battle Hymn.

 

(CLUB MUSIC FADE UP and Down)

 

LYNN 1

This Battle Hymn party.  It’s the most diverse dance floor I’ve seen since the nineties.  

 

PRATT 4: William Lynn is one half of the DJ duo, The Carry Nation, who are staples of New York queer nightlife. Lynn got his start DJing in the city over two decades ago.  

 

LYNN 2

Back then the best music was at the gay clubs, and in fact for the first time in a long time, that’s beginning to happen again.

 

PRATT 5: Meaning, the music at Battle Hymn sounds less like this:

 

[song “Christina Aguilera – Beautiful (Valentin Club Mix)l” up for 5 seconds]

 

Pratt 6: And more like this:

 

[song “The Carry Nation – House Like This” up for 5 seconds]

 

PRATT 7: And this scene is bringing out queer and straight folks. Club kids dance with leather daddies. And for clothing could be just a t-shirt, or no shirt, or even, high heels-  for everyone.

 

MUSIC BREAK

 

PRATT 8: Lynn and his DJ partner Nita Aviance are just two of the people helping throw this party. Tonight they are in the middle of the dance floor, which feels like a big family reunion.

 

LYNN 2

I have not seen this variety of gay people in the same place.  Living their life living and and getting their minds blown and having such, like, a beautiful time and seen this kind of combination of people and you know in years.  

 

AVIANCE 1

You know all of my long term friends I met on the dance floor somewhere. You share a similar sort of joy for life.  And please- music makes people come together.  Laughs

 

LYNN 4

There’s there’s a kind of an unparalleled feeling when an entire dance floor.  Is unified.  To one beat and not looking in one direction.  But all looking at each other and having a common experience that.  It’s.  There’s a magic to that and it’s like no other feeling of togetherness. That you can describe with that many people.  

 

PRATT 9: These kind of parties and their different brands of dance music have been blowing up lately. And not just in New York. In San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Austin. The term rainbow railroad has sprung up to describe the connections these cities now share.  Some say it’s a resurgence, but Nita Aviance says:

 

AVIANCE 2

We’ve been here the whole time. What’s being reclaimed and I think what everyone is really talking about is the taste level of the music.

 

PRATT 10: But Aviance remembers the years he and other gay DJs that had to play mainstream pop music to keep their jobs.  

 

AVIANCE 3

So then we had to go out and create our own spaces to play the music that we wanted to play the music that originated in gay n.  Nightlife.  So i think that’s really what they’re talking about i.  Is sort of t.  This return o.  Of gay people even to our own.  To our music.

 

[Bring up music: Honey Soundsystem]

 

PRATT 11: Now Sunday might seem like a strange night to throw a party. Which could be the point. Jacob Sperber is part of the San Francisco DJ collective Honey Soundsystem who played Battle Hymn on Sunday.

 

SPERBER 1

For a lot of queers the reason why Sunday was such a great day to go out dancing is that all the straights weren’t going out. You could own those spaces on a Sunday.

 

PRATT 12: Honey Soundsystem has been throwing Sunday dance parties in San Francisco for years.

 

SPERBER 2

We really wanted to get together. Not only to celebrate all the music that we love for ages. But particularly, get deeper into this queer music history. That might have might disappear if we don’t do some work to bring it back forward.

 

PRATT 13 : Which is exactly the aim of Battle Hymn Sundays here in New York. And while the church theme is pretty literal at Flash Factory. Members of the the queer community, like attendee Tyler Jensen, have been finding gospel on the dance floor for ages.

 

JENSEN 2

I’m not religious but the dance floor is definitely a holy place for me. I love dancing and it take so much to get the point there you can just let go. On the Floor and leave it there. And I felt that tonight. I needed that tonight. (:16)

 

[ORGAN MUSIC]

 

PRATT 14: The full church effect of Battle Hymn really really kicks in at  midnight. The music suddenly drops out and an organ pipes in. An then a familiar voice fills the room.

 

[MUSIC: “Let’s go Crazy Intro”]

 

PRATT 15: The lights shine through the club’s stained glass as the congregation cheers and up their hands in praise. And dance to the recently deceased, Prince. A man who showed so many how cool it was to be weird, different, and queer.

 

[MUSIC: LET’S GO CRAZY]

Tyler Pratt, Columbia Radio News

[MUSIC: FADE OUT]

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