Save the Last Dance
By Steve Weinstein
Back on the mainland, veteran parties across the country are waning or have died. The party graveyard includes huge marathons like Hotlanta, Saint at Large's original White Party, and Chicago's Fireball as well as regional events like Pittsburgh's Steel party, Detroit's Motorball, and Columbus, Ohio's Red Party (considered the nation's first circuit party). Even legendary man magnets like the Miami and Palm Springs editions of the White Party and Montreal's Black and Blue'once North America's largest circuit party'are suffering greatly reduced attendance.
Others struggle to survive, like Philadelphia's Blue Ball, which moved from January to May, and Washington, D.C.'s Cherry, which keeps changing sponsors and venues.
'All these competing parties have dropped off the radar because no one realizes when they are or where anymore,' says Stephen Pevner, who produces the Saint at Large's Black Party in New York City, one of the few remaining stalwarts. 'The circuit is all about date real estate; once you lose your date, you're starting from scratch.'
The Internet as a social site, crystal meth use, diverging music tastes, repetitive DJ rosters, and poor production values have also contributed to the circuit's decline.
No one disputes that a few big-name DJs have become ubiquitous. People can now hear them not only at special events but most weekend nights. 'The clubs started paying big bucks to bring in the big-name DJs to build attendance,' Wolman says. 'All of a sudden, you didn't need to travel to Miami or Palm Springs to hear Manny or Abel or Victor or Tony.'
It's not that gay men haven't been complaining about music since the first queen stepped under a disco ball. But the chorus of naysayers now rivals the eardrum-shattering beats on the dance floor'with some of the DJs themselves chiming in. Victor Calderone, at one time probably the circuit's biggest DJ, complained recently in DJ Times, 'I was miserable playing circuit parties. For me, it became very uninspiring and very predictable.'
Tony Moran, who arguably took Calderone's place as the circuit's star DJ attraction, says he is trying not to 'over saturate' his schedule and has been focusing more on remixing and studio production. Although he's confident his appeal spans generations, he concedes that a few promoters are wooing younger dancers with a second-room mix of 'electro and hip-hop,' as opposed to main-room diva anthems and high-energy electronica. Younger queers are going out to lounges, where they can hear mash-ups of old pop songs going back to the '60s, hip-hop, and even reggae, country, and world music.
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