Voguing Dancers Make for a Spectacle at Lights Down Low

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Kahley Avalon Emerson
Lights Down Low presents Miracles Club, Kingdom, MikeQ, Jozif, and Kim Ann Foxman
Public Works
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012

Better than: This. Or, on second thought, maybe not.

"This Bitch is Alive," read a row of oversized flyers on the wall. Below the italics someone had penned, "Then what are you waiting for?! Finish this bitch off!!" It was the weekend of Folsom Street Fair, and we were at Public Works for the latest edition of Lights Down Low. The graffiti may as well have been referring to the attendance; It was slow going in the beginning, with a skeletal crowd spread thin between the club's two floors. It was 11:30 p.m., and we were downstairs enjoying the space while Conor and Jason Kendig warmed up the dancefloor.

The dark '80s new wave of Nightmoves' "Transdance" massaged the speakers as I collected two Sapporos from the bar. The main room was looking unusually stylish, with unique Lights Down Low-specific projections of Keith Haring glyphs stretched out across the walls. Party propaganda was everywhere, rows of slogans barked-out orders like "Jack Your Body" and "Prepare 2 Energize" with Soviet enthusiasm. On stage at the front, DJs controlled the sound from a booth that appeared to be suspended by large clusters of smiley face balloons. Funky Green Dogs From Outer Space's "High Up" bounced around on an elastic bassline, pulling the wallflowers in from the sides.

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Kahley Avalon Emerson

Upstairs, Richie Panic worked the CDJ platters, playing banging tracks for a room still in social mode. Here, too, slogans shouted out from the walls, while smiling balloons stared off from the stage like E-tarded gargoyles. A few took advantage of the nearly empty bar to skip the line downstairs. A linear pack of girls in heels wobbled up and began laying down purses and jackets behind the booth. I'd heard this was Lights Down Low's most ambitious party financially. It was almost midnight. Where were the people that would populate this high-capacity venue? Promoter Corey Sleazemore looked nervous, and I couldn't blame him. Yet, any kind of jitters ought to have been exorcised as the venue quickly inflated with an unusually mixed crowd that saw LDL's predominantly straight club scene integrated with its relative analog in the gay community.

A large man in a Utilikilt walked up the stairs, turned around, and disappeared. Downstairs, Jozif had taken over and was busy dispensing dark London tech-house to a blur of people in motion. I can't recall any particular tracks; instead the set felt more atmospheric. It was the kind of sound that you often find music journalists referring to in the same breath as ketamine.

Later we were in the loft, enjoying the abrasive blast of MikeQ. Wearing a baseball hat that read, "Ima Read," and a T-shirt that lit up in time to the beat, he worked through a high-energy set that contorted the rhythm of Masters at Work's "The Ha Dance" into a modern equivalent to the "Amen Break." Pandemonium ensued. People freaked out while a dead-ringer for Sylvester vogued on a platform, his dreadlocks whipping around opposite his arms.

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Kahley Avalon Emerson

What happens when nobody is looking at the DJ? At some point, something rare happened. The usual laser-like focus towards the stage was momentarily diverted as a hole opened up in the dancefloor. MikeQ slipped into some more straightforward house and the voguers took turns throwing poses. It was spectacular: all eyes were glued to the spectacle of these dancers converting the music into sharp slashes of movement: a guy with an anthropomorphic penis on his T-shirt strutted around, someone did a series of painful-looking splits, another spun so many times it almost induced nausea by proxy. A couple that looked fresh from bar-hopping along Valencia rushed the center to try and do a '60s twist; they didn't last long. Instead, a lanky dancer in a Kangol hat almost sliced through them with his hands. Even Sleazemore got in on the action: all nervousness gone, he pulled off a few poses to catcalls from the circle.

The battle ended, but the energy of the dance-off bled into the room -- the hole filling up with once-again forward-facing dancers screaming to MikeQ's selections. Later there was an official performance, with tracks like George Kranz "Din Daa Daa" and Foxy's "Get Off," and while it was also good, it didn't match up to the impromptu feeling of that first circle.


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