Sure, much of the CD was atrocious, but now that this cookie-cutter hokum is no longer forced on me at every gay turn I take, pouring forth from restaurant patios and flashy video bars, after-hours megaclubs and fisting pornos, open gym windows and passing Miata convertibles, I could listen to it not as some soulless dominant paradigm that was threatening to rob gay culture of every last ounce of scruff and sparkle, but as mere tacky noodling: harmless fun in an ironic way, if you're into irony anymore. (Not poor Hunky Beau, though. A die-hard devotee of skinhead mosh and East Bay punk, he dived beneath the covers as soon as the first few high-hat sprays had rung in the air, moaning like he had aural hepatitis.)
What happened that night a night that found me wriggling around in my Underoos and torturing my man with shouts of "Look at me! I'm a tweaked-out fan dancer!" sparked the more masochistic aspects of my curiosity.
Ever since the supastar DJ scene of the late '90s and early '00s became economically impossible to sustain the Sisyphean task of convincing thousands of people to spend $40 to hear a scrawny dude from Manchester, UK, or Miami spin yet again burned many promoters out the dance floor playing field has blown wide open. Megaclubs, with their monolithic sounds, gave way to smaller venues where independent promoters could experiment with fresh ideas and vent their wacky stylistic impulses, minus hefty cover charges and pat-down security. Clubs became more like house parties: the kid with the most friends or the biggest iTunes collection could plug into the DJ booth and let 'er rip.
Gay clubs, especially, had followed the newfound freedom from big-time pressure and flight-booking budgets in myriad zany directions. Today's gay club scene is more diverse than it's ever been. Almost every night of the week there are options.
So maybe it was time for me to reappraise a style that I'd grown to hate, now that it was fading from mainstream gay scene ubiquity in favor of sleek hip-pop and '80s hair bands. Maybe I could stare into the numb, drooling jaws of circuit and progressive terror and dance, dance, dance. Could it really be as bad as I remembered? Was I ready to let go of my bitterness toward a music so insidious that even my grandmother thought my life was one big party scene from gag Queer as Folk?
Was it possible for me to tune into KNGY, 92.7 FM (Energy), the aggressively gay-friendly "pure dance" local radio station that had become synonymous with such music and had recent hosted a party spotlighting, yes, DJ Ricardo! without retching uncontrollably at the first few modulated wails?
Perhaps. I dug out the hand-crank radio from my earthquake emergency kit because, like, transmission radio who still listens to that? I reacquainted myself with how to adjust a dial. Then I turned the volume up.
Mention Energy 92.7 to most gay men, and curious things happen to their bodies. The shoulders pop, the eyes roll, the hands begin to gesticulate wildly. Those are the gay men who love the station. The others absolutely loathe it. Their bodies convulse in a spasm of disgust. Their faces twist into ghoulish grimaces. Spittle flies from their lips. The hatred is palpable. There's no middle ground when it comes to Energy. I've been in cars where people have fought over it until blood spurted.
Such reactions may be the legacy of the circuit party scene. Fifteen years ago, if you asked the average straight person to close their eyes and think about "gay music," the image that would first leap to his or her mind would be a turtlenecked show-tune queen clipping pink rosebuds in her garden while whistling something from Les Miz.