WATCH: TMC mixologist Mikey Nguyen making his award-winning cocktail

DJ

In last week’s issue, we gave proper kudos to TMC bartender Mikey Nguyen, who won a national cocktail challenge in Palm Springs last month. But you don’t just have to read about the concoction — you can actually see the winning mix. Check out the video below:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Music Issue: The spin doctors

Is Dallas’ gay dance scene what it once was — or can be? A panel of out DJs gives us the back beat

In gay dance clubs, the bartender is crucial, and the doorman keeps the peace, but the hero of the night is the DJ. The DJ works not just as the person bringing the tunes, but also as ship’s captain, leading the dance floor into an open sea of remixes and creating waves of euphoria through matched beats. Rarely, though, do we hear them open up.

Until now. Seven DJs from across the Dallas scene candidly weigh in on the crowds they play for, the state of Dallas’ party scene and just where is it heading. From dance to country to even outside the gayborhood, queer DJs are setting the tone and making their mark, but now they want to be heard.

— Rich Lopez

Blaine-Soileau

DJ BLAINE SOILEAU | ‘If you want to hear your favorite song, go sit in your car then come back into the club.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Voice: How has the scene evolved?

Alex Guerrero: I’ve been going to Cedar Springs since I was 19 and it hasn’t changed much. The area could explore something more. The music has changed for sure and the lesbian scene embraces trendy genres like dubstep.

Paul Kraft: How we socialize as a community has changed. It’s a real challenge. Younger LGBT members socialize more in non-gay clubs. Clubs should adapt; smart ones are appealing to diverse patrons.

Scottie “Redeye” Canfield: I hear complaints all the time about how DJs can’t play a non-hit. I come from the “trust-the-DJ” era.

Blaine Soileau: I’d like to go more progressive. What I think holds [me] back are the constant requests for Gaga, Britney and Rihanna.

Micah, you are in Los Angeles now. Is the scene different there? 

Micah Banes: The L.A. scene lets me play what I want. They are open to anything. I can play a dubstep track followed by disco and the crowd digs it.

How could the scene be better?

Redeye: I wish there was more diversity. [Back in the day], straight people went to gay clubs because the music was better; now, every place is carbon copy and they don’t have the balls to break out.

Soileau: It’s a challenge to break the migration pattern to Cedar Springs.

Banes: Yes! Blaine hit the nail on the head. I think Dallas is hurting on venues. The worst thing is getting the ’mos to experience different things.

Kraft: Much of the scene is held in hands of few  — namely, the Dallas Tavern Guild. That doesn’t allow for variety. Caven controls much of the Strip and they [seldom bring in outside DJs], and it’s tougher for smaller indie clubs to finance guest DJs. Until we have more club owners like [those at the Dallas Eagle], willing to be innovative, nothing will change.

What is the Dallas gay club scene doing right? 

Micah-Banes

MICAH BANES | ‘I’m excited about where gay music is going. We’re going to see a big change in the next five years.’

Roger Huffman: Our crowd is the same, but we do see more straight people coming in.

Banes: Roger is awesome. He’s got it on lock.

Guerrero: [At Sue Ellen’s], we play to customers and fans. Crappy music doesn’t make us money and the DJs are doing a major part for the night. Great managers help.

How do you keep it fresh?

Guerrero: I know what I do for the lesbian crowd works, but sometimes there is a pressure if they want a different sound. For me, it’s about maintaining focus.

Soileau: I try to change up the music each time I spin locally. I’ll have favorites thrown in but people will definitely hear new and unreleased stuff.

Huffman: We may play some slower country before the faster stuff needs to happen — like the two-steps and the shuffles.

With the Purple Party, MetroBall and the like, how is Dallas as a dance destination?

Redeye: It used to be [great]. I would define the whole scene as kind of stereotypical. It’s the same thing everywhere and there are a lot of people who don’t wanna hear that.

Guerrero: Dallas is lacking in some parts. Station 4 just did the Glow Party and it was cool, but how much better it could be if we had more [of those events]?

Soileau: Bigger events are going by the wayside. Many of the circuit parties from the ’90s have vanished. I don’t think Dallas would support more. We can’t charge a cover because people likely complain.

Erik Thoresen: Yes. Because of one word: Pride.

Banes: Do you think it’s the support or lack of venues for the shrinking of party size?

Soileau: Micah, I think it’s just been done and new things are evolving.

Kraft: Trends change. It was sofa clubs, then bottle clubs, but I’m seeing a trend to dance more.

“]Alex-Guerrero

ALEX GUERRERO | ‘Being the only female DJ in town is a blessing. I hope to spread my wings and make the lesbian community proud.’ (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)"

Are non-gay clubs surpassing gay ones in innovation with differing offerings like silent discos, guest DJs and live music?

Kraft: I can appreciate out-of-the-box inspiration; incorporating new ideas is always good.

Soileau: Yes, but silent discos were a cute idea, then buh-bye. I would love to see more guest DJs, but try charging a cover to pay for them.

Guerrero: I don’t see a big difference. The clubs I’ve been to are the same, music-wise.

Redeye: You can’t be in this business and be cheap. Clubs are about rep and bringing in someone that’s worth a damn will have more people in spending money at the bar. You have to invest in the bar. Beauty Bar has brought in cutting edge DJs from outside for $1,000.

As DJs, do you think live music options are good or bad for the scene? 

Soileau: I’m not sure about more live music.

Kraft: As a dance DJ, the last thing I want is to build up energy to stop for a live act. Sue Ellen’s has done a great job with live music, though.

Huffman: I wish we had more options. A live band came in on our anniversary and we had requests for live bands but nothing became of it.

Banes: The Round-Up would be great for live music.

Soileau: But I don’t see a gay crowd packing a live venue.

Why is that? 

Redeye

DJ REDEYE | ‘I wish I could play in the community, but play cool stuff. I couldn’t get away with it, so I’ve always been at clubs that were on the fringe.’

Banes: There are not a lot of live acts that can pull in 300 homos to a club.

Soileau: That all would be nice but most of the gay crowd isn’t in-the-know. Back in the ’80s, I would have answered differently. People were thirsty for new stuff.

Guerrero: I know our customers enjoy the bands. There is nothing wrong with more music. What’s wrong with finding gay bands? I’m not a big fan of live music, but seeing them at our club, there is major talent out there.

What has been the best thing to happen to the Dallas club scene? The worst?

Soileau: We haven’t dissolved and faded away. The worst is how the Internet has taken a big bite out of club life.

Banes: Like Blaine said, the Cedar Springs migrations hurt, but the passion is still there.

Huffman: A good thing was the no-smoking ordinance — it made the atmosphere so much better. The worst has been the clubs that have closed.

Redeye: There’s always room for it to get better, but you need a catalyst, a vanguard. Try something out once a month, do something different. Baby steps.

Guerrero: For me, the worst is the drama. It puts people at high risk. Don’t bring the drama out!

Have Scruff, Grindr and social networks affected clubs?

Kraft: You can now order men like pizza. We don’t know how to talk to each other. I think people are getting over that and have more desire to get out.

Soileau: Absolutely. That’s why clubs are promoting alongside these apps.

Thoresen: What hasn’t changed is that people still go clubbing to party and get down.

As DJs on Cedar Springs, how do you respond to that migration?

Guerrero: Working on the block, I’m very lucky, but I know there could be more venues. We work hard to have a presence. I can’t imagine how it would feel if I didn’t get as much visibility.

Thoresen: It’s tough because I’ve been doing solid while other clubs have been up and down.

Huffman: I do like that the clubs are in one location. I think in part, that’s good for us.

Redeye: There is a market for it and I wish I could play in the community, but play cool stuff. I couldn’t get away with it, so I’ve always been at clubs that were on the fringe.

Where do you see the gay club scene heading?

Redeye: Gay clubs feel more segregated than ever. Maybe people think we’re progressing, but we’re really going backwards.

Soileau: It’ll always be in a transitional state. But they’ll be around.

Kraft: It could use more diversity and outside influences. Dallas isn’t known for being versatile. Having been a promoter, I will tell you: It was suicide to deviate. The guys here want what they want. It’s tough from a balancing standpoint.

So what’s your overall perspective on the state of the Dallas gay club dance scene?

Huffman
: It’s good. As long as people still are coming out to have fun, it’ll continue.

Soileau: I do think we are trailing straight clubs [in terms of innovation], but it’s a cycle.

Kraft: It could be more current, innovative. The Cavens, the Okons, the Guild still have a hold and work very much in the old way. The Eagle has adapted and moved forward. Until we have more club owners determined to do that, the scene could stagnate.

Redeye: A lot has to do with the business of it. The DJ is there to educate, but if you think of clubs as a school, it’s like the audience gets to check out one book and everyone’s gotta share it.

What do you say to haters who say Dallas has no appreciation for music diversity? 
Soileau
: You have all these people that are living in a time warp with their relentless requests. If you want to hear your favorite song, go sit in your car then come back into the club.

Final thoughts?
Redeye: I’m not dissing mainstream, but it’s sad when a whole market is ignored. It’s like feeling ostracized in my own community for listening to something different. It doesn’t feel representative.

Guerrero: I feel honored to be in the biggest gay scene;  being the only female is a blessing. I hope to spread my wings and make the lesbian community proud.

Banes: I’m excited about where gay music is going. We’re going to see a big change in the next five years.

Kraft: At the Eagle, you can see everybody having a great time together. That‘s the future. Separately things are weak, but draw a number of groups together and you see the strength.

Soileau: Just keep supporting your local clubs because when they are gone you will miss them.

Huffman: I agree with Blaine. The support is important.

Thanks, all. Now keep the party going.

…………………………

Who’s who on the panel

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas Cocktail Challenge tonight at Round-Up

Mixologists vie for top bartending bragging rights

Tonight,  Palm Springs (yes, the Palm Springs destination spot) is once again hosting its Summer Splash Cocktail Challenge, looking for the best bartender in the country. The winner in Dallas goes on to the desert ogaysis on June 2 to match mixology skills with other finalists from around the country. Our own Arnold Wayne Jones was a judge at last year’s event, pictured above, and he will be back again testing and scoping the talent tonight.

DEETS: Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. 8 p.m. PalmSpringsCocktails.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Sing like no one’s listening

Forget drag, leather contests and two-stepping — karaoke is the one night in gay clubs where everybody comes out

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A KARAOKE SLIDESHOW

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

One cold Tuesday night in December, the Round-Up Saloon’s parlor bar has a handful of people inside. Some are partaking in well drink specials; others are furiously texting, and one guy can’t seem to leave the bartender alone.

But in a few minutes, they will all be focused on the same thing: Whether to get on stage or just sing along as they settle in for a night of karaoke.

Despite public speaking being a fear on par with death for most Americans, the post-American Idol world finds a slew of gay clubs featuring karaoke nights — and they are among the most popular events out of the week.

Just what gets people to step up to a microphone on a regular basis — or have others turn out to watch them?

As it turns it out, it’s so much more than just singing a song you like.

“Although it doesn’t happen with every singer, it’s fun to watch someone be so uninhibited, whether they are good or bad,” says Andrew Phifer.

Phifer has done it once to, of all things, the theme from TVs Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Mostly, though, he prefers to watch others, usually at the Round-Up.

Last year’s Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe hosts karaoke at the club, lining up singers and songs for “Tittie Tuesday Karaoke;” in between songs, she points out the several regulars who have a certain uninhibited quality.

A prime example was the man singing Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” and trying to engage the audience by asking, “Who remembers the ’80s?”

“Karaoke caters to everyone,” Arizpe says. “Who doesn’t wanna belt ‘Pussy Control,’ with 30 other people singing right along? Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you really haven’t until you’ve come out to watch.”

Little Chalupa at Joe’s

Where the Round-Up gets progressively more crowded on a school night, Joe’s Place at Wednesday night karaoke, with host Little Chalupa, is a lighter bunch.

No more than a handful of people at a time are in the bar, but the enthusiasm is just as high.

Duets by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson are covered, and one man with a Michael Jackson fetish ad-libs the songs while Chalupa offers something else to the mix: Spanish-language songs.

Even one dancer in his undies from the Brick side of the club will sing.

Likely not by design, the stage at Joe’s on this hump day evening definitely has more than enough of its share of “serious singers.” The smaller crowd didn’t dissuade these vocalists from taking to the stage as if auditioning for American Idol. They want to assure that all 17 of us hear their talents.

Putting their vibratos to the test, the mostly male crowd signs on for fleeting stardom, if just for a moment — until their next song makes it to the top of the list.

“I think there are three types of karaoke singers,” says Josh Warr, a visitor to the Joe’s who is also straight. “The people who take it seriously probably had some theater and have this in them to do. You have people like me who’ve sung in a band and just do what we do for fun. Then there are those who can’t sing worth a damn and can’t help but be silly about it.”

Warr does a good rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” with some added humorous touches that go over like a, well, brick. Those gathered are clearly waiting their turns to be the next top diva.

Is it that one moment that drives them to almost over-perform? Ben Mitchell thinks so.

The local author has sung with the Turtle Creek Chorale, and although it’s been years since his last karaoke performance, he admits there is a surrealistic quality that makes being onstage a special moment.

“You get to be on stage performing in front of an audience, and it is the closest thing to being a ‘star’ that we ever get,” he says.

Arizpe agrees.

“Gay or straight, everyone wants to be a star,” she says. “Along with that, I think what attracts gay audiences is the environment — the lights, the stage, the showtunes … not to mention music from Lady Gaga and Glee.”

Save for Warr, the stars at Joe’s this night weren’t tongue-in-cheeking their performances. While the vocal talents aren’t the stuff Grammys are made of, they wouldn’t cause ears to bleed, either.

The guy covering Celine Dion couldn’t meet her key with his low register but impressively nailed a long note. “Michael Jackson guy’s” “Thriller” might be blasphemous, but his heart and ego are into it. His friend, though, chose Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” but sang it in the key of Beyonce.

At one corner of the bar, Little Chalupa sits at his laptop lining up singers and songs and even getting onstage himself for some Kid Rock. Hosting karaoke gigs four nights a week at Sue Ellen’s, Alexandre’s and Joe’s, he’s a pro at the game in the Dallas gay club scene.

Starting as a bartender at Woody’s, Chalupa began his stint as a host there and eight years later, he’s become the go-to guy for karaoke. Along the way, he’s learned a few things about the scene.

“Although every bar is having karaoke, it has to do with the host, and a supportive staff,” he says. “Spectators will really enjoy themselves a lot more and come back. The host has to make it fun and keep a flow. Sometimes I have 30 people waiting on my list.”

Chalupa reiterates the one popular reason people do this — simple fun. Whether he’s gigging at Joe’s or Sue Ellen’s, his crowds may be different, but the payoff is the same.

For him, it’s a bigger payoff when they really can’t sing.

“The ones who can’t sing and do it are having the most fun. I have a lot of bad singers, but that’s what motivates other people to get up there. I’ve devirginized a lot of non-singers,” he laughs.

He admits though, he’s not overly fond of the self-appointed divas, many of whom were taking his stage at Joe’s.

“The seriousness I don’t like. Some people do that because this is the time for them to show off — if they have talent, “ he says. “Or sometimes people walk in, put their song in and leave only to come back when it’s their turn. That’s not fair to people who are there. I’m there to make money for my place.”

Save for the few “talented” singers, Chalupa knows people are having a fine time. Whether it’s the ladies at Sue Ellen’s, an older crowd at Alexandre’s or his younger participants at Joe’s, Chalupa really just celebrates that spirit in someone to risk making a spectacle of themselves — and it mostly turns out well.

Barbara’s Pavillion

Barbara’s Pavilion in Oak Cliff is a popular spot for many reasons: Its gay friendliness, its neighborhood feel and its karaoke.

A diverse crowd lines the bar on this Sunday night. The place isn’t overly busy, but by 7 p.m. when the singing starts, the regulars are already at it. That’s proven by the married couple who gaze into each others’ eyes while dueting on Moulin Rouge’s “I’ll Fly Away.”

There are some familiar faces here from my recent night at the Round-Up. “Pussy Control” lady takes her turn with Blondie and later with Four Non Blondes. The employees even get in on the action.

Of all the clubs I visited, Barbara’s is the least intimidating. This is where everybody knows your name. They don’t know mine, but friendly attempts at conversation don’t go unnoticed.

And after every song, the crowd claps and hoots — even if a singer sounds like a pained animal waiting to be put out of its misery.

“I don’t really sing, I just like to scream my songs out,” says Angela Johnson. “Really, this is my therapy.”

Motivations run the gamut when it comes to karaoke. Arizpe says it brings confidence out in people, but I’m not so sure. Singing in front of strangers overall is one of the more vulnerable situations to put yourself in.

Natural singers who are good don’t have to worry, but the majority of us are up there to be potentially laughed at and — worse — judged.

It can be like a rollercoaster ride: Maybe it’s the thrill of danger while knowing you’ll finish safely.

Or you’re just haven’t had enough cocktails, like Justin Bradford who has had his fair share of mike experiences at the Round-Up.

“I like drinking the liquid courage that allows me to belt out whiskey-drenched vocals in the likes of Tanya Tucker,” he says.

“That allows me to momentarily bask in the spotlight of talent, because in reality, I have a terrible singing voice.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A KARAOKE SLIDESHOW

—  John Wright

Julius Bartender Attacked In Anti-Gay NYC Assault

Frederick Giunta, 25, was arrested Friday and charged with assaulting two men in a row in New York City's West Village last Tuesday. After robbing and hitting one, Giunta allegedly beat up a bartender at Julius, the storied gay bar, saying to him, "What are you going to do, you fucking nigger. You are a fucking faggot." He's charged with attempted robbery and misdemeanor as a hate crime. Who's exhausted tallying up all the statistics?


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Queerty

—  John Wright