On the West Side, a queer scene explodes.
There’s nothing like the smooth sounds of Phil Collins on a Sunday evening, am I right? How about a midweek hangout with bearded fellas and their admirers or scavenging a craft table on a Tuesday to create your own costume for a runway show? At Soft Rock Sabbath, Burly and at Nuts & Bolts: A DIY Dance Party, respectively, and elsewhere in Logan Square, queer nights are exploding. There are now six recurring parties spread out among three venues, pointing to a trend not likely to recede anytime soon.
The roots of LGBT nightlife in the ’hood trace back further than August 2011, but that’s the month when former Chicago Reader marketing manager Kristen Kaza kicked off Slo ’Mo, a party that happens every third Thursday at the Whistler and has become a bona fide neighborhood fixture. “Slo ’Mo was an idea that I came up with listening to Janet Jackson, riding my bike on a sultry night in Chicago,” she says. “I really wanted to celebrate my love for R&B and there wasn’t a party doing that and I felt like I needed to solve that problem.” Kaza handpicked the Whistler specifically for its chill vibe and queer-friendly staff. An instant hit, lines are often out the door. Also at the Whistler are two 2012 additions: Crimson Glow, a monthly evening of female sounds cocreated by Claire Arctander and Chances founder Latham Zearfoss, and Soft Rock Sabbath, a semi-recurring night of light rock and saxophone solos founded by performer Jyl Fehrenkamp, who points to Logan Square as an emerging gay mecca. “There’s a big queer population in Logan Square,” she says. “It’s almost like a new queer part of town that’s opening up.”
A.J. Durand seconds that notion. Durand’s Nuts & Bolts: A DIY Dance Party happens every first Tuesday at Township and draws in young queers attracted to the live performances, craft table and runway show. “Having spaces for queer-identified people in areas where they tend to live is really key,” he says. “East Lakeview and the Northalsted Business Alliance is an extremely poor representation of our community at large.” (Durand likes to call the neighborhood Logan’s Queer.)
Consider the niche appeal of each of these nights (saxophone solos, anyone?) and Durand’s argument is sound. On a recent Wednesday, for example, it’s raining cats and dogs…and bear cubs at the Burlington bar where retro punk and disco sounds form a backdrop for a laid-back crowd of mostly bearded men and a few women. It’s hard to imagine Burly, happening every third Wednesday at the Burlington, taking off in Boystown. “Not only does gay culture need not be concentrated in large cities,” says Burly cofounder Peter McDowell, “it all doesn’t need to be concentrated in gay neighborhoods.” (Another queer party, Subject to Change, happens at the Burlington every last Wednesday.) Yet McDowell confirms that Logan Square is bursting with queers. He’s advertised heavily using the geo-social networking app Scruff. “When I was using Scruff it was like, whoa, there’s a hundred guys within a couple miles,” he says.
All of this raises the question, could a full-time bar be on the way? Most organizers say yes (one Burly fan has discussed with McDowell the possibility of a queer bar co-op). “Logan Square is an amazing neighborhood that is constantly evolving, and people in that area are very supportive of new ventures,” Kaza says. Fehrenkamp agrees. “I would like to think that’s on the way in the near future. I think there should be more rainbow flags in Logan Square.”
Subject to Change happens Wednesday 28.