Bob Mould and Richard Morel bring their legendary Blowoff party to Chicago.
During Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, gay male subcultures smash together. The hirsute and hefty eat up Bear Pride, the cumshot obsessed seek release at the Grabbys, and at the granddaddy of all events, the International Mr. Leather contest, thousands converge for a full weekend of fetish and fantasy. But there’s at least one place where these seemingly different groups will converge, and that’s Blowoff, a D.C.-based monthly party hosted by alt-rock guru Bob Mould and electronic producer Richard Morel. It happens May 23 at the Metro.
Unaffiliated with Bear Pride, the Grabbys or IML, but likely to appeal to devotees of all three, the all-night dance party attracts hundreds of men in their twenties through their fifties by offering vocal-driven dance music in an attitude-free zone. Mould and Morel take turns at the turntables, spinning a mix of deep house, rock, punk, funk, pop and electronica while a continuous loop of live visuals augments the evening. It’s developed a nationwide cult following thanks to the twosome’s eclectic musical tastes as well as their decision to take the party beyond the Beltway and into queer enclaves in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Portland, San Francisco and for the first time Chicago.
Blowoff began in 2003. “I had just moved down from Manhattan to D.C., and it tends to empty out during the summer,” says Mould, 48, the former frontman of pioneering indie-rock bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar. “I was having a heck of a time making friends. For me the motive was, maybe if I throw a party I’ll meet people.” Mould’s friend Morel, also late forties, an electronic producer who has worked with Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and the Killers, among others, had a similar thought. “A lot of it was out of necessity to create a social circle and see if there were like-minded guys who were into music, gay and looking for a stress-free environment to hang out in,” Morel says.
Named for the deciding fight in a pro wrestling match, Blowoff refers not only to the party but to Mould and Morel’s musical collaboration. In 2006, they released album Blowoff, which they performed live for a while at Blowoff parties. Meshed together, the duo’s differing styles—indie rock for Mould, electro and house for Morel—make Blowoff a distinct clubbing experience. “The thing that’s important is the commonality,” Morel says. “We’re both very song based so we tend to play more of the vocal versions, which, when you go to other clubs, you don’t hear.” And, Mould and Morel mix it up by taking turns working the crowd while the other works the turntables. “The crowd is there for the music and the way Rich and I present ourselves,” says Mould. Not surprisingly, they both say that in the last few years, as the party has grown in size and scope, Blowoff fans have also become followers of their solo musical projects.
For both, the success of their individual musical endeavors and that of Blowoff has been reciprocal. “[Blowoff’s] been instrumental as far as [my] remix production,” Morel says. “I test the mixes at Blowoff that I’m working on, and if they’re not working, I go back. I use it as a yardstick.” Says Mould, “For me creatively, it’s what brought me back to enjoying music so much. In ’03, I was starting to get to that age where I was losing interest in new music and I was getting a little too absorbed in my own stuff. Deejaying rejuvenated my interest on the fan level, which in turn reinspired me as a writer.”