I Miss the Community of Clubbing

Clubbing is a ritual that you do with people you care about. Dressing up and partying at home is still fun, but you can't feel that same physical connection or get junk food afterwards.
illustrated by Lily Blakely
Emma Garland
as told to Emma Garland
May 20, 2020, 7:45am
Dorian Electra in Heav3n illustration by Lily Blakely

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Previously in "What I Miss Most": Desperately craving decent coffee.

When I was grappling with the realisation of, 'Wow, we're not going to be doing anything anymore!' it instantly hit me that I wasn't going to be able to go to Heav3n – a party in LA run by my friend, Lulo.

Heav3n has been having a moment in LA. It's a fun, queer safe space that brings together a load of different groups from both the underground and the internet – drag queens, emo trap kids, people from Instagram and what used to be Tumblr but is now the queer side of the Soundcloud world. Queer parties often feel like splintered versions of this, with each group doing their own nights, but Heav3n brings them together with pop music that appeals to everyone. You can walk in and they'll be playing "Barbie Girl", and then a crazy experimental remix of something you don't know, so it's a good balance of accessible and boundary-pushing.

Heav3n was the first party I ever performed at in LA – back in 2016, when it was at a way smaller club – and it's been amazing to watch a community grow around it. Heav3n is a place where young people can come to experiment with their fashion, or express themselves in all kinds of ways. It makes me think about being younger and having my first club experiences in Chicago, where I first started to make music.

There were some legendary club nights back in 2014/2015, where I felt more like an observer, like an outsider who wasn’t really a part of what was going on – but it was those club nights that got me dressing up for the first time, experimenting with make-up and meeting people I ended up collaborating with later down the line. There's been so much interesting art coming out of Chicago pushing the boundaries of drag and gender. It's where I first met people who were using they/them pronouns, and people doing drag who were trans or non-binary or afab. I'd see club kids like Ugly Worldwide when they were really young; designers were collaborating with drag queens. Everything bleeds into one another and everyone's influencing each other. I don’t identify as a drag artist, but being a part of that community was really influential for me. It's cool to think about what the younger people coming to Heav3n are seeing, or what they’ll go on to do.

Club nights are really important to me artistically. They inspire what kind of music I make and what I wear. Fashion has so much to do with my personal identity and my gender identity, and a lot of that is how I move my body in the clothes I’m wearing. I love Heav3n in particular because I feel like it's a place to experiment artistically, whether it’s experiencing a crazy outfit in a public setting without the pressure of it being "the outfit" for my show, or putting weird remixes of my own songs into my DJ mix. When you play or perform music in those settings you get such an instant reaction – and that reminds you of the purpose of making music, which is that it's for other people to enjoy. Sometimes, when you’re just doing it at home, it can feel a little isolated.

We did a digital version of Heav3n on Club Quarantine recently, with Charli XCX, HANA and Alice Glass, and it really hit me seeing all these kids in the chat all dressed up and having fun – either by themselves or with their partners or roommates. I was getting super emotional thinking about partying and music and how important a function that provides in our society.

I'm not a spiritual person, but I would say that partying – dancing and connecting to your body – fulfils some aspect of connecting to others and feeling something transcendent. It's like a ritual that you do with people that you care about. It's so important for so many people, especially queer people, to have that space in a physical sense – especially for those who don’t feel physically themselves or safe in their own homes. It’s meaningful, as an artist, to think about how I can contribute or provide this as a service to other people. You can really get into a nihilistic pit, feeling like you're not helping to make the world a better place by making your music videos, etc, so having digital parties and being able to connect to fans through social media helps me feel like I have more of a purpose. It really keeps me going.

I’m not the type of person who goes out for brunch or to the beach, because I’m always working during the day or travelling. I’m not really a big party person either – I’ll usually only go out if my friends are DJing, or I’m DJing or performing – but I always know that, at Heav3n, I can go and see all my friends in one place. It’s amazing. I miss musical collaborations coming out of the Green Room, I miss funny drunk selfies and I miss trips to the taco truck after the club closes.

Fortunately, I think Heav3n will survive lockdown. It’s built a big enough following, and it's still very community-based. A lot of people live and survive on weekly gigs just to be able to pay rent and buy food, especially drag queens and DJs, so Lulo started the "Heav3n Fund" to to support local queer artists in need. It's so important having these local-level charity efforts as well as national funds and grants that take a long time for money to reach people. Personally, I want to find more ways to support other artists in need, because we don’t really know what this is going to look like in the long run. Leadership, in these times, can take the form of a club promoter doing something to help the community.