He wasn’t just losing a job. He was losing a family, too.
In the days leading up to Town Danceboutique’s closing last July, general manager Dougie Meyer detected a somber mood in the Shaw nightclub. The leased space had been sold to a new developer, and D.C.’s LGBTQ community was about to see its biggest dance venue vanish.
“Town wasn’t just a family to the staff members, but also the customers,” says Meyer, who splits his time between D.C. and New York City. “There were customers who would go to Town because they knew they could talk to a certain bartender that was going to be there that night, or staff member, and they could say hi.”
After Town closed on July 1, Meyer retreated to New York for a few months to focus on his gay party cruise business. But the club’s final curtain call kept gnawing away at him as he continued to hear from past patrons about how much they missed the club. The loss of Town became the jumping-off point for Meyer to start his new LGBTQ dance party, Avalon Saturdays, at downtown D.C. venue Soundcheck in October.
Avalon Saturdays parties (Soundcheck, 1420 K St. NW; Saturdays, 10 p.m., $15) stand apart from Soundcheck’s usual slate of underground EDM acts, but the events feel like home for former regulars of Town. Many of the drag queens and DJs who appear each week previously performed at the defunct club. Meyer says Soundcheck’s high-tech sound system and production quality made the venue a perfect fit, and his partnership has helped the LGBTQ community connect with a new crowd.
“The fact that we’re in a venue where the primary clientele is straight, and Soundcheck is willing and open-minded to want to bring us into their home and give us a chance — this is a huge deal,” Meyer says.
Avalon Saturdays feature a rotating slate of DJs and drag queens who keep the party at a fever pitch until the early hours of the morning. Each weekly party feels like a new experience, thanks to the events’ changing themes. This Saturday’s show will be a Super Bowl weekend celebration with music from DJ Matt Bailer of popular DC9 dance party Peach Pit.
“The range of Avalon customers varies — from people who put on makeup and dress in drag, to circuit party boys, to a person that likes Top 40 music,” Meyer says. “It’s such a wide clientele.”
Reaching a new demographic is one thing, but The QREW co-founders Kristen Voorhees and Danylle Kightlinger say that diversifying the locations of queer parties is crucial to making more safe spaces in D.C. — particularly for marginalized groups who have limited options to begin with.
This is why their group’s upcoming party at The Wharf’s Union Stage — its first at the venue, which normally does not host LGBTQ events — feels monumental.
“Queer women now have A League of Her Own and XX+ in D.C., which are great [bars] — it’s good to know that there’s an environment where we can feel comfortable — but it’s always nice to be able to spread out and not always be in the same places,” Kightlinger says. “When you host a party in a space like Union Stage, it opens that venue up for the queer community to feel more comfortable to go, even if there’s not a specific LGBT event going on.”
The QREW’s philosophy is simple. “Our goal is to create a space for queer women and their friends to feel unique to themselves unabashedly and unapologetically,” Voorhees says. The organization puts on quarterly parties at various venues in D.C., offering a way for queer women to connect and enjoy music from local DJs.
Voorhees and Kightlinger started The QREW in 2016, at a time when A League of Her Own and XX+ didn’t exist and Capitol Hill institution Phase 1 had shuttered its doors. The QREW’s event series is nomadic, with parties taking place at smaller clubs such as Songbyrd Music House in Adams Morgan and Ten Tigers Parlour in Petworth. The 450-capacity Union Stage will host The QREW’s largest party to date. The event (Union Stage, 740 Water St. SW; Feb. 8, 10:30 p.m., $10) will feature music from DJ Tezrah, a drag king performance from Pretty Boi Drag, a late-night happy hour and giveaways by This Free Life, an anti-smoking campaign geared toward LGBTQ youths.
“The event is also 18-plus, which is important — there’s a major gap in the queer community with under-21 events, and Union Stage is also ADA-accessible, allowing us to be more inclusive than we have been before with our events,” Voorhees says.
Though Voorhees and Kightlinger believe that hosting their event at a space like Union Stage is an important step, they also feel that the District needs more dedicated venues for queer women.
“It’s particularly important for women to feel like they have a space of their own,” Voorhees says, “to feel as if it is their own space.”
Drag performer Ed Figueroa — who goes by the stage name Bombalicious Eklaver — felt that D.C.’s nightlife was lacking options for those who identify on the LGBTQIA spectrum (especially the “T,” “Q,” “I” and “A”), and the gap seemed even wider once Town Danceboutique was gone. With Figueroa’s new dance party, Blowout DC, which debuts at Songbyrd Music House next month, these groups who might have felt excluded from the nightlife scene will now be front and center.
The new monthly event aims to deliver a diverse mix of performers such as musicians, local drag stars and DJs. Songbyrd’s intimate subterranean venue, which typically hosts indie musicians, will get a Blowout makeover complete with a fog machine and bubbles — lots of bubbles. DJ Electrox and DJ Juba will spin tunes throughout the inaugural bash (Songbyrd Music House, 2477 18th St. NW; Feb. 16, 11 p.m., $7-$10), with drag performances from Pussy Noir, Majic Dyke, Sigma Fraud and Figueroa. Plus, there will be male and female go-go dancers, and Figueroa says the go-go boys will certainly be wearing heels.
“Songbyrd caters to all types of events, not just LGBTQ events,” he says, “and it works out in our favor — people who aren’t in our community are getting the message that we are bonded, that we are together, that we are a force.”
Figueroa says Blowout is meant to provide “a fun atmosphere for the entire LGBTQIA community, but especially queer, trans folks and allies as well who would feel left out.” Though there are more LGBTQ parties popping up in D.C.’s non-queer venues, Figueroa says there’s still plenty of work ahead to make more inclusive spaces for everyone.
“People can argue that a party [like Blowout] has been done before, but it doesn’t hurt to put up more spaces like this,” Figueroa says. “Especially at a time when marginalized folks feel like they don’t have anywhere to go in this world.”
Also read our story on 9:30 Club’s new LGBTQ dance party, Bent.