Shake your groove thing at these these disco parties keeping the classic disco scene alive and shimmying, coast to coast.
While some thought the days (and late, late nights) of disco wrapped up in the final part of the 1970s, there are numerous parties that are keeping the classic disco spirit, community and carefree vibe burning hot. And, just like disco’s original roots, many of the parties have an underground sensibility, catering to a mostly gay and diverse crowd. While some folks associate disco with Saturday Night Fever, it really was the music of the disenfranchised (gays, people of color) before it hit the mainstream. There is poignant nostalgia that surrounds disco—for that freewheeling time full of sexual expression and joy—before the horrific AIDS crisis struck, and so many lost their dear friends and loved ones.
At these parties happening now, some dancers remember the songs from the first time around (and know all the lyrics), while there’s a new generation of younger listeners and DJs eager to learn and keep disco’s history and stories alive. While some parties are dabbling with disco before launching into a night of house music or playing the more recent genre of Nu Disco, here are some of the top parties around the United States focused on just classic disco.
We also asked these parties’ DJs and promoters to choose and say a little something about their favorite and essential disco tracks. Read the piece here.
The Tubesteak Connection (Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk St, Thursdays, 10pm-2am)
This 12-year-old party is thrown every Thursday at the venerable Tenderloin drag dive, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, where dancers groove to rare and vintage dance tracks. Bus Station John painstakingly transforms the space each week, posting up giant black and white posters and vintage gay centerfolds, and suspending record sleeves from the ceiling over the bar, while keeping things darkly lit with red bulbs and tea candles. It maintains its underground cred with no Facebook presence and keeps its old-school, cruisy, get-high-on-the-music vibe alive by maintaining a strict no cell phone policy.
“By liberating ourselves from modern electronic distractions, we channel the dance floors of yesterday where people can actually lose themselves in the music,” says BSJ. “Plus, nobody looks cute in the harsh glare of a cell phone.”
You can sign up for his saucy, NSFW newsletter here.
Bus Station John also regularly mans the decks at his popular, semi-monthly tea dance at the SF Eagle, successfully filling the evening void following the bar’s traditional Sunday afternoon beer bust. Blending classics, hi-NRG and R&B hits with deeper tracks, it attracts a broad range of disco fans, including many men (daddies!) in their 50s and 60s, and will celebrate its third birthday this June, kicking off The Eagle’s Pride Week festivities.
This joyful disco party was founded in 2008, bringing seven-plus years of “Atomic Dancefloor Disco Action!” to SoMa’s historic gay dance club and bar, The Stud (proudly turning 50—it has been open since 1966!). Resident DJs include Steve Fabus, Sergio Fedasz and Prince Wolf, who are the ultimate hosts to a diverse, eclectic and friendly crowd that comes each month to boogie down, get loose, dance hard, flirt, hook-up and have fun.
Below Tea is a monthly, classic disco tea dance DJed by Greg Scarnici and hosted by the legendary cable access pioneer, Robin Byrd, in the “disco dungeon” of the legendary Monster in the West Village.
"It's a fun party that brings together men and women of all ages who enjoy classic disco. We have everything from millennials learning about Diana Ross and Sylvester to couples in their late 60s doing the hustle,” says Scarnici.
The party will celebrate its two-year anniversary in September 2016.
This long-running party in the basement of The Monster has been going strong for some 25 years. With a mix of classic favorites and rarely-heard gems, the retro party attracts a loyal and diverse late-night crowd (things really get going late!). The dance floor will have a number of regulars, couples hustle dancing, older gents, younger ones, people visiting from out of town… it’s a scene. DJs Michael Wilson and now John Marto trade off each week.
Throwback Sunday (Gilded Lily, 408 W 15th St, Sundays, 7pm-11pm)
This classic underground disco party has been going for eight years, and has been at Gilded Lily for almost one year. While the tracks are vintage, the crowd of gay men are (mostly) too young to know and remember the songs from the first time around—fortunately DJ Lina is happy to introduce them to the disco classics.
Oil Can Harry’s (11502 Ventura Blvd, Studio City)
This venerable gay institution in Studio City is one of the the oldest gay-owned and operated bars in LA, and hosts a retro disco party every Saturday night (8pm–2am). They also host a monthly Sunday tea dance/party called Hustle Heaven, with DJs John Torres and Andrew Deloza playing only vinyl records; the party includes a dance lesson and lots of couples dancing.
For the past year, Bus Station John (The Tubesteak Connection) has been taking his show on the road from San Francisco to L.A. to play at Akbar in Silver Lake. “The reaction in L.A. has been super-gratifying,” he says. “People there have been hungry for a party like this for a long time, and the response has been wildly enthusiastic.” DDLA happens only as often as BSJ can squeeze it into his schedule, about four times a year, so keep your ear to the dance floor...
What started as a website archiving the L.A. disco history of the 70s and 80s has spawned some disco parties that draw a dedicated and mixed crowd in Long Beach and other locations. Follow their Facebook page for party updates.
Another DJ collective to follow is Horse Meat Disco. While they are based in London, they regularly come to DJ in New York, San Francisco and Chicago (track dates here). Their sound is based on classic disco, but depending on the event and venue they are playing at, other genres can make their way into their sets.
We also asked some of these parties’ DJs and promoters to choose and say a little something about their favorite and essential disco tracks, read the piece here.