Meet The DJs And Creatives Leading Pittsburghs Increasingly Vibrant Queer Nightlife Scene

Meet The DJs And Creatives Leading Pittsburghs Increasingly Vibrant Queer Nightlife Scene

It might be cliche at this point to tell non-Pittsburghites that Pittsburgh is home to incredible nightlife and electronic acts. The word is already getting out.

Even internationally, people have heard of the city's reputation, says Ricky Moslen, founder of Pittsburgh's most popular queer dance party and DJ Jellyfish.

"Even people who travel outside the US say, 'Oh, have you ever heard of jellyfish?' And I said, 'Yeah, that's me,'" Moslen told the Pittsburgh City newspaper . “So I feel like it's happening. People know Pittsburgh is a great place.”

While it may be the biggest party and the only famous party to enter Wikipedia, Medusa represents just one of the many perspectives of Pittsburgh nightlife. A five-minute scroll through Instagram will give you the dates, times, and dress codes at local clubs, bars, and breweries, many of which are downright weird places.

While Hot Mass remains the industry standard for high-end DJs and early ravers, Cobra, Spirit, Trace Brewing and Mixtape have also become hubs for quirky guests.

Things were not always like this. Moslen tells City Paper that before Jellyfish, queer nightlife options were limited and events attracted a younger audience.

"I don't know of any other party in Pittsburgh that would call itself queer then," Moslin says. “And the entertainers in the gay bars were mostly men, you know, mostly white men. And what about all of us?

The creation of Hot Mass in late 2012 helped create a venue for professional DJs, but Sweet Abyss dance party founder Jules Malzoff says that for a long time, bringing different styles and music to the stage was less fun. . .

"What I'd like to see, and we've seen in a lot of places over this time, is not just a place or a party that doesn't just cater to cis gay people, but to queer people," Malzoff says. "But it's very music-oriented and attracts a lot of good musicians and DJs."

Created in March 2023 by Malzoff and partner Kiernan Laveaux, Sweet Abyss is a new event that helps showcase DJ creativity. On select Wednesday and Saturday nights each month at Mixtape, guests can enjoy a Transgender Dance Music Night. Created by his friend DJ 30,000AD, Transgender Dance Music, or TDM, is a riff on IDM, a subgenre of electronic music known as "smart dance music". It has a broader meaning, but in a nutshell, TDM is about letting go of convention and taking a dynamic systems approach to DJing, says Malzoff.

“It's more about the approach to playing music and playing it. So you know how to pack a punch, how to mix it up, Malzoff says. “It's such a transient expression in a collage sound.

At the Saturday night shows, that means drum and bass, experimental samples and a mix of classic house and techno. For Wednesday night, expect a cozy mix of synthwave, triphop, dub, disco and "gay psychedelic drive," according to Malzoff.

Malzoff, a Pittsburgh resident for the past 15 years, said hosting an event like Sweet Abyss is a unique opportunity, especially given the city's quirky nightlife.

"On any given night, there can be five or more events that can reach overlapping audiences at the same time, plus all the different events," Malzoff said. "I think because it's kind of new to Pittsburgh, people have to get the sound and the scene, or they're going to have a lot of fun."

While Mixtape isn't an obvious location, the laid-back atmosphere and welcoming amenities like free soft drink and water options make it a perfect fit for Sweet Abyss, Malzoff says.

“In an ideal world, there would be room for trans people and dance music. [Mixtape] was a place for us to try and experiment," says Malzoff. "Mixtape has a history of being weirder or weirder territory, so we were particularly interested."

The desire to create a welcoming space for IC Fish and Gin & Juice led Keuch to create Nana, an unusual group of women who grew up with Chris Brown and Frankie's Take You Down. Beverly,” says Icefish.

Since its inception, Keuchi Nana, whose name comes from rapper Sukihana Drug Dealer's Cuban doll line, has released many smoothies. Singles night, annual Pink Friday dances and more.

After meeting a DJ friend and finding common ground in musical tastes, Gin and Juice and Ice Fish decided to form a band.

"We realized that what we wanted to do and where we wanted our sound to go were in the same place," says Ice Fish. "I want to play dance music, but take it out at the same time."

Along with other popular bands and dance nights like MostBeautifullest and BLVCK T3K, Keuchi Nana prides itself on bringing popular black entertainment to Pittsburgh's neglected nightlife scene. IC Pisces says it's important to let black DJs play what they want, especially since clubs aren't always interested in DJs with experimental music tastes.

Ice Fish says, “Me and [Jin and Juice] were around when it wasn't what we see now as a black queer dance scene.

Gin & Juice added: “I sat in the box playing a lot of Top 40 and I was like, yeah, well, I can play. But excuse me? I like?

Gin and Juice and Ice Fish have played together at Hot Mass and Medusa, but usually hold their events at places like Track Brewing and Spirits, which don't always have the same cool vibe as exotic locations.

Jin and Juice highlight their negative experiences DJing in non-queer spaces and how they reported back to Keuchi Nana's customers.

“For example, some of these casual or bar-like places are not the most comfortable places to work, at least in my opinion. I had some experiences where I didn't feel comfortable in that place," he says. "And this is one of our priorities, from taking care of our people to providing water.

While Gin & Juice praised places like Mixtape for their inclusive atmosphere, he highlighted the need for more queer spaces.

I think if there were more queer spaces we would have more forums, but as it is now... there are less. We're losing it," he said. "And I can tell it's growing like a mix. We really need events with this kind of atmosphere, no worries over your shoulder to sit and drink and watch or anything like that.

As Cheri Online, Violet's sense of comfort and support has helped her release mixes on SoundCloud and play backstage at local DIY shows. At her first gig in Pittsburgh, an electronic music set at Eden Nights, her old home in South Oakland, Violet says the audience's reception gave her a place to work instinctively.

"I do a little bit of my own shooting, but a lot of it is about feeling where the audience is and where I am," says Violet. “I think it's because I have a really supportive community where I can go and try things and people are responsive and very supportive. So I think my confidence as an actor is finding those little places.

Purple In 2020, she moved from Washington DC to Pittsburgh and became interested in online articles about the electronic music scene of Hot Liturgy. It has since been located at Dilly, West Egg and 40th St. Done in DIY places like bridges. Like local college radio stations.

He believes that any venue can entertain as many people as his music, but he has fond memories of Eden Nights, where the small basement space allowed him to meet other young and fun artists.

"I remember spending the whole night on the couch with seven other trans women," Violet said. “Now it's become a place where trans women sit together on the couch. And I think that's a powerful thing. You can't actually enter real space.

Compared to regular venue parties, DIY venues don't have to worry about dealing with club promoters or high alcohol prices. But with this freedom comes the problem of maintaining that space.

"Making things at home is a curse," says Violet, "so if you want to have a very healthy DIY scene, I think you have to have people who can help you financially and with their work, keeping them clean places and you know, organize things. And work. . That's the creativity that supports the show and it's invisible."

In Pittsburgh you'll find a variety of quirky nightlife, from packed parties to open-air parks, but if there's one thing, it's a supportive community that lets people be themselves on the dance floor.

"That's how you make people feel safe and comfortable and warm up the party," says Icefish. "You can't shake your butt if you don't feel comfortable."

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