A cardboard, cartoon Morrissey hovers over the crowd, his sketched gaze pinning
down his opponent on the other side of the stage. It's certainly not the first
time he's flashed his pecs for the ladies, but now he's wearing boxing gloves
and shorts. Facing him is the never-before-seen bare chest of Robert Smith, his
hair ablaze with the spirit of the challenge before him. The thrill of the
fierce competition at CRYFEST, the Cure vs. Smiths dance night at the Black Cat
in Washington, D.C., sends black-clad twenty-somethings into a frenzy over what
dominates: "Bigmouth Strikes Again" or "Just Like Heaven?"
Though CRYFEST is an annual event, the Black Cat packs its checkered floor for
regular dance nights like Right-Round: '80s Alt-Pop Dance Night and Wag: '60s
Garage and Soul. Meanwhile, girls in fishnets and dudes decked in the
necktie-velvet blazer combo devote the second Saturday of every month to
Mousetrap: D.C.'s Biggest Britpop Dance Night. DJ Mark Zimin has been spinning
Mousetrap for the past six years, and is still finding ways to keep it
Mark says that the positive response he gets from people consistently makes his
job worthwhile. "I love that there are real music fans in the audience who are
listening to what I'm playing and critiquing me, either right then or later," he
said. His pet peeves usually extend to the massive consumption of Pabst Blue
Ribbon, which ultimately leads to bad requests. And though Mark was exposed to
the brit-pop scene directly while living in England from 1991-1994, he still
looks for feedback from dancers about bands he's never heard of.
Mark says he tries to cover the evolution of Britpop music during his five-hour
DJ stints, from poppy Blur-type stuff to the Oasis heavy guitar sound to the
choppy energy of Brit-wannabes the Strokes. Most of the time he's on target,
prompting slick dance moves with tracks like "Do You Remember the First Time?"
Other times, however, Hot Hot Heat's "Bandages" and the Killers make it into the
set, making one wonder where to draw the Brit-influenced line. While this
strategy of mixing it up helps Mousetrap to reign supreme over the D.C. indie
dance night scene, dance clubs in Los Angeles face the daunting task of
maintaining hip status for more than six months.
Molly McClurg, a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, says
that a few months ago, Club BANG! on Hollywood Boulevard was the place to be.
Now, however, it's Club Moscow at Boardners. "Don't be fooled...everyone there
is a regular," she said. "They return week after week in the hopes of...who
fucking knows. Getting recognized from their Myspace pictures?" The edge of
Molly's bitter tone is soothed only by the fact that while looking good is
necessary, dancing skills aren't.
Molly says that any ape with an angular haircut can master the
standard-alternating-foot-stomping-with-no-upper-body-movement, and at the Black
Cat, "dance like nobody's watching" (even though, through the smoke, everybody
is) is the evening's anthem. These dance nights, despite the cyclops symptom of
the side-swept bang syndrome, are really an excuse to interpret "Seeing Other
People" through body movement and bob incessantly to "Slow Hands." Any song
deemed too socially unacceptable for the Ipod still merits a sing-along- just
leave any inhibitions at home with your opaque tights.
Chelsea Theis is an American roaming London's circumference for the semester.
She experienced Club BANG! for herself when she lived in Los Angeles last summer
and now raves about London's superiority. Her favorite is the Trash party, which
is held every Monday night at The End. The line to get in crawls, and its
website warns that they "do have a dress code, which is based on the effort
people make, and some people are turned away." Yikes! But once you manage to
dazzle the doorman, inside there's only "dancing, good music and love," says
Chelsea. It's ten times better than Club BANG!, and after people down a few
drinks and contemplate the smoke from their Camels sufficiently, the party's
worth the wardrobe stress. Two separate rooms offer different atmospheres; long,
swaying skirts and hair interpret early Radiohead in one space, and tight jeans
bop to the Magnetic fields in the other.
So, whenever you find yourself among D.C.'s relaxed standards, L.A.'s barriers
or London's diversity, dance nights are a good way to define yourself by way of
your body movements. Whether themed or too hip to miss, these clubs offer good
reason to look your best for an excuse to drink and shake your hips. -Rebecca A.