Entertainment » Culture

Indie Parlour marries nightlife and activism

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 27, 2011

When it comes to LGBT activism, the expression used to be "Out of the bar and into the streets," as though one couldn't get involved with community activism and knocking back a drink or two concurrently. But thanks to Chicago-based DJ, activist and all-around Renaissance queer Erik Roldan's new Indie Parlour weekly series, launching Wednesday, drunken complacency in the gayborhood -- and sub-par music at the bars -- might just become a thing of the past.

Or, at least it will on every Wednesday night, from 10 p.m. until bar time beginning February 2, 2011 at Parlour on Clark, 6341 N. Clark, a relatively new gay bar located at the northern tip of the city's Edgewater neighborhood. The Indie Parlour is unique from both the city's bustling North Halsted strip in Boystown and its growing Andersonville presence in offering a weekly home for non-mainstream music, as well as information about community-based initiatives and organizations.

The first party will feature guest DJs Nina Ramone and Lady Miss Navy Pier from the well-known alt- Chances Dances parties that travel to three different nightspots throughout the city each month. The organizers will also be using the party to provide information about its Critical Fierceness Grant, a micro-grant rewarded to support the work of Chicago-based queer artists.

An eclectic music mix

Roldan said the idea for the series originally came after he was asked by Parlour’s owners Jennifer Murphy and Nikki Calhoun if he would be interested in programming a weekly event expanding on the popularity of his Northern Lights party, co-curated by artist Nicole Garneau, launched last fall. From there, he looked within his friend group to brainstorm what he felt was missing from the city’s queer nightlife scene, particularly for politically-minded, indie music-inclined folk.

"I felt like there are these different monthly parties happening, but there was no weekly event without a cover with cheap drinks for people to check out," Roldan said. "I knew a lot of my artist friends are into localism, politics and activism and my activist friends are into accepting spaces that are non-judgmental and offer something unique.

"So this was a natural extension of the people I know and the things I’m already doing, just trying to bring it all together at Parlour to see if people want to show up and participate in it," Roldan continued.

The music will be eclectic, offering a bit more variety than the Boystown standard, ranging from new wave and disco to house and booty-bass. And the DJs and organizations involved cover a far reaching range of interests and styles.

Continuing the series’ first month on February 9, 2011 will be a night DJed by Ratcatchers’ own DJs Baby Bamboo and Teen Witch, whose monthly CULT night has earned a reputation for Lord of the Flies-like insanity (in a good way) at Berlin. The Chicago Independent Radio Project will also be on hand providing information on local volunteer opportunities and the recently passed Local Community Act.

February 16, 2011 Lambda Legal (of which Roldan is also the Chicago office’s public information officer) will present Nightschool, an evening of "sexy, smooth, candlelit jams" and LGBTQ-geared legal information. Each month will conclude with the night that started it all, Northern Lights, featuring its unique "go-go gothic" dancers and a slate of other performers on Feb. 23. Northern Lights was recently named the "best alt queer party" by Time Out Chicago.

The Indie Parlour series is only the latest in what appears to be somewhat of an opening up of Boystown-alternative parties on the Chicago scene while, at the same time, the Internet has allowed more community organizers to access the tools they need to build new events and groups. The result, Roldan agreed, appears to be a more open-minded perspective on nightlife options.

"I think people who are more accustomed to mainstream music and their regular bars they go to are more open to trying new things now," Roldan said. "If you look at the proliferation of local parties that attempt to offer something different, I guess you could also say there’s more of that now in Chicago than there was before."

Ultimately, Roldan hopes that open-mindedness will translate into success for the Indie Parlour, the strength of which lies in its potential to connect queer folk who share passions for slightly off-kilter music and hands-on community work.

"I think that hobbies and volunteerism is just one of the best ways to meet like-minded people and build a strong community that is aware of itself and can mobilize together," Roldan added. "And that’s so important to me, almost just as important as enjoying music that doesn’t all sound the same and that is interesting to listen to."

Visit Parlour on Clark’s website at www.parlouronclark.com for more information on The Indie Parlour series, which begins Wednesday, Feb. 2, at 9 p.m., with its Chances Dances party.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.


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