At Flash Nightclub this Sunday, Feb. 9, you can count on dancing to music written specifically for ’70s-era gay porn.
“It’s really experimental, almost jazzy at times, spacey and futuristic,” says Jacob Sperber, describing the instrumental electronic tracks written by the late Patrick Cowley and re-issued together last year as School Daze, a title from one of the old films. In many ways the 29-year-old Sperber, part of the San Francisco-based dance party Honey Soundsystem, has made it his mission to make more people, particularly gay people, aware of Cowley, who has been called “the American Giorgio Moroder.”
“He made very, very explicit, queer-themed music that was widely accepted and played on dance floors everywhere,” Sperber says about Cowley, who died in 1982 as his San Francisco-based career was just taking off — an early casualty of AIDS. Still, he’s regarded as a pioneer in the now-mainstream sound of electronic dance music, or EDM. In the same way that fellow Italian EDM pioneer Moroder helped shape Donna Summer’s success as a gay disco diva, Cowley had Sylvester’s back, helping write or produce the flamboyant artist’s biggest hits, including “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Do You Wanna Funk.”
So chances are good you’ll also hear a Sylvester hit at Flash, when Sperber will spin as DJ P-Play at a special Honey Soundsystem party also featuring a set by the collective’s Jason Kendig and presented by the fledgling D.C. party The NeedlExchange. “This is the first time that Honey’s really been showcased in D.C.,” Sperber says. Last year organizers decided to end the party’s five-year run of weekly Sunday parties in San Francisco, in part to give them a chance to create more national and international buzz through touring.
Sperber describes Honey’s sound as “dark high-energy,” an amalgam of both old and new sounds drawing mostly from underground disco and house. But there’s a special focus on queer dance music, both underappreciated historical gems as well as “people who are referencing it now in their music.” The party is comparable to the London-based traveling gay party Horse Meat Disco — as well as D.C.’s The NeedlExchange, which moves from its usual Sunday night perch at the Velvet Lounge for one night only, presenting Honey at the “word-class club” Flash. “I went there and was like, I want to play there,” Sperber says about the sharp, small nightclub that opened last year in Shaw with top-notch audiovisual equipment.
Sperber, who also helps produce events for San Francisco’s notorious Folsom Street Fair, was just in D.C. last month, for the roving party Luther’s Mid-Atlantic Leather event at the Green Lantern. The Los Angeles native mostly performs these days everywhere as DJ P-Play, a moniker he coined years ago while sitting bored during a “math for artists” class at the San Francisco Art Institute.
“I have definitely had people who come up to me and assume that I was the music representation of an entire fetish community,” he says. In reality, his goal was mostly just to be linguistically playful: “It was just me coming up with names that rhymed with DJ.”
Honey Soundsystem is Sunday, Feb. 9, at 9 p.m. Flash Nightclub, 645 Florida Ave NW. Tickets are $15. Call 202-588-1880 or visit tnxandhny.eventbrite.com or tnxdc.tumblr.com.