What's the difference between an after-hours party and a morning party at a club? It's not meant as a joke, though living in D.C. makes it seem like a rather cruel one. Two years ago, the city's gay scene had neither to speak of on a regular basis. Not to say it hadn't been tried before. Actually, it's been tried even since Sunday Mass came on the scene.
And whatever you call it -- technically speaking it's more of a morning party -- Mass is a smash, attracting upwards of 300 patrons at each twice-monthly gathering. It's the most successful early-morning gay club event in recent memory. Stephen Weber, who handles Mass's business operations, attributes part of that success to an emphasis on having fun and greeting every patron with a warm welcome.
Weber began Sunday Mass in January 2003 with his then-domestic partner Blaine Soileau and former D.C. residents Shawn Bannon and Tony Winthrop. Weber and Soileau, the resident DJ and creative mind behind the event, think they're also succeeding because of the event's home, Club Five. Soileau says the venue is the perfect size, a great location and boasts "the best sound system in the city."
The management of Club Five gives them full rein for the party, allowing Weber and Soileau the flexibility that appears to be Mass's stock in trade, an antidote to a real Mass service: They can open the rooftop level as they wish, and they can serve alcohol after 10 a.m. in accordance with D.C. law. (They usually don't, however.)
"It's interesting what's happened as the party has kind of matured and gotten more recognition," Weber says. "In the beginning we used to get the majority of our crowd right when we opened [at 6 a.m.] and then another wave of people around eight-thirty." The later crowd were those who went out dancing Saturday night until the clubs closed, then went home and freshened up for more dancing.
"Now we also get another huge crowd at around 9:30," he says, referring to the people who didn't go out the night before.
Consequently, it follows that the distinction between a morning party and an after-hours in D.C. lies in how long it's been since sleep. However much or little red-eye, on select Sunday mornings Mass is the only place to be. To please both contingents of partygoers Soileau plays a mix of what he distinguishes as after-hours and morning music, but always happy and high-energy. Says Soileau: "The music's purpose is to make them feel good."
Sunday Mass is the business partners' first go at promoting a party, aside from an extravagant "Don't Mess With Texas" party at the 2002 International Mr. Leather (which, incidentally, Weber, representing his native Texas, went on to win that year). So do they expect Mass to be a long-term stop on the D.C. nightlife scene?
"As long as we keep doing what we can to keep it fresh," says Weber, "there's no reason for me to think that it won't be around."
Sunday Mass happens this Sunday from 6 a.m. to noon at Club Five and again on Sunday, July 4th. Blaine Soileau will DJ. $12 cover. Visit www.sundaymassdc.com.