Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated release he thinks we need to know about. Ending this week, he’ll be highlighting music exclusively from 2010. This week it’s Venus’ GHE20 G0TH1K one year anniversary mix. Download the mix and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
On the dance floor at the last GHE20 G0TH1K party, upstairs at a two-story party in total darkness except for lasers and street light seepage, sometime after an Aaliyah remix and before Waka Flocka, a short girl asked me either if I wanted weed or had weed. Didn’t know which one, but the answer was no to both. She went back to grinding some girl. I went back to dancing alone with my hood up. I left shortly after that, ran into a kid who interned for FADER for one day, then ran into a podium and almost fell down. I got in a cab quick, embarrassed. I saw Venus, who spearheads GHE20 G0TH1K, a week or two later at MoMA. She played Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying,” a song about the terrible realness of comedowns, extremely slow. A bunch of costumed people stood around not dancing, looking at each other. No one really touched the free candy. A week or two after that, Venus released another mix that has unrecognizably slowed down Three 6 Mafia followed by literal submarine pings. But I like this mix better because it has a reggaeton version of The Cranberries.
A month or two ago Venus came to my office for an interview. We sat at the ping-pong table in the conference room and she explained why she is stopping her party. A combination of wanting to go out on top, biters, haters and general disrespect was enough to motivate a divise, principled ending to GHE20 G0TH1K, which had been happening every Wednesday for a year. It’s a shame, because I barely got to go and it was really fun. It was also, not for lack of a better word, pretty punk.
GHE20 G0TH1K cost three dollars, two dollars less than the standard five Fugazi shows cost at Wilson Center. A sum that small encourages anyone to attend, but weeds out leeches who might only show for something free. It builds a body of reliable regulars, whose patronage enables promoters the ability to pay performers, allowing DJs outside of the local realm to guest. Respect and support of originators, Venus said, was crucial to the mission statement of the party. The internet has allowed dissemination of so much music (the party itself being spurred by a love of juke and footwork, somewhat niche genres from Chicago), and instead of feeding the imitators, pale or otherwise, of these originators, they themselves got paid and got to play for a loving audience, who may or may not have known where what they love came from. Talking to Venus was almost mafia-like in the weave of respect for various dons necessary to pay and the myriad unknowable ways in which to err, but it felt important to have any sense at all of the necessity of history in the creation of the present, especially when so much about being young right now is taking place in a fast-moving future.
As unfortunately pretentious as it sounds, talking to Venus about GHE20 G0TH1K reminded me of when I learned about Ngugi Wa Thiong’o setting up community theater in Kenya in 1977 after he wrote I Will Marry When I Want, a play critical of the post-colonial government. He wound up in jail over it (where he wrote an entire novel in Gikuyu, a Kenyan language without, until then, its own literature). Part of what angered the government, however, was not simply the message, but its easy dissemination and the willingness of the people to look at a simpler, brighter alternative, and the surprising ease with which one was created. After writing this play, Thiong’o decided to stage it as a community event, everyone pitching in by working at the theater, acting it in, or by being a consuming audience member. And that idea that this theater, with a specific political message, was its own economic space, staffed and attended independently, and that willful disinterest in or need for help from a larger body is the punkest thing around. It is also, of course, a reductive thing to equate these notions so positively with “punk,” which is why GHE20 G0TH1K, of course, was not created for me. I’m just lucky enough I got a little taste.
That collision of politics and entertainment was the real reason for GHE20 G0TH1K’s (in retrospect really obvious) ample success. “The gay parties are corny and the straight parties have no gay people. There’s next level shit going on, but converge! We never see them converge.” And, sick of weird music being the realm of punk basements or loud warehouses, and gay parties being not next level enough, she converged them. As she acknowledged, there is a lengthy history of popular culture absorbing underground gay culture. When she boiled down all underground culture into one messy party, its no wonder it had to stop. It just got too exciting. Now it’s just a matter of can you tamp the flames while still keeping them lit and hot?
Because, regardless of politics, what people want in a party is jams. And, above all, that is what GHE20 G0TH1K offered, be it at Gallery Bar or on headphones. Venus said much of the music she plays comes from deep exploration of YouTube. This would give most DJs a heart attack—audio rips from online video has a sound quality rate slightly higher than a tin can phone. But, she said, why do you go to a club? Is it to hear the music or hear how it sounds? About halfway through this mix there is a reggaeton reworking of The Cranberries’ 1994 hit, “Zombie” (itself a protest song against bombings in northern Ireland). It’s an anomaly that this exists, setting aside how multistoried an anachronism it feels like to listen to in 2010. And, because of that, despite that, it’s a brain breaker, wherever you hear it, whoever you are. And what’s music good for if not a taste of exciting freedom?