Arts

Four Toronto artists have created social isolation's hottest queer dance party: Club Quarantine

Don't worry, it's virtual — and it happens every night on Zoom.

Don't worry, it's virtual — and it happens every night on Zoom

The scene at Club Quarantine. (Club Quarantine. )

On the first day of social isolation (which, if you're Canadian, was probably only nine days ago — even if it feels more like nine months), four Toronto friends were chatting via Instagram video. They wanted some more people to join them, but Instagram caps its video chats at six users, so someone suggested they try Zoom instead. As more and more people joined, the chat grew from a few friends hanging out into a full-blown virtual party — and Club Quarantine (or Club Q), the hottest queer social event of our socially isolated new normal, was born.

Launched on the evening of Monday, March 16th by those four noted friends — recording artist Andrés Sierra, producer Casey MQ, comedian Brad Allen and digital creative Mingus New — Club Q has gone down every night at 9pm since, with plans to continue for however long COVID-19 keeps us in social isolation.

"It's super easy, following a few house rules," Sierra tells CBC Arts. "You don't even need an account to join; you just need the Zoom app (desktop is recommended for best experience) and the meeting ID to join, which goes up on our Instagram and Twitter every night at 20:59 and runs until midnight. Mute your microphone, communicate via chat and have fun! This is a safe space which prioritizes marginalized communities and there is zero tolerance for hate."

Sierra is serious: there's even a virtual bouncer who will ensure you are "clicked out" of the party for any kind of hate speech.

From its humble beginnings only a week ago where 20 people partook in a virtual party DJed by MQ and Sierra, the popularity of Club Q has exploded. Folks have been joining in from across Canada and countries all around the world, with a new DJ each night (last night it was Sofia Fly).

Queer people have always found ways to gather: in the cracks, behind the scenes, in alleys and hidden rooms, and, of course, in the ether of the digital.- Jeremy Laing, artist

"We had someone tattoo 'club q' live on cam on the second night," Sierra says. "Wild. Also, a lot of people have expressed to us that Club Q has made clubbing accessible to them and it's lifting their spirits. The community is happy and we're happy."

Club Q now has 13,000 Instagram followers checking for the code each night, and they've had so many requests from DJs wanting to that they're currently working on an artist submission portal. 

"Queer people have always found ways to gather: in the cracks, behind the scenes, in alleys and hidden rooms, and, of course, in the ether of the digital," says artist Jeremy Laing, a Club Q regular. "Living outside the dominant culture, we are often shaped by isolation, so we develop robust ways to connect in spaces real and virtual, finding each other with secret verbal and visual languages. Oppressive systems and institutions cannot stop us from being and connecting, and pandemic prohibitions will not do so now. Club Q is a necessary and contemporary response to the mandate of caring for each other by staying physically apart, yet gathering still, and I'm so grateful for it."

"Since the very first party, I've looked forward to Club Q every night," adds filmmaker Stephen Dunn, another Club Q staple. "The money I'm saving from Uber/Lyft and mixed drinks, I'm spending ordering decorations and lighting for my bedroom so that I'm ready the next time my feed makes it on spotlight. [It] just goes to show how resilient queers are, and have always been, in times of crisis. Club Q brings me life and helps me feel connected with my best friends and fellow queerdos all around the world."

Club Q is also a fundraiser of sorts. While free to join in, they have a PayPal donation link in their Instagram bio to help pay their DJs and performers, all of whom have been hit hard by the havoc COVID-19 has wrought. 

Sierra says the party will continue for as long as social distancing does, though ideally we are not still going to Club Q every night a year from now and are instead all together in physical human form.

"We will definitely throw a party in real life when this nightmare is over," Sierra says. "However, we see this online presence as vital to creating a nightlife that is accessible to everyone and keeping that in mind as we evolve post quarantine. Taking this day by day."

And thankfully, thanks to Sierra and their friends, we can also take this night by night by dressing up in our queerdo best, logging in to Zoom and hitting the ultimate club of the quarantine. 

CBC Arts understands that this is an incredibly difficult time for artists and arts organizations across this country. We will do our best to provide valuable information, share inspiring stories of communities rising up and make us all feel as (virtually) connected as possible as we get through this together. If there's something you think we should be talking about, let us know by emailing us at cbcarts@cbc.ca.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which received 2020 Canadian Screen Award nominations. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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