Countless style section profiles and GLBT weeklies have recently noted the slow and steady demise of the gay bar as a cultural institution of the queer community. Of course, news “trends” can frequently amount to one person with a deadline and ten with Google skills but still, in my own experience, I’ve seen a welcome transformation in the culture of the gay bar, especially musically. A few years ago, my boyfriend and I started booking bands at this affectionate leather dive bar, known mostly for its assless chaps and a back patio that had something a bit beyond mood lighting. And frankly, there was a palpable level of hostility to women that I quickly dispensed with by sheer force of numbers and a few shaming asides. Any gay man who is not a feminist is miraculously moronic.
The nights became something of a hit, precisely because it wasn’t exclusively queer space and it definitely wasn’t gay bar music (I know plenty of gay people who never want to hear “Rhythm Is A Dancer” ever again for as long as they live). Although gay bars and gay music have an importance in gay culture that’s difficult to underestimate, I like the evolution of identity that doesn’t mean that a particular category of oppression compels anyone to adopt a specific set of tastes. Sure enough, all over Austin there are now bars that are considered “mixed”, or at least places you could hang with your significant other and not have to miss a kiss. At least in my experience, there’s a soft, meaningful transformation that happens when queers and straights share the same space, drink a few cheap beers in a bar with a whipping crucifix on the wall, and listen to a great local band like White Denim. As always, I’m open to the arguments of the importance of “gay music”, but I honestly don’t know what that even would considered anymore, unless it’s those horrible circuit party CDs where “California Dreaming” is given a hi-Nrg workover by an anonymous diva. I guess this should come as no surprise since hip hop has become owned by no one in particular even while it clearly began in one community. Does identity music even have a place anywhere anymore? Or are these treasures(old school gay bars) that weren’t a particularly important part of life, something to be territorially protected.