Rhonda, pardon, A Club Called Rhonda is easily among the best monthly parties in Los Angeles. Their nom-de-fête, "polysexual hard partying," is an entirely accurate way of describing their brand of dance party. It's always at least half-gay, which leaves the other half open for any other style you can think of: heterosexual, transexual, asexual, pansexual, asshole. Their strength has always been in booking. It's difficult and expensive to get the niche guys from Europe to the West Coast, but they've found a way to make it cost-effective without having to go to one of the endless terrible, medium-to-large Hollywood clubs. Somehow, they've turned a mediocre at best Mexican restaurant into a breathing, heaving organism.
Earlier in September, Motor City Drum Ensemble guested for his first LA appearance. The buzz about MCDE was fairly high for the relatively uneducated local scene; several people thought "they" were a bunch of older, black Detroit guys who were experiencing a renaissance. Regardless, the crowd is typically up-for-it, trusting the organizers to make solid booking decisions.
I arrived around midnight. Squeezing onto the floor, I realized that the venue, as quaint as it was, was probably too small and generally gets crowded (in a bad way) at all the major nodes. I also felt like there was a much larger percentage of straight folks than, say, six months ago. Following the promoter's tweets, I heard this frustration with friends on both sides of the extreme sexuality scale, complaining that it's either "too gay" or "too straight" for a given evening. Rhonda has always skewed much gayer in my mind, but with enough straights to keep it interesting. I felt like, for once, there were just as many straight people, or maybe it was just a bunch of people who can't dance.
Walking onto the dance floor, I was engaged in the production of the party. For MCDE, they had recreated some abstract garage scene with street signs, lights, car parts, etc. Theme-y elements like this usually turn me off, but the execution was solid, with some nice, simple light gags. But their best use of atmosphere has always been simple: smoke. The resident DJ, Goddollars, had been going for a bit now. I've never been able to pinpoint his actual personality and musical sensibilities, because Rhonda's resident MC talks over everything, rarely giving me a chance to warm up to what I'm listening to. (If you're going to tell me it's last call, great, thanks, but I don't need to reminded of where I am, what party I'm at, etc. I wasn't sure if he was trying to be a Paris Is Burning style ball-caller or a hip-hop emcee, but he was neither.)
Luckily for all, their solid headliners always seem to bring their A game for nice 2-3 hour sets. MCDE was no exception. Sticking with a great deal of his own productions and re-workings, he played the crowd quite well. As he dropped his dub of "Grand Central, Part I," I couldn't help imagine what Terre Thaemlitz would have made of all that was going on on the floor. Straight white girls hustling gay, shirtless black boys for poppers. A girl literally posturing as Grace Jones all night. Trannies and straight girls working the door. 40 year old post-hipster white girls cutting gay men in the bathroom lines. An amazing gay hipster fight outside. I'm not sure there's anything to make of it except that it's a truly successful, mixed atmosphere in a way I haven't seen matched in Los Angeles, month-in and month-out. Rhonda, the intangible personality behind the curtain, is a messy bitch. A classic, hot mess.