Festivals and queer/fluid club-nights enable us to recover a playfulness we knew as children. Here, three festival-lovers, DJ Tami Pein, Ruby Stansfield and Dennis Keighron-Foster, reveal varying perspectives on shedding conservative cultural norms through music-making, going nude as a Pre-Raphaelite buxom beauty and discovering one’s feminine persona as a man on the dancefloor.
Tami Pein, DJ, in conversation with Soma Ghosh:
Soma: They say DJs don’t dance… but you groove at your decks. At which parties or festivals have you most enjoyed dancing with strangers – and why?
Tami: A party where strangers feel free to dance with each other is the best kind of party. I absolutely love it when the music unites a crowd through a collective effervescence. Shambala Festival, UK, is the ultimate place to dance with friends you haven’t quite met yet. There are so many electric and intimate micro-venues that make you feel hugged on the dance floor. This year I went to the festival on my own and couldn’t have felt more connected to everyone.
A stand-out party, for me, was a radical, anarchic performance night with Mykki Blanco and David Hoyle at Live Art Bistro in Leeds. The ‘dress as you feel’ corner was packed with antiquated, extravagant wedding dresses. It made the dancefloor look like a cross between Runaway Bride and Saturday Night Fever. I’ve never danced so hard with such a diverse group of people. The highlight has to be the constant marriage proposals in a party celebrating anti-establishment.
Lastly, at 5am when the lights come up at Love Muscle, Leeds, the pump is physically felt and seen. Sweat and satisfaction is written all over people’s faces. It’s probably the most unifying moment I could ever experience on the dance floor.
Soma: You do stonking sets at iconic Leeds queer night, Love Muscle. And at parties like Houseplay and Equaliser, you’re mixing house, electronic percussion, global pop… Are there particular freedoms around music choices for a non-hetero scene?
Tami: Completely. The accepting nature of queer space applies directly to the music I play. For me, queerness isn’t solely sexuality, it’s identity. Unlike hetero nights, queer parties inherently defy the boundaries set by traditional club nights. They contradict the stereotypes that ‘gay’ nights are only for a specific group of people. Queer parties are more open, fluid and experimental. This reflects in my music style. I feel free to mix bass-heavy percussive electro into Beyoncé and Abba.
Soma: Do you have a couple of surefire, banging tracks that delight everyone, male/female/straight/queer at a festival?
Tami: This year I closed the SanQtuary, a new progressive queer space at Shambala. An absolute slammer from the set has to be the Superchumbo’s Superfreak remix of Missy Elliot Get Your Freak On. It’s fast, sexy and percussive, then the vocals and acid breaks kick in… Another freaky disco-heater is Paul Johnson, ‘I Like To Get Down’. I’m currently hooked to the HeForShe x femmeculture compilation. They’re fuelled with naughty bass. The songs are queer, feminist and genre-pushing.
“Leading up to this festival, where I’d decided to show my body, I’d been waging a heavy battle within myself, wondering if I was fat and why this matters to me.
“Here I was, in a space where I’d always felt supported by others. I wished that being bare-chested and having strangers compliment me wouldn’t mean so much to me. But, honestly, people telling me I looked beautiful, fierce and free was the validation I needed, to be in my body.
“Looking at these pictures, at first all I could see was rolls of fat. But in the moment they were taken, I felt pure joy! And I believe that’s what we see in these photographs: my inner joy manifesting itself physically. It’s been a reminder to cultivate this feeling, so it beams out of me. That’s what’s really important.”