Taipei Pride: Partying Chinese Style
Taipei has undoubtedly become the epicenter of Pride in Asia. It hosts the largest Pride festival with reports ranging between 30,000-50,000 for the parade alone. This year I met and made friends with people from Japan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore. I can’t wait to go back.
Friday - Adonis @ Club Space
There were two competing parties on Friday night. The one that I didn’t attend was a bear party called MDG x Woof at Club Jump. This was a traveling bear party from Japan with bear DJs and bear gogo boys. Think of Matinee going from Spain to New York or Las Vegas. I didn’t attend but I heard firsthand accounts and saw photos that showed that the club was beyond packed. Woof indeed.
The club that I did attend was called Adonis at Club Space. Adonis caters to the young and beautiful twinks a/k/a Circuit babies (and yes, they do exist). We arrived at about midnight but didn’t get into the club until about 12:50 because we had to wait until the cops received their bribes and declared that business can proceed.
As many in Asia can attest, partying in Asia can be a difficult situation because the correct authorities have to be contacted and approval must be given for the parties to go on. Right now the only two places where one can go for a gay old time is either Thailand or Taiwan. Taiwan is pretty much guaranteed that the party will go on after the minor details are taken care of.
Thailand is more of a crap shoot because the Ministry of Morality (or some other similar Orwellian title) may shut down the event or club the same day without any forewarning and leave you stranded with useless tickets, an empty evening and anything else you might have paid for.
Once the situation was taken care of at Adonis, we went downstairs past the ticket booth into a second level of basements before actually entering the club proper. Club Space is basically a rectangle, divided into one-third lounge and entry area when you first enter and two-thirds dance floor.
The third and final level dance floor level is relatively spacious. The left side has a very limited seating that is used for VIP service. The DJ booth with a very small stage in front is about 80 percent of the way back. Behind the DJ booth there is a small elevated walkway that leads to two larger private VIP rooms.
The music was a fun, bouncy, bombastic mix of top 40. Unfortunately, I was stuck outside and missed almost all of Taiwan DJ Shin’s set so I can’t give much of a review.
Malaysian DJ Louis T was second and the headliner of the evening. Louis gave a great set of diva’s -- everything from Adele to RoRo, Beyonce to J. Lo, with lots of Gaga. It was mixed in with some dubs that walloped a bit more of a punch. I could tell that this would be more of his signature sound if he was given free reign to do what he wanted. However, he kept consistent with the young audience and spun crowd pleasers.
He also had the unenviable job of trying to integrate four different performances to his set because it was prime time. Whether it was three über-cool Japanese boys as outer space cowboys and Indians meets leather posing and giving face; or seven Taiwanese boys in S&M wear lipsyncing Lady Gaga with enough energy to carry the audience into the next phase, Louis did an admirable job with the set of limitations he was presented with. Each group did two separate performances. Half the crowd literally stopped to watch and cheer each performance.
The closing DJ was a local DJ A Go. His was a very by the numbers top 40 remix set that was a lot of fun but signaled a bit of a drop in energy than his predecessor. However, the songs were very recognizable and made for a bit of fun sing-a-long.
The crowd was a younger crowd but enough Circuit boys to keep the evening fun. The club closed at 5 p.m. At its peak, there was probably a healthy 800 people in attendance. There were some boys who ended up waiting outside for over two hours while trying to get in.
Club Space is usually a straight club and not the typical venue for this event. I hope that they get the logistics straightened out so that it doesn’t happen again. Even so, it was a great start to a fantastic weekend.
Afterhours: Adonis Monster
There were afterhours on Saturday morning from 5 to 11 a.m. I didn’t attend because I wanted to be able to make the Taipei Pride parade starting at 2 p.m. Also, I wanted to save up enough energy to make both Follow Me at Jump on Saturday night and the crown jewel of the club scene in Taiwan, Luxy on Sunday morning. But if you wanted to party 12 hours on the first night, you had the option to do so.
Taipei Pride Parade
Taipei Pride parade is truly a unique event in Asia. Taiwan has a nondiscrimination law in its books so that protects people from being fired solely based on their sexual orientation. They also recently passed a law to teach about LGBT issues in their sexuality courses in school, only to get it rescinded by the conservative elements.
It’s an interesting situation because it was the Christian conservatives who let the battle. Buddhist and other religions didn’t have an issue with it.
The parade only started about a decade ago and it was with a handful of people wearing masks. Now there are nearly 50,000 participants. There are now Pride parades in four other Taiwanese cities besides Taipei. All in a country roughly the size of California.
The parade itself was wonderful, full of people celebrating differences . Everyone was in attendance: drag queens, leather folk, lesbians (sans bikes), bears ... the list went on and one. And it was a pleasure to be somewhere where the crowd was sincerely happy to be there, to see it and be part of a movement. There was no jadedness. No commercialization. Just people celebrating their community.
I am guilty in admitting that I didn’t see the entire parade or listen to the heartfelt speeches at the end. Or attend the free concert at the conclusion of the event given by a pop diva. The parade has outgrown itself and the city didn’t want to shut down entire streets so they split the parade in half and went down two different routes. There was just much going on. I only caught about 45 min of the two-hour-plus hour parade before heading back home to rest. I wanted to make sure that I was well rested for the night.
Saturday night - Follow Me @ Jump
Once again I arrived at Jump at around midnight and waited outside for the police to finish their rounds. I knew that I wouldn’t be getting in before midnight but I was afraid of the later lines since Jump would be beyond capacity.
I was in a Catch 22: I didn’t want to stand in line waiting for the police to get their bribes, but I also didn’t want to wait in line to be let into the club when the lines outside got too long. They don’t really follow fire marshals around here so I didn’t have to worry about it reaching capacity and being sold out.
This club is a mainstay for Taipei partygoers. They only, however, have Follow Me once a month on the last Saturday of the month. Otherwise it’s more of a drinking establishment with limited dancing. If you hit it on the right weekend, you’ve struck gold. If you miss it, you don’t have much going on because the scene has died down quite a bit in the last few years.
You descend down a flight of steps to the entryway. There is a peripheral search and then you are in. There are lockers and bathrooms to the right. And then there is the basic lounge bar area which takes up about 65 percent of the club.
There is some dancing here but it’s usually a bit bright; it’s where the beautiful boys and the bears hang out and be seen. The bar takes up the center of the area with the VIP seating to the left. This disrupts the flow of the club since you have to work around it but it makes it very, very easy to get a drink even when it’s crazy busy. Then there is a dance floor with an excellent sound system. The DJ and a small stage is to the left of the dance floor itself.
I missed the opening DJ again as he was wrapping up when I finally got in closer to 1 am again. Next up was USA DJ Brett Henrichsen (yes, that Brett), obviously the co-headliner of the evening. He was spinning an incredible set -- one of the best I’ve ever heard from him.
In fact, it was a new sound altogether. It was sort of a deep progressive House. Very few vocals and very, very dubby with a strong backbeat. It was version of afterhours . It was very fluid. It was very sexual. It was a velvet glove. I was knocked over. If this is the sort of new sound that he’s been working on, we are all in for a treat.
Japanese DJ Saru was a lot of fun but took the sound out of the deep dark jungle and back into a more lighter, top 40 fare once again. It was an awkward transition from prime time/borderline afterhours deep sound that Brett was spinning to something that was clearly prime time music. However DJ Saru was also very sophisticated in his melody selection, incredibly polished, and played a very energetic set.
I had prepared myself for Jump to be beyond crowded. And it was very, very full. However, it wasn’t the sauna/walking through crowds and mashing through oceans of sweaty guys that I had anticipated. Ther were little pockets where you could dance. I took to the VIP area closer to the bar directly under the AC vent and had a great time.
There were a lot of cute friendly boys but it was very difficult to talk very much because the constant jostling everywhere. Because it was a smaller club, there were a lot of people passing back and forth. In short, it was super crowded but manageable.
Because of the smaller size of the club, I was able to find a few more friends whom I had intended to speak with outside the club. And I met a few new friends as well. It was a great night. The club ended at 5 a.m. It was still packed when I left at 4:30 to go home and change before the main event, G5 at Luxy.
Sunday morning G5 @ Luxy
This was the event that I had been waiting for. I have been to Taiwan twice since this club opened and I was never able to catch it. This was on my bucket list and I was finally able to catch it on the second most popular weekend of the year. The first is NYE but the second is Pride.
Luxy is strangely located in the heart of Dunhua, which is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Taipei. It is on three levels of a shopping complex right next to World Gym, where only the most attractive gay boys work out. I don’t know how they do it because they are able to have the club in the middle of a shopping district with luxury tenants above and below them and no problems with neighbors.
Once again, Luxy is a straight club and the gay boys get it when the regular clubgoers are done. So the club went from 5 to 11 a.m. It’s amazing how the experience changes when one goes to one of the preeminent mainstream clubs in Asia. No police. No long lines. No confusion about who is VIP. Everyone gets in without having to wait and wait. Only a few minutes with no searching and you are escorted into the lobby.
The lobby is disconcerting because it’s a darker room with green lasers crisscrossing in every direction. It’s like entering a matrix or something -- an extremely cool transition area because you know that you are about to enter another dimension.
Luxy is a huge space. Without a doubt there are world-class sound and light systems. The DJ roster is a "Who’s Who" of DJs. It’s about 2.5 stories tall. There is a small step up into the dance floor (remember my guideline about stepping down into the dance floor space? Forget that too). There is a long bar that breaks up the area, separates the dance floor from the lobby. However since the bar is on the far end, it defines the space rather than breaks it up. You circle around the bar to get to the dance floor.
Near the entrance there are stairs that go up and there is an area above the entrance that allows you to get a good vantage point of the club on the second story. There are also more VIP tables here as well.
This being Pride, the promoters of G5 decided to stick with the three of the best local DJs. The event is only six hours long, so each DJ got about two hours to spin. This is pretty consistent with all of the other events that I attended.
Apparently they follow the straight model of having each DJ do just a few hours instead of any real journey. DJ M@rio started off the night. I have to admit that I don’t remember most of the set because I was still getting oriented to the club, saying hi to friends, and making my mental notes. His was a set of fun top 40 mixes and more then warmed up the crowd.
Then DJ Head started and the music simply took off from there. He was spinning the ultimate high-energy, fist-pumping bassline piercing set I’ve heard in a long time. He had a very distinct sound that was all of his own. His set was like a mixture of Abel and Pagano because it was like a steam train thundering down the tracks but it wasn’t as warm and sexually fluid Latin rhythm. (After all, he’s Asian).
It was more of a European hard beat that was boisterous, joyful, and above all relentless. He was awesome and I’d put in against any DJ in the States. He’s undoubtedly the best DJ in Taiwan and perhaps in Asia. He’s got a distinctive sound all of his own. And he was really getting into the event, clapping and jumping, and waving at the crowd. And the boys were eating it up.
The third DJ was DJ Shin (different DJ Shin than the one spinning on Friday’s Adonis event), who was a pretty terrific DJ as well. Although it was hard to follow in DJ Head’s footsteps, he did a great job skillfully weaving pop beats with a dubbier, harder edge. His energy also came in waves and lifted the crowd up in higher levels of euporia.
Oh yeah, I forgot the mention the boys. Luxy can handle 1300 people and my estimates put the figures even higher at this event. Boys, boys, boys everywhere. And so many attractive people that you can’t even keep track of one person before the next one arrived. It was wall to wall packed with friendly hot boys from all over Asia. You would introductions often to find out where which country the boy actually came from.
G5 at Luxy has to be without a doubt one of the best parties in all of Asia and possibly the world. If you ever get the chance to come during one of the four or five times it happens annually, you must attend.
I won’t go into details about how there were a series of smaller afterparties at hotels rooms, people’s apartments, etc. etc. The locals here refer to them as "home pas," as in home parties. Oh yeah, and attendees generally hang out in their underwear (which explains the Taiwanese fetish with underwear.) There were four consecutive parties at the hotel where I was staying that I knew of but there were plenty of others.
In order, they were at a Malaysian, then Hong Kong, then Japanese, and finally at Korean host unit. They went until 4 a.m. Monday morning. Or, uh, so I heard.
This is only my second Taiwan pride but it definitely won’t be my last. It’s the strongest event in Asia for a reason and you can’t help but be impressed with the parade, the bars and clubs, and the Red Theatre cafes, where the gays congregate. There is definitely something for everyone at this must attend event.