Madison Moore is an author, DJ and a professor of Queer Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Alongside friends based in Berlin and London, Moore runs the queer techno party OPULENCE, and he is well-known amongst progressively-minded rave communities across the globe.
Moore earned a PhD in American Studies at Yale University. Last year, Yale University Press published Moore’s book Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric – described as “an exploration of what it means to be fabulous – and why eccentric style, fashion, and creativity are more political than ever.” In his edition of Club Regulars, Moore tells The Face about viewing club culture through an academic lens and the strengths and challenges of Richmond’s party scene.
Please tell us a little bit about your work as an academic – how does it relate to nightlife?
I’ve been teaching a seminar on queer nightlife at my university that has been going really well. I’ve long been interested in the potentials of the dance floor, particularly for queer and marginalised people. Some of these ideas are explored in my book Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric. Even more of it will appear in a new book I’m working on now, which is a study of worldmaking through queer nightlife. I’m interested in what these spaces mean for people — how they stay alive, why they close, and how they give us life.
Research in queer nightlife is as much about doing interviews and going to the archives as it is about the practice of nightlife. I do go to the archive – I’ve found some pretty great collections of flyers – but then I also hit the club, too, as a raver and DJ. My DJ practice and our party OPULENCE are, for me, about theory and practice – research by doing.
If someone is visiting Richmond for a weekend – where do you recommend that they go?
Richmond is a really vibrant, artsy, exciting place, in spite (or maybe because) of its history as the former capital of the Confederacy. Off-the-cut house and basement shows are very popular here, but you kind of have to have at least one “in” to find out about them. That and the burlesque scene is pretty cool, too. Gallery5 is an art gallery/entertainment space where a lot of interesting shows and burlesque stuff happens.
You should also hands down check out Fallout, one of the only fetish clubs in Virginia. It’s a members-only club but there are also events during the week that are open to everybody, from comedy and game nights to drag shows and punk concerts. And because it’s a fetish club, the space becomes something like a living room for folks in the kink scene. All clubs in Virginia must also serve food — you can’t get away with only having booze — which makes Fallout a nice place to grab a bite, meet new people and hang out. Richmond has a number of cute party series, too, like the Ice Cream Social, which grew out of the house show scene, and the techno-leaning Behaviour804. And if you like chicken wings, you must go to Saison!
What’s special about the club scene in Richmond, and what challenges does it face?
When it comes to Richmond, the queer nightlife scene there has a lot of growing to do, in part because the main queer venues have issues with anti-blackness and transmisogyny. And that means a lot of queer people don’t feel comfortable going to the marquee gay and lesbian spaces in town. Then there’s gentrification –clubs opening and closing. Just recently, Virginia Commonwealth University purchased one of the only black-owned clubs in Virginia, a space right near campus that hosted Club Colors, a fabulous black queer night in Richmond. But this means people create their own parties in spaces off the grid, which is very exciting. Great ideas and innovative party concepts are almost never born in mainstream narratives or spaces anyway because once ideas get to the mainstream, they’ve been stripped and cleansed of all the original grit that once made them exciting.
To what extent do you believe that club culture has the potential to facilitate positive socio-political change?
I definitely think certain spaces and contemporary party crews are using the dance floor for social change — Discwoman, Bassiani and Party Noire in Chicago are great examples of this. And as much as techno bros love saying “who cares about race… it should be about the music”, black and brown people created dance music, full stop. Club spaces definitely have problems, so I don’t want to idealise them. But I also think they can be fantastic spaces of community, connection, and creativity. Clubs may not alleviate the pressures and structures of oppression we feel every day, but they do allow us to tap out of our bodies temporarily. We sweat when we dance, and that sweat is the residue of all the toxins and stresses built up within. All this is to say that clubs help keep us alive, and once we’re in, we help try to keep each other alive, too.
Outside of the USA, which parties are closest to your heart?
Tough one! I’d have to say Dialogue in Bristol, Buttons in Berlin and Dance With Pride in Amsterdam because these parties are really about queerness and creating an equitable dance floor. During ADE last year I went to the Spielraum x Bassiani party and all I have to say about it is: Jesus, that was a fucking party! Zitto slayed my tits off. But also, shout out to Superstition in London, where I’ve spent many, many, many nights. I’m also dying to check out Mamba Negra in Brazil and Bassiani in Tbilisi.
Any DJs from the Richmond you’d like to shout out?
Definitely! Angel Flowers is the ticket. Get into her right now!