Bob Mould (left) and Richard Morel. Jeff Smith Photography/Linas Garsys.
One night in January of 2003, Washington, D.C., fortuitously became known as a haven for bears and has since drawn thousand upon thousands of the wild animals for nights of debauched revelry. These are, of course, not your typical, forest-dwelling, raw-flesh-eating, savage beasts—well, not the majority of them, at least. No, these are the bears of the hirsute and oft-husky, two-legged, English-speaking variety. These are the bears of sweaty, glitter-laden, gay legend. These are the bears of BLOWOFF.
Apparently named after a wrestling term—though the jury's still out on that one—BLOWOFF was started by '80s punk / alt-rock icon Bob Mould, frontman for Hüsker Dü and Sugar, and electronic / dance producer Richard Morel. Beginning as a small party inside D.C.'s Velvet Lounge for 30 of their closest friends and neighbors, BLOWOFF has since transformed into a bicoastal dance event, welcoming near 1,000 partygoers in each of the six cities Mould and Morel's event has visited. And this Friday, April 9, San Diego will become the seventh in BLOWOFF's list of party destinations.
Identifying as members of the “bear” community themselves, Mould and Morel describe their bear following as “natural” and “organic.”
“The first party was just a group of people—our peers—who showed up kind of not knowing what to expect,” Morel says. “We handed out cards, basically, to people who were just walking on the street. I don't know if we were so sure what we were going to be doing.”
But, as Mould points out, BLOWOFF's fan base ended up encompassing much more than just a group of unsuspecting, burly, bearded men.
“Simply put,” Mould says, “these are just guys who like music. They like to drink beer and listen to music.
“Now that it's expanded and we're doing it in multiple cities,” Mould explains, “we've been including video visuals that are featured on a screen as we trade off DJ sets.” (And, according to a review written by a BLOWOFF attendee in D.C., these visuals Mould mentions comprise “vignettes of Superman, sailors and erect penises choked with leather thongs”—all, presumably, bear favorites.)
Spinning tracks from the indie rock, pop and electronic genres—past set lists include anything from Metric, Bloc Party and Marina & the Diamonds to Groove Armada, Vitalic and Fear of Tigers—Mould characterizes the music he and Morel play as BLOWOFF's most important feature.
“Yes, it is a gay club event,” Mould explains, “but, really, this event is about the music.” It's not a surprising delineation considering Mould's and Morel's musical résumés.
As frontman of Hüsker Dü and Sugar, Mould says his past still influences what he plays today. And while he says alternative and indie rock has always been a core part of the BLOWOFF events, he admits the genres he spins have changed somewhat over the past seven years.
“I think because BLOWOFF has sort of morphed into more of a dance night, I feel like I have to get to the house music a little bit quicker—things like Classixx, Golden Filter remixes [and] David Guetta,” Mould explains. “As the night gets to be a little later, we start to bring in more
“I'm into a lot of the edgier stuff now,” Mould continues, “Like French house… [UK-based DJ duo] Ocelot and that London sound that's informed a lot by French house. It's all there.”
Morel, who produced several tracks on Cyndi Lauper's latest album, agrees that his remixing history influences what he spins at BLOWOFF.
“It really started with that Pet Shop Boys remix I did in 1994,” Morel explains. “I'm coming from the electronic / dance side of music—which, even though the vast majority of it is not gay, everyone assumes it is.”
But Morel says he never experienced any negative backlash.
“All of the European stuff appeared to Americans to be this big gay music scene,” he says. “Even though they weren't gay, that community was always very open, so there was never an issue.”
And with what might seem surprising to some, Mould says he had a similar experience being gay in the '80s punk scene.
“I think on the hardcore side, the punk side and on the alternative side, everyone was pretty forward-thinking,” Mould recalls. “You know, the punks were already on the outside. They were the outsiders. It wasn't that big of a stretch to let a few more [people] into the club.”
Which is also what Mould and Morel say they try to do with every BLOWOFF event. At their last party in Provincetown, Mass., the DJ duo managed to squeeze in more than 1,500 of their loyal, bewhiskered fans.
“Provincetown 2009 was so packed,” Mould remembers. “People were writing messages like ‘need oxygen' on the steamy windows of the venue.”
“We always pack it in and take it until the club closes,” Morel laughs, “which, unfortunately, for San Diego is only until 2 [a.m.]. But we'll keep going until the beer stops flowing and they're kicking everyone out at the end of the night.”
Because, in the end, even bears need to sleep.
BLOWOFF will go down on Friday, April 9, at The Casbah. www.blowoff.us.