Words by Youth Music NextGen writer Tiarna Meehan
To celebrate Pride Month 2023, Tiarna Meehan explores the importance of queer music spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Glasgow.
Wander through the winding lanes of Glasgow's streets and you’ll find the city’s coolest of club kids. As lighters spark, they illuminate the dirt and glitter that sticks to the sweaty adhesion of their flushed faces. Here, party princesses and kandi ravers populate the pavements, their boots stomping on the asphalt to the metronomic beat of a pulsating bassline. Underfoot, there’s a party happening - and you’re all invited.
Usually housed in the sweltering reserves of the city’s basements, the not-so-underground queer club scene of Glasgow is a sprawling microcosm. Venture inside one of these parties and the playground of identity becomes apparent. Vests cling to sweaty torsos and provocative slogans splash across t-shirts. Overhead, beaming strobes ricochet off the brick walls as club kids in tiny t-shirts congregate around the decks.
For many, attendance at these raves is not far from canon - establishing themselves as frequent partygoers. Others happened to have stumbled upon the posters plastered around Glasgow’s West End, and some just know the DJ. Yet irrespective of how they got there, a shared purpose unites them all. Between the basslines and breakbeats, the LGBTQ+ club scene in Glasgow is fostering something larger - a community establishing a space for identities to freely exist. Unlike many of the city’s archetypal gay clubs, the underground scene is not driven by capitalist gain. What exists is a haven where dance becomes a language of liberation, bodies move with an unapologetic freedom, and where the power of self-expression takes centre stage.
Deliverance of these experiences is at hand to resident Glasgow parties such as FAST MUZIK and PUREBLISS. With their captivating visuals, pulsating lights, and stellar lineup of local talents, these events transport partygoers into the electrifying world of euphoric happy hardcore. One particularly standout event is Fast Muzik Prom. In this celebration of queer, pink mylar balloons fringed the stage as party princesses took to the dance floor, tiaras nestled atop their heads. For many queer individuals growing up in reserved communities, this is the fairytale prom that they never experienced.
The excellence of Glasgow’s vibrant queer scene is the enduring legacy of the late musical maverick and queer icon, SOPHIE. As her influence reverberates through Glasgow streets, her legacy continues to shape the sonic fabric of the city. The music emanating from the basements today is a rich soundscape of variation. It’s not uncommon to hear a Charli XCX track mixed upon gabber kickdrums, all set to the infectious backdrop of Wii Menu music - anything goes if it's hard enough.
The allure of the scene is magnetic, and talent is certainly not hard to come by. Parties are often studded with a roster of rising stars such as Taahliah, DANYO and Miss Cabbage. It’s no wonder larger-name guest DJs are queuing to join the party: recent nights have welcomed guest DJs Goth Jafar and LSDXOXO.
For local creatives who wish to dive into the scene, a community so close-knit can seem daunting to permeate. One group that plays a pivotal role in enhancing accessibility into the scene is QueeringTechno, the community-led group driven by a mission to foster inclusivity and creativity. As a byproduct of their efforts to create a community of electronic artists and music lovers, they offer a gateway through access to equipment and DJ sessions. For some, these sessions are a fun opportunity to try their hand at something new, and for others, the session provides the opportunity needed to jumpstart a career. This ethos of community initiative is echoed by Subcity Radio, a non-profit freeform radio station that first graced the airwaves in 1995. Since then, it has championed an alternative to commercial and mainstream radio providers in Glasgow. Alongside a plethora of shows, the station hosts frequent events which they describe as, “as iconic as they are diverse”. Accompanied by enigmatic visuals and lighting displays, these elevate the experience of clubbers. The themes are as vast as they are varied - from space cowboys to the subterranean communication networks of mushrooms.
As the club scene in Glasgow continues to grow, what develops is a thriving symbiosis of artistic expression. Beyond the parameters of music, a host of creative forces intertwined within the club scene. Whether that’s performers on stage amidst the venue’s fog, the photographers who capture the energy of the scene or MUAs and stylists who transform appearances. One particular group collating this talent is PONYBOY. Named after the eponymous SOPHIE track, the visionary minds of Reece Marshall and Dill Dowall have created club nights that extend beyond any pre-imagined constraints of party. At the heart of PONYBOY lies a commitment to Trans inclusivity and a celebration of queer beauty and talent. Usually housed within one of the most sacred of the city’s venues, the queer-owned club and community space, Bonjour, these showcases unfold as immersive spectacles. Performances, aesthetics, and unapologetic self-expression amalgamate to transcend the confines of conventional clubbing.
In dimly lit basement venues and intimate DIY spaces, SOPHIE'S pursuit of liberation and acceptance lives on within the city's vibrant queer club scene. Bonjour itself is a monument of hope for the community, with its iconic checkered floors and intimate feel, the venue is a space that prioritises underrepresented groups in the LGBTQ+ community: people of colour, Trans and non-binary people, and queer women. Back in October, the venue rallied overwhelming support from creatives and clubbers alike, in an attempt to save Bonjour from unprecedented financial struggle. The success of such community effort exemplifies how crucial these music spaces are, ones that enable young LGBTQ+ people to feel not only accepted but celebrated.
Tiarna Meehan is a London-based journalist. Their interests are in youth and internet culture.