Well-organized. Structured. Refined. Not words you might think of as describing a kink-light, underground bass music party.
Erotica Electronica’s tenants of love, acceptance and freedom imbue it with the ability to push boundaries and subvert social rules while maintaining a consent-based, non-intimidating atmosphere. The very nature of the event places you immediately in your own body and faces you with a mirror for your sexuality and expression of self.
On the drizzly, gray Saturday afternoon of Valentine’s Day weekend, a small group gathered at Sunset Room for Mel Mariposa’s pre-party workshop, “Diving into Desire: A Radical Relationship Workshop.” Mel is a Vancouver-based relationship coach, author of the blog Polysingleish, experienced workshop presenter and co-producer of EE. Mel’s workshop, presented with candor and wisdom, was a great example of what makes EE special: workshops like these incorporate an atmosphere of learning and consciousness to the party.
After a break for dinner and a stroll through the damp hours of the early evening, we headed back to the venue for an Erotic Dance Workshop led by Amethyst Dance and Fitness studio owner, Lauren Wills. Indigo Matter’s opening set provided a backdrop of heavy bass sounds to move to as Lauren led us a through an hour of lap-dance techniques. I spoke with Lauren before the event about Erotica Electronica;
“It is a beautiful event and it was made purely so people had a safe place to show themselves. Other events are made for the bands, the DJs, the artist, promo, so many different reasons. It is rare to find an event made for the people by the people. It has been a lost culture that has finally been creeping its way back over the past decade.”
As attendees planted their bottoms on the dance floor and crowded around the edges of the room, Laya Louise Lushious (another of the events superwoman co-producers) got onstage to introduce the first round of performances. From Tesla Coil’s graceful striptease to Nevar More’s hauntingly gorgeous boylesque act, the performers left the audience transfixed. Laya Lushious herself performed a heavenly belly-dance-infused routine.
Closing out the first round of performances was a powerful spoken word act by Mel Mariposa. From beneath the hood of a dark cloak, the sounds of her own words and the violin playing on the speakers laced through each other to create a crescendo of emotion as she explored themes of love, freedom, vulnerability, truth and self. “Do you want to be seen?” Mel asked. Erotica Electronica seems to ask the same question.
After these jaw-dropping displays of talent, bass-kitty/EE-co-producer, DJ AppleCat (Mya Hardman) took up the microphone and gave a tribute to Bowie that highlighted his limitless creative expression and boundary-pushing as a mirror for the acceptance and sexual freedom that are the intention behind Erotica Electronica.
As the first sounds of AppleCat’s set wafted throughout the room, I meandered the crowd, speaking to a few people who were chilling in the Snuggle Zone and making my way up to the front of the stage, where a rope suspension performance by Matthew Ellner was taking place.
I was so fascinated with everything: Multitudinous exhibitions of openly kinky and sexual interactions happening all over the room. Super-heavy vibrational bass music. A wide variety of expressions of gender that varied so far from the social constructs of our repressive, heteronormative society. All of these things individually are opportunities to expand one’s construction of self and worldview, and when combined can work to create a powerful shift in perspective. In this way I likened the experience to that of a music festival, where you can learn so much about yourself.
This is what Erotica Electronica offers: “Love, acceptance, freedom,” as one attendee, Charlie Wilson, expressed it.
AppleCat’s set continued; one of my all-time favorite DJ/producers, her “deep sacral dirty cosmic bass” sound is a blend of sexy-but-also-perfectly-grimy dubstep and (what I like to refer to in my head as) mystic trap that incorporates cleverly curated samples and – most recently – her own spoken word poetry. This Mistress of Wubs never fails to put on a show that leaves you feeling primal and sexy.
During AppleCat’s set, Freyja Skye, owner of Elvolutionaries Entertainment (which is based on the incredible Phoenix Farm on Saltspring Island), graced us with a pole dance routine that displayed incredible athletic feats and a powerful, sexy femininity.
“What’s different about shows like this,” my partner said as we discussed burlesque and the performances we had seen, “is that it’s erotic expression that isn’t specifically designed for the male gaze.” There is a special quality to displays of provocative sexiness and celebrations of the physical form that aren’t based in phallocentrism. One of the themes of the night was “patrons-turned-performers”: people inspired by their early experiences at Erotica Electronica to perform on its stage. It’s an encouraging and non-judgemental place for creative expression.
The second round of performances featured Burns the Dragon’s mesmerizing contact juggling; the crowd lost it as he emerged from a cloak dressed as The Goblin King. Performance artist Faery presented a vampire-themed collaboration with Tesla Coil that told the story of a deadly attraction while also beautifully exploring the spectrum of gender fluidity and performance. Burlesque foursome Tongue n’ Cheek scorched with their lust-inducing choreography, moving like four gorgeous extensions of a single entity. As the second round of performances came to a close to earsplitting love from the audience, Lady AK began a set that saw everything from hip hop to heavy dubstep
My partner and I went to chill for a bit in the back by the Snuggle Zone. Looking around the room, I watched people kissing and talking on the periphery of the dance floor. EE is about sex, but it’s also about dialogue, about inquiry into other people’s experience, about conversations around human experience. This allows for a share of information, insights and desires – a space of open-heartedness. People figuratively and literally strip away layers, emerging into authenticity, releasing tension and shining the wonderful-ness of their being!
“I want to be seen by you, and I DESIRE to see you.” This line from Mel’s spoken word performance speaks to the quintessential nature of Erotica Electronica. Being a part of this is such a privilege.
After fire performances from Lindsay Starbird, Kipper the Pyroneer, Burns the Dragon, and Ben T Forkx and getting sufficiently sweaty from an epic dance floor session, I headed over to the refreshments stand to try out the unique elixirs provided by Unity Jun that are a fabulous alternative to alcoholic libations (EE is a dry event). I marveled as the effervescent, slightly sweet liquid – a schizandra, vanilla and rose blend – cooled my throat and left my tongue feeling kissed by morning dew. Basically the ideal beverage for an all-night dance party.
Around 3AM I was introducing myself to Laya Lushious and I expressed that I might like to get up on stage with my LED hoop to perform in front of people for the first time. She responded by enthusiastically encouraging me to “go nuts up there!”
As DJ TAABu’s beats pounded out a deep rhythm, I began to settle into my flow until it was just me, the lights of my hoop, and some grimy bass. The adrenaline that flooded my body was an entirely new experience – I felt like I had shared something that was so close to my heart, a little piece of myself. I was expressed; liberated.
As the first hints of dawn approached, my partner and I made our way out into the night. On the way to the car we ran into two young men who asked us what was going on inside the venue. Normally in the wee hours of the morning, the all-hours events at Sunset Room are subjected to an influx of partiers in various states of intoxication who are looking for a place to not go home. The more we described the event, the more intrigued these two guys seemed.
The Monday after the show, when I had some friends over for a little EE decompression dinner, a friend told us that at the end of the night, those same two guys approached Mya Hardman and expressed how grateful they were that they had stumbled into Sunset Room in the wee hours of the morning. They had never experienced anything like it, and even in the short period of exposure to the EE community, something had really shifted for them. “That’s the thing,” my friend said, “Maybe 30 people that will come in at the end of the night – and 28 of them won’t get it at all, but for those 2 people it completely changes their perspective!”
The event itself is like an intoxicant all its own: the palpable sexual energy, the raw and electric performances, the exceptional music and talent, the way that gender scripts and roles push toward nonexistence, thereby strange-ing our perception of social structure and reality – all these things create a space in which the only “way to be” that is encouraged is whatever is authentic to self. Bring whatever gifts you have to the table and experience how they will be nurtured, accepted and loved.
Oh yeah, and bass.
WORDS: Lauren DeGaine
PHOTOGRAPHY: Phoenix Flash Photography