3 min

Forever young and free

Raving in Vancouver’s gay underground

In warehouses around Vancouver, DUI partiers rave all night. Credit: Courtesy of Chase Porter

“It’s about raving!” says Sydney Gregoire. “I want to rave for seven hours!

“I don’t want to go to a club for just four hours,” the promoter of after-hours parties JiZ and WiG explains. “I want to go to a party in a costume so people don’t really recognize me and I can just rave until seven in the morning.”

“Yeah,” her creative partner Steven Audia nods. “Sweat my balls off, go home when the sun’s up.”

It’s about “coming out of yourself,” Audia says. “Put on your alter ego. You don’t have to be yourself.”

It’s certainly easy to lose yourself in the cloud of smoke that hovers over the dance floor in these warehouses, art studios and glorified drug dens, where the drinks are strong and cheap, the beats are rolling, and so are the people. MDMA is taken like the body of Christ (“don’t swallow it, bump it, know your dealer,” pastor Gregoire advises) and almost everyone is devoted.

“I think it’s safe,” says Chase Porter of DUI Events. The parties are intimate enough that “you know almost everyone there.”

“As long as you’re not hiding in a stall,” shrugs Parker McMullin, DUI’s resident drag queen Jane Smoker.

“Yeah,” Porter laughs, “just do it in the middle of the room!”

While WiG and JiZ are about creating a “freak” scene, the DUI parties are an ode to train wreck celebrity culture (Lilo is a martyr) where everything is shared, shameless, and exposed. The wildest things happen out in the open.  

“We were at Lion’s Den and Steven was ripping off everyone’s shirts,” Gregoire reminisces. “Everyone was topless on this dance floor, and I had baby oil because I was dressed as a slutty baby, so I sprayed oil all over everyone… Our parties are very sexual, but it’s the kind of sexual where you just want to go home and sleep afterwards. It’s not about hooking up.”

It’s this untethered expression of sex (at one party, bringing a sex toy got you in for free) that separates the underground scene from the Davie Village, where there’s “too much pressure” to hook up.

“I think [Davie] is kind of gross to be perfectly honest,” Audia says. “I’m not into it. I’m not into jacked-up men, like, rubbing up on each other shirtless and sweaty. But at WiG I’ll jump on a speaker in my underwear with ‘fag’ written across my chest in oil. I wouldn’t do that on Davie, which is weird, because that would be the place to do it.”

“It’s intimidating,” Gregoire says. On Davie, guys are “snarling behind you, or looking for a hookup.”

“Or both,” Audia laughs. “I hate you, so let’s fuck!”

When you enter a partying dimension where the night is forever young, walls are taken down and there is a distinct liberation that isn’t found in the Village. At the illicit dress-up party WiG, the hip-hopping JiZ and fame whorishness of DUI, there’s a sense of urgency to unleash your inner monster before the police show up and put it in a cage.

“Just last week, one of our spaces got shut down,” Porter says. The cops stopped the party before it even started because, according to Porter, there’s now a cop on Facebook  joining the event pages and adding people who go to the parties to find out where they are.

The location of the events spreads mainly through word of mouth, but addresses are sometimes shared day-of on Facebook or via email.

“We may have to venture further out in the city,” Porter says, “but we won’t stop.”

“There’s no choice but to do things illegally,” McMullin says, and although spaces get shut down, “another warehouse always pops up somewhere.”

“We’re trying to create a club-kid culture,” Gregoire says, “so in the end, if you can’t find somewhere to party, you get a PA and a generator and go out to a forest . . .”