Toronto
2 min

Knights in white satin

From glam to metal, rock rides again

Slip into something wild. Will Munro and Miss Barbrafisch host Vaseline, a night of flashy outfits and musical mayhem. Credit: Paula Wilson

“I grew up in the music scene in Toronto,” says promoter Will Munro, “but there was never much of a queer scene. So it was rock-a-billy and garage for me.” Along with other out or latent rockers, Munro searched for a place where boys and girls, glam and otherwise, could rock on, where dance music was not the only sound and techno beats would not leave you senseless.

Three months ago, like a beacon, a light shone forth from the doors of the El Mocambo – aka the El Mo, a legendary Toronto rock and roll bar – which lit the dark downtown streets.

Vaseline, a night of queer rock and the brainchild of Munro, takes place on the last Friday of every month and it’s been packing the ground floor of the El Mo. With a trio of DJs – Rawbrt, Miss Barbrafisch and Munro, himself – plus a short set of live performance, the night’s 200-plus attendees are hopping.

From the roots of rock and roll to glam, metal and punk, the music at Vaseline is designed to make you rock out.

Prior to Vaseline, there wasn’t much of a queer scene where rock and glam and alternative tastes could mix. There were places where anything goes (like the Bovine Sex Club and the Sanctuary) and queers can be part of that, but there wasn’t a queer space.

“If you’re not from Toronto you would think that Toronto epitomizes the radical queer punk,” says Munro. “What with the Bruce Labruce and the GB Jones’s stuff – they were creating a world that didn’t really exist then.

“My goal is to make that place a reality.”

Once Munro, a visual artist, realized that a lot of the subcultures in our community don’t have a place where they can all come together, there was no stopping him. With his knowledge of the local music and alternative scenes he is the ideal candidate to snag the space, the DJs and the mix of queer punkers, activists, skin heads, metal fiends, glam kids, some folks into SM-bondage and leather, transgendered wonders and straight rock and rollers.

Whether stripped down or decked out, Vaseline is a night for all tastes.

Miss Barbrafisch adds that the age range of the folks at Vaseline is spectacular. “People come up and ask me for Nazareth,” she says. “That came out in 1974 and is rock. I was just a toddler then. That – alongside raver kids who want to hear Iron Maiden – is an amazing thing.”

Miss Barbrafisch can’t get over the enthusiasm. Some people, she says, “put on a rock-and-roll persona that they have created just for Vaseline. They come all glammed up.”

As history would have it, they are in good company. Munro feels that rock and roll is one of the queerest musical forms there is – a fact buried under the land of the het.

Glam rock and the likes of Brian Eno, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Gary Glitter (“who was essentially a drag queen, whether he was a fag or not”) and the Ramones (who liked to hitchhike in drag) begat punk rock. (Punk: prison slang meaning the person on the receiving end of homosexual activity. It was a term of the outcast and the underground.)

During punk arose metal and Iron Maiden and Rob Halford. And soÉ here we are.

Vaseline (the name refers to writer Jean Genet’s arrest for carrying vaseline in his back pocket, then used as lube) offers a mix of gender, age, musical tastes, sexuality and race. It’s still one of the few places in Toronto where boys and girls can play together.

The night fills a void in the queer social scene and creates a space where one can go and listen to Nazareth and Billy Idol and Patty Smith and The Donnas. And what could be better than that?

In addition to the regular DJs, the next Vaseline on Fri, Mar 31 features a live performance by CJ Slease And The STDs.