Having hosted the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry over the years, London club night G-A-Y celebrates its 20th anniversary this autumn with a new compilation collection (out now). Founder Jeremy Joseph explains why the night’s belief in pop perfection has allowed them to survive in fickle clubland.
Unlike many of its peers we’ve had one music policy which it has stuck to for 20 years: Commercial Pop. This has afforded us the opportunity to bring in some of the biggest names in the business from the Minogue sisters to Mariah Carey, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga and Madonna. These artists don’t just do it for the sake of it however, G-A-Y is widely considered to be one of the best ways for an artist to reach or to be introduced to the gay community, and the mainstream as a whole through vast tabloid coverage. We’ve backed artists from their very beginning, such as The Spice Girls who appeared for the first time on stage at G-A-Y, before returning post world-domination to perform again and again.
And while commercial, pop can also be diverse and credible, hence we’ve hosted sets from singers like Adele, Katherine Jenkins and Idina Menzel, confounding expectations and ensuring the G-A-Y experience is constantly surprising. Not bad for a “pop” night some in the supposed “fashionable” clubbing circles may have considered to be uncool.
The decision to choose unashamed pop as the musical identity of G-A-Y for the past 20 years has been a straightforward one for me. We’ve never been a particularly trendy club and we’ve never wanted to be one either. Trends and fashions come and go and as a result, we’ve seen many cooler and trendier clubs and club nights disappear while we’ve managed to outlast them. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for these clubs on the scene. In fact, personally I think variety on the club and bar scene can only be a good thing. People used to slag G-A-Y off in the early days, and at times it was hard to fly in the face of all the pressure to play on-trend music, most notably during the massive rise of indie club nights. I think starting out as a DJ really helped me to form my own musical identity and the conviction that G-A-Y shouldn’t be apologetic for it’s love of pop. After all, pop music is popular music, and we want to be the most popular club for the gay community.
London’s Astoria, G-A-Y’s spiritual home and iconic London live music venue, was perfectly suited for this model. Essentially it was one giant room making it ideal for spectacular live shows such as Madonna’s Confessions back in 2007, watched by over 2500 people and dominating the next day’s headlines. The move down the road to Heaven – while a hard one, leaving the Astoria to its Crossrail doom – has been a great one as this multi roomed venue has allowed G-A-Y to expand its customer base by opening the brand up to new music policies such as R&B and Retro Pop in its other areas. And you only have to see the queue snaking up Villiers St on any night Heaven is open to know that this has worked!
What does the future hold for G-A-Y? With so much of new music being DJ-produced I feel many up and coming singers are forced to take a backseat. In an ageist industry this means it is becoming more difficult for veteran artists – unless they are global – to be included on those all-important playlists. Personally, I’d like to see a return to supporting talent rather than just youth. One place there will happen is G-A-Y. Certainly there will never be a shortage of artists wanted to appear on our stage and there’s never a shortage of music lovers wanting to see them, so one thing is certain, after 20 years of pop perfection, G-A-Y is here to stay!
For more, including full details of the album head to G-A-Y.co.uk.