VIVA LA REVOLUCION! :: The Black Party: Rites XXXI

by Robert Doyle
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Mar 21, 2010

At two am, the floor was packed. At four am, there was a two-hour line down 52nd Street. Rites XXXI, the Black Party was SOLD OUT. Inside Roseland Ballroom, at the Saint-at-Large's annual bacchanal to all things dark and handsome and sexy, DJ Hector Fonseca was throwing down a persuasive percussive tribal set that kept the boyz asking, "Who's the deejay?" to which the only reply was, "It's Fonseca, bitch."

Every since the announcement of this year's trio of Black Party deejays back in February, the anticipation had been mounting-for this year it seemed to many that the Saint-at-Large had done right by both the traditions of the party-and its future-in selecting Fonseca, as well as DJs Paulo and Ana Paula. And with the anointment of award-winning theatrical designer Adam Koch in charge of the set and décor, and with the inimitable and illustrious Guy Smith on lights, Rites XXXI had all the cards for a royal flush.

Koch's immense and imaginative set was so respectful of Roseland's inherent desuetude, and so perfectly proportioned so as to transform the entirety of the huge space, every nook and cranny, every labyrinthine walkway, and every staircase, into a tawdry tango hall that had seemingly been overtaken by a military regime for use as a sordid officers' quarters cum penal colony. One officers' clubroom upstairs was illuminated by rose-colored light, and furnished with moth-eaten armchairs and wooden desks upon which lay bouquets of dead red roses and bleached bones-and a rotary dial telephone. Meanwhile across the vast expanse of the hall, a sign flashed on the scrim: Please report to the infirmary, while phosphorescent spider webs glowed in the black light. Where were we? In some amalgam of the Weimar Republic below the equator where the Spider Woman lurked in the shadowy recesses of every shady officer's fantasies.

And in keeping with the Década Infame, scenes of torture unfolded at the hands of every officer: boyz enmeshed in spider webs, and a woman hung by the skin of her back, twirling through the air, and a lovely little stage moment where one go-go boy on the lip of stage knelt to piss into the mouth of a guy on the floor. This was a South American city sliding rapidly into the Lethe.

Roseland transformed into a tawdry tango hall, housing sordid military officers

In control, at the helm, was General Fonseca ripping through an arsenal of beats that included mash-ups of "Night Train," and "Put Your Hands (In The Air)" and "Let Freedom Ring"-and to tumultuous applause, "Sweet Dreams." Fonseca’s set sent the energy in that tattered tango hall into the stratosphere-so that when the switchover happened, and a stage show of debauchery paved the way for Paulo’s entrance, Paulo came on with the control of a commanding officer after a coup d’etat.

The sold-out crowd was ready: a writhing mass of caged sexual heat, a panoply of the most extreme sartorial ensembles and sexual accoutrements, a truly depraved fashion show for sadists and masochists-and when Paulo cranked into "Let Me Take You On A Trip" and "Same Old Bitch," the crowd followed his commands. This was chunky, house-grinding music-and Paulo was immediately relentless.

The lighting rig shook and lowered. A gargantuan cross of white lights flashed inside the perimeter of a circle, reproducing in light the same iconic and slightly sinister red-and-white symbol on the flags, the pennants, and numerous armbands.

The energy was peaking: a prison riot about to burst wide open as Paulo ripped through "Make Some Noise" and "Can You Feel It?" and "Everybody’s Jumpin’"-before a female voice commanded "Do as I say... Let me have my way." Everything was "Erotica" then-and everything on the verge of climax-and nowhere better evinced than in the perfect harmony between Guy Smith on the lights and Paulo on the boards. This was a perfect agreement of light and sound, the two masters pushing each other forward, reading each other’s cues as an orchestral chorus swept through the hall, with chimes and bells and whistles all erupting in one massive explosion that rocked the house with the lyrics "feels like home."

The perfect harmony of light, space, and sound

Sound and light-it’s a beautiful combination, and in the hands of two professionals, a joy to witness. This was lights overload, lights overdose, an overdose of white light, total white-light-out, complete white-out-and the perfect catharsis for the cheering crowd.

Thereafter, they were putty in Paulo’s hands as he worked them over with "Feel the Drums," "Make My Body Rock," "Slave"-a series of pelvic rides that built and built before achieving release.

Meanwhile, making their way through the packed floor, a quartet of red-lighted nuns led a group toward the stage-and smashed through the barricaded wall in a red flag-waving frenzy-and as the wall fell, the energy, the bass, the pounding beat of the music was amped up to such an unconscionable level as to evoke a thundering herd pounding across the firmament. This was Paulo’s intro to "Hills of Katmandu," his version of the Tantra (and Black Party) classic, which made it perfectly clear as to who was in charge of this party.

Throughout the night, and long in to the morning, the red-shirted MedEvent boys kept watch over the Black Party faithful-to insure that all would be delivered safely from Roseland. And equally attentive throughout the eighteen-hour event were the myriad Saint-at-Large volunteers, diligent and committed, as well as Saint-at-Large impresario Stephen Pevner who oversaw the proceedings of the entire experience with a kind of beneficent grin-and why not? This year’s Black Party: Rites XXXI was a beautiful revolution of sound, light-and the forbidden dance. Viva la revolucion!

Long-term New Yorkers, Mark and Robert have also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center, Mark is a PhD in American history and literature, as well as the author of the novels Wolfchild and My Hawaiian Penthouse. Robert is the producer of the documentary We Are All Children of God. Their work has appeared in numerous publications, as well as at :


  • , 2010-03-24 18:25:13

    I’m not sure we went to the same party. I’ve been going to the Black Party since 2002. Sadly, the party’s been getting less and less fun every year. There used to be hot live shows, but those are almost gone, replaced by lame "visuals". The music used to be fun to dance to even if you weren’t on drugs (for the record: I don’t "party"). The music Saturday night was basically all "thump-thump-thump". I didn’t hear a single recognizable tune till I left at 6am. Granted, the DJs are playing for the tweakers and not for me, but it didn’t use to be that way. As for the visuals, I would hardly say the Roseland was "transformed". Of course, not having a VIP ticket, I wasn’t able to go upstairs. The decor might have been more impressive up there, but very few people were able to see it. The whole issue with the VIP section irked nearly everyone I talked to. In previous years the VIP section was small (if it even existed) and the main draw to getting a VIP ticket was the speedier entry and coat check. As a result of closing the whole second floor, the first floor was even more crowded and sweaty than usual. In any case, the thing that disappointed me most about the Black Party this year was the lack of shows. That used to be the most interesting thing about the party. Without them, it’s just another (more expensive) circuit party. I’ve heard rumors of shows taking place on the second floor, but once again, I was unable to actually go up there, so I can’t comment. Next year, I will save my $95 and skip the Black Party unless the Saint at Large publicly announces a return to the old, fun format for the party.

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