The Hottest Club is at Home: On the Rise of Club Quarantine
Issue 4 | Metamorphosis
The mood is in the title of the event: quarantine. For two months now, North America—and much of the world on and off—has been under orders to stay at home. Isolation. Quarantine. Shelter-in-place. No matter the word we all feel its meaning of distance. Yet, Club Quarantine would make that distance virtually disappear.
Events and live shows have been hit the hardest during the pandemic. At the beginning, no one knew how long we’d be without gathering in such spaces. Even now, there are no clear answers. In March, four friends—musician Andrés Sierra, musician and producer DJ Casey MQ, comedian Brad Allen and digital creative Mingus New—joked about putting something online to get through being at home. They settled on Instagram Live and figured only their friends would show up, have a laugh, and everyone would have felt something other than unease during this weird and difficult time.
But the virtual club all four would come to create was no laughing matter. Instead, it became a necessary form of relief and joy; a celebratory space for the LGBTQ+ community to gather. Attendees can dress up, dress down, go off in the comments, change their Zoom backgrounds, and wait to get in line like a regular club. Each night lasts for three hours and it is packed.
We spoke to MQ about Club Q’s extraordinary rise, how it belongs to the people who occupy the space, what comes next and how nightlife might be altered permanently.
The day after I interviewed MQ for this newsletter, Club Q featured a set by Diplo. A week later, there were sets by Rico Nasty and Toronto’s own sensation Sydanie. Club Q’s rise doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
SOMEWHERELSE: Did you expect that the momentum would build this way or did you expect it to build locally and not maybe necessarily globally, which it has?
DJ CASEY MQ: We didn’t expect that when we started the party. It was just a joke, this was a funny thing for us. [laughs] But I don’t know. We [eventually] realized how important it actually was. We thought it would be a friend’s thing—maybe that a couple of us would just do it once. I guess we thought, yes, maybe it would be more local with our friends there. The spirit of having fun and wanting to have a good time at a club and celebrate queerness: I feel like that quickly resonated with people, which was awesome.
Like you gestured to, Club Q is primarily this LGBTQ+ space. How have you seen that respected and honoured as a place of community and togetherness?
It’s really about celebrating individuality. When people come online, we have people on different screens, and the chat is going off for anybody and everyone. Like if someone is lying in bed doing nothing, we’re saying go off. We love it just as much as someone who has done a full look. It’s just a matter of really bringing the warm energy that you want out of the space. We definitely want everyone and anyone to come through but I guess I ask that if you’re not a part of the LGBTQ community, you can come back when there’s more space.
I think the thing that differentiates Club Q from going to see people in person—obviously removed from the fact that you’re in person—is that it seems to meet people where they’re at. I wonder what your thoughts are on that and if that feels more inclusive as an event overall?
I think what happens is there’s even more engagement in the space because people want to know what’s gonna happen next, who is going to come into the room. There are going to be some surprises. Like, “What? What’s going to pop up on the screen?” It’s a lot more individual togetherness.
I do want to touch on the fact that Club Q has this global reach. You have people in attendance from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and all over North America. You’ve had some notable guest DJ sets like Charli XCX, Tinashe, and my favourite, Rebecca Black. How do you see these people engaging with Club Q and bolstering its reputation?
When we first started, Charli’s team reached out to us before we even had [this for] a week. But it was a perfect fit. And then, while that was happening, there was something with Paper magazine. They wanted to start doing parties, which was another way to have these other acts come through. It’s been pretty organic in terms of how people have reached out to Club Q. We had some friends that we had known that were able to help the party spread. But, like everyone else, we’re seeing DJs and attendees come through. It’s been beautiful to see that they want to be a part of something special like this.
Do you think that Club Q is thriving in large part because of the circumstances we’re in?
We all feel like Club Q is not ours. There’s this feeling of people wanting to build the space up and they want to come together to see the space alive and thriving. I think there’s shared enjoyment around it.
I’ve read that you have plans to do this in person and keep it digital once we’re back to whatever our new normal is. The latter is beneficial for anybody who might be socially anxious or any disabled folks who can’t go into the venues because of accessibility issues. They have the opportunity to participate, too. In what ways—because of how quickly the community has adapted to this situation—do you see Club Q shifting nightlife and club culture?
I think what’s really exciting is you can see the intersection. If we can make the space where there’s a big audience, you can bring the global aspect—people can be projected on Zoom and know that they’re at the club right now. There’s something exciting about that. I think people will be really excited on both ends. I think everyone would get something out of it.
Do you have a favourite night so far or a memory that sticks out of like one of your favourite experiences in the last couple of months?
That’s a good question. The most recent in my head is when someone did “Fireflies” by Owl City but they just did a vocal performance, lip-sync performance of it. They just had it so that it was only repeating “you would not believe…” They had a bunch of eyes everywhere on their body. And it was just four minutes and there was this same tension. It was epic. It was perfect. I think there’ve been a bunch of those that have surprised me. I like seeing someone I wasn’t familiar with their art before this thing that was so special and so unique.
Written by Sarah MacDonald
Lead Graphic by Marta Ryczko