Fur and Gold :: Fun and sexy (this week with the Pet Shop Boys)
For two years now, Fur and Gold has offered Boston nightlife with an alternative to the stand and pose scene found in other clubs. On the second Friday of every month, Fur and Gold hosts an event at the Alley, the only queer bar in the downtown district, that celebrates both the diversity in the community and in music. Bears hang out with twinks, or dance to a music mix from different genres of different decades.
In short, expect is the unexpected, both in the crowd and the choice of music, spun by DJs Brent Covington and DJ Taffy (aka Bruce Derfler).
EDGE spoke to Covington, Derfler and Fur and Gold’s promoter and co-founder Sean Johnson about the evolution of the night, its growing popularity and why this month is dedicated to the iconic LGBT artists the Pet Shop Boys, the first time a Fur and Gold event has been dedicated to the music of a single group.
What to expect
EDGE: To newcomers to Fur and Gold, can you explain what your mission is?
Sean Johnson: the mission statement for Fur and Gold is the spread our love for music from many different genres and decades, and sharing it with our audience here in Boston. We wanted to host a night that plays music you don’t normally hear in bars, and let people know that there is an alternative side of the GLBT scene here and it’s strong and full of great energy.
EDGE: If I’ve never been to Fur and Gold before, what can I expect?
Brent Covington: A fun and sexy crowd; some music you’ve never heard and some music you’ve always loved; CD giveaways from new artists and some crazy video visuals curated by Sean.
Sean Johnson: We are located at the Alley bar, in the upstairs section. Upon entering the top floor, you will be greeted with entertaining videos that are found all over the web, from artists that we love, to other
visually striking material. We provide candy/snacks and other promotions from the artist of the month that we are giving out. These items are usually passed out by myself, connecting and communicating with people in the crowd. DJ Taffy and Brent Covington are alternating between their favorite artists and requests. We have a lit up dance floor filled with all types of people.
We are at a local gay bar, but we encourage everyone to join our party. We have people from all over Boston and have had visitors from the U.K., Rhode Island, event NYC! Our music selection is diverse and so is our crowd. It allows for a great communal feeling, and laid back and also allowing everyone to enjoy something from all the music we play.
Bruce Derfler The Alley is a downtown "neighborhood style" bar, with an upstairs balcony that Fur & Gold takes over for an evening of alternative/indie, electro, rock, pop and dance. There are no pretensions, just good tunes and good company. In addition, the Fur & Gold crew provides musical giveaways (discs, posters, etc) to tie in with a monthly promotion - and of course we promote the kind of artists we and our patrons either enjoy or would be curious to learn more about.
Why Pet Shop Boys?
EDGE: This is the first time you’ve dedicated a Fur and Gold event to a single artist -- why the Pet Shop Boys?
Brent Covington: We had wanted to do a themed night dedicated to a particular sound or artist. DJ Taffy and I are huge fans of the Pet Shop Boys, and they kept coming up in posts on our Facebook walls and when we would play them at our events. Eventually, it felt like they were the obvious choice for a night when we thought about their body of work, their visual image and the fact that they are both a retro and current gay band.
Sean Johnson: We wanted to represent an artist who is important to the GLBT scene, but also important to us and our night. Brent and Taffy, who play the music, felt that the PSB were strong influences in their sound, and I felt that it was perfect to do a dedication to such influential people in their own personal lives. I think they are great icons in gay history, especially musically.
Bruce Derfler The Pet Shop Boys are flat out icons - a quarter century into their career and they continue to create vital new work, while obviously pushing nostalgia buttons with their older songs. DJ Brent and I both adore the Pet Shop Boys and have consistently played their stuff to crowd approval throughout the past two years. It seemed pretty obvious that if we were to do a themed night at Fur & Gold, the Pet Shop Boys would be a logical first choice.
EDGE: You are encouraging people to dress as their favorite Pet Shop Boys - who will you be dressed as?
Brent Covington: DJ Taffy and I sported our favorite look of theirs - the crazy dunce caps from their 1993 album "Very" - to advertise the night. Unfortunately, those hats are too high to even fit in the DJ booth, so we will be sporting a paired down look from their last release.
Sean Johnson: I always have a struggle choosing what to wear when dressing up. I know the other two knew right away what they wanted to wear. I might sport something PSB like, and rock our Fur and Gold neck chair that our cover models wear. I don’t want to take any shine away from those who are up for winning the grand prize, which is a secret! But any PSB fan would LOVE to have it in their collection.
Bruce Derfler For our promotion artwork Brent and I mimic the Pets from the sleeve and video of their 1993 single Can You Forgive Her. Brent will again be Chris Lowe to my Neil Tennant this Friday night, but we are still settling on the proper look.
EDGE: Why do you think is the key to their staying power as artists?
Brent Covington: Ironically, I think their consistency of style and sound has been a positive attribute of their staying power. They have really stuck to their original aesthetic and sound all along, while also collaborating with new artists and addressing modern issues. I feel like I can depend on them. Also, even though they will always be considered an 80s band, I think they’ve always been very forward thinking.
Sean Johnson: I believe that they are ever changing and building with technology and continuing to stay with style and keeping their iconic status and true to what they believe in their lyrics and embodiment. It takes a lot of that to keep an artist strong. They constructed their image and were able to hold onto it themselves without the construction of a label or management. These are things we see happening today in pop culture. This seems to fit well in the alternative GLBT scene and never conforming, which builds up the strength one needs to strive for greatness.
Bruce Derfler The Pet Shop Boys are just incredibly strong songwriters. They know how to craft a catchy hook, whether for the dancefloor or the iPod. lyrically they are very underrated - I feel there is serious literary merit to their best songs. Finally, they are very consistent, and have mastered the art of creating timeless electropop which rarely sounds dated.
EDGE: Do you remember the first time you heard the Pet Shop Boys?
Brent Covington: I remember hearing "West End Girls" as a kid, and it was a real game changer for me musically. It was electronic, danceable, and mysterious. I still love it.
Sean Johnson: I’m a little younger than the DJs, but I was probably in my early teens, and it was "West End Girls." I was at a party at my uncle’s house, and remember dancing around the pool to it.
Bruce Derfler It was "West End Girls," of course, their first single in the US. I may have actually seen the video first, on local Boston cable music network V66 back in the mid-80s. I loved it from the get-go.
EDGE: Do you have a favorite Pet Shop Boys album?
Brent Covington: "Very," from 1993.
Sean Johnson: I’m not a big fan of choosing a favorite. I always go through "phases", so I like an album for a few months, play it out and move on from there. But those albums usually make it back to the playlist often.
Bruce Derfler My favorite album is probably "Very" (from 1993), which is simply a cohesive masterpiece. "Behaviour" is a close second, partly because my absolutely favorite PSB song ("Being Boring") is found on it.
Cater to core crowd
EDGE: You’re up for the Phoenix Best in 2012. Why do you think you’ve caught on so well?
Brent Covington: I think our main goals for the night have been to play music that you won’t hear in other venues or nights and to make everyone feel welcome. We certainly cater to our core crowd, but we also love to meet new people and introduce them to the music and people we love.
Sean Johnson: When I came back from Berlin in August I met up with Brent and Bruce about the night. We wanted to vamp up the night a bit, we needed more to it. We loved what we were doing, but we wanted to give our audience more, and we wanted to build up and diversify our crowd and music we played. We wanted to stand out by showing everyone that we are here for them.
Bruce Derfler Of course it takes any venture some time to find its niche, and at this point we’ve received favorable word of mouth that this is the destination for fans of the kind of music we are promoting and playing. It also helps that our night is quite diverse, attracting guys from all age groups.
EDGE: Are there any other artists you’d like to celebrate in the same ways?
Brent Covington: There are only a handful of artists that have careers spanning enough time and quality material to justify a whole night dedicated to them - Madonna being one - but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Sean Johnson: Hmm, I’d love to do a Kate Bush night. She has such influence on many of the artists that I listen to now and she is so different from what we hear today.
Bruce Derfler Speaking totally for myself and not the Fur & Gold team - I would love to do a theme night of the Smiths/Morrissey. I also like the idea of a theme night devoted to a specific time and place of music - could be mid-90s Britpop, early 80’s synthpop, or current new pop from Scandinavia.
Why Lana Del Rey?
EDGE: You recently dedicated a night to Lana Del Rey. She had a disastrous appearance on "SNL" in January and received much bad press because of it. Why do like about her?
Brent Covington: Our last event was more of a CD release party for Lana than it was a dedication to her. We had been playing a few of her remixes for months to very enthusiastic response from our crowd. And once we heard the album for ourselves, we knew it was a good fit for Fur And Gold in terms of sound. It did seem that everyone had strong opinion about her before her album was even released. After people heard the album, we received a lot of emails from people who fell in love with it after they actually heard it.
Sean Johnson: We promoted her last album by giving it away versus a dedicated night to her. I think her "SNL" performance wasn’t that bad, and personally, I think media loves building up pop stars to rip them down. I’ve seen far worse performances on "SNL," and she’s young, and nervous, so of course it’s not going to be excellent, but it still sounded decent. I personally love her voice and sound. It’s a great addition to pop culture, different, and not your usual Adele or Lady Gaga on the scene. We wanted to let people know that there is more of her than her lips, and look.
Bruce Derfler I really do like her voice, and the fact that she just doesn’t sound much like anything else out there right now. I can easily ignore the hype/press and focus on the music, which is quite good. As for her SNL appearance - more silly hyperbole there. She was awkward and nervous for sure, but let’s be honest...disaster best describes the likes of Ashlee Simpson getting caught on live TV lip-syncing to the wrong tape! Lana fingered her hair and quavered a bit - to me this showed human frailty, which is a very good thing.
Fur and Gold event celebrating the Pet Shop Boys takes place on Friday, March 9, 2012 at the Alley Bar. Visit the Fur and Gold Facebook page for further details.