As the whole world stopped and shut down for a moment in time amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people were forced online as stay at home orders were enforced all around the world. Confined to my home, I had to find ways to keep myself busy. In highschool I would search BoilerRoom sets on Youtube and play them in my room and pretend I was at a club. 7 years later and finally legal, I found myself doing the same. The only difference was that I had people all around the world doing it with me.
I asked my friend Miguel (professional raver and McGill student) to chat about what these online raves really said about community, connection, and what it means for the future. When describing his experience he said, “People would cheer for the person dancing when the screen shifted, so it still felt like we were connected. There still was a sense of community. It has shown me a lot about rave communities and how they have come out to support DJs and venues in different ways. “
SO… now you want to go to an online rave.
I know, I know, it’s tempting… and fun! At the beginning of quarantine Miguel and I were not the only ones missing raving during quarantine. In fact, one of the most popular online raves, Club Quarantine, was started in our home Toronto. While partying on Instagram live, four friends decided to create an online event. In the hopes of creating an online space for their community, these 4 Toronto men created one of the coolest online events of 2020. Club Quarantine, the internet’s hottest Queer club, emerged firstly as an Instagram account @clubquarantine, turning into a ZOOM-party of 1000 people every night at its height.
Though Club Q does not require as large a staff as an in person-club, the work required highlights the significance of uncompensated labour. Though the organizers and performers of Club Q are not necessarily paid by the hour, they still spend enormous amounts of time to promote, organize and attend every online event. The rise of online events such as Club Q have defied traditional understandings of profit and labour. Through the use of ZOOM, the organizers of Club Q were able to create an online space that was accessible, safe, and supportive of their community. In my conversation with Miguel he reflected on the social impact fo Club Quarantine saying, “It is a community that is not only about dancing, DJing and techno, but also about supporting social issues. There is a big social impact as well. The rave community is extremely open and supports issues regarding the Queer community and racialized communities. For people who are part of the underground community and people who don’t fit in, they always have a place.” Putting Queer and BIPOC bodies first, and hiring their friends to perform at these online events, Club Q organizers found ways to put money in the pockets of their friends who had no other means of finding work.
“For people who are part of the underground community and people who don’t fit in, they always have a place.”
But Club Q, and raves alike, are not just friends partying, but also an adequate business model… One I suspect will become even more normalized. This we cannot only see in the increase of online events, but also in the increased worth of the platforms to which they run on. In fact, last year when ZOOM went public, their value was estimated at $15.9b, and by June of last year it was valued at $58b. Though Club Q cannot be credited alone with that increase, it has participated in the normalization and free advertisement of this new online chat service.
At 21 what most of those around me were worried about was the fact that our ‘youth’ was put on hold. Though it is fair to say everyone had their own struggles and their own ways of dealing with the pandemic, the worries of my friends and I were quite miniscule compared to others who had lost their jobs or their home. Many people in the queer community, often marginalized, face issues that I have never had to question; unsafe work environments, housing, family relations and that was made evident in Club Quarantine. Club Quarantine has displayed the grassroots possibilities of platforms like ZOOM where they don’t have to rely on outside sources or funding to organize an event for the community. Though I am happy that there is a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID, things like Club Quarantine remind me that it was not only bad that came out of this past year.