Check My Grill @ Sweet Revenge in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
While the Queens lesbian scene is just taking off, Brooklyn’s lesbian scene is perceived by many to be the center of all things lesbian in New York City. The neighborhood of Park Slope is affectionately known as "Dyke Slope," and there is a lively artsy queer scene extending from the western part of Williamsburg all the way to Bushwick. The Gowanus-based monthly party That’s My Jam, never fails to bring in a sizeable crowd, and for better or for worse, Ilene Chaiken has reportedly been eyeing the borough for the next installment of The Real L Word should it be renewed for a second season.
Whereas Park Slope/Gowanus and Williamsburg/Bushwick have inserted themselves in the public consciousness as being high profile queer social centers, the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy has stayed under the radar, despite having a rich history of queer activity, especially among gay people of color. Parties such as Sweat! and the Audre Lorde Project’s Sunday night party The Lab – and gay bars such as Langston’s are all testaments to a culturally rich population of queer people of color in Bed-Stuy. And That’s My Jam, mentioned earlier, which has been written up by Time Out New York and New York Magazine, had its beginnings in Bed-Stuy in 2008 at the now-defunct Sputnik before moving to its new location at The Bell House in Gowanus.
One of the founders of That’s My Jam, professionally known as DJ Tikka Masala (www.djtikka.com), is a resident of Bed-Stuy and a staple in the Brooklyn queer scene. After gaining notoriety for turning That’s My Jam into a success, drawing hundreds of revelers per event, Tikka landed gigs opening for MC Lyte, Talib Kweli, The Gossip, DJ Premier of Gangstarr and Meshell N’Degeocello, among others. In May of this year, Tikka teamed up with DJ Whitney Day (www.whitneyday.com), another Bed-Stuy resident and fixture in the Manhattan lesbian DJ circuit, and the pair launched Check My Grill at Sweet Revenge, a queer-friendly bar owned by two women in Bed-Stuy. The concept is simple: throw some frankfurters and other barbecue staples on a huge grill in the outdoor garden area and punctuate the air with beats to create the quintessential summer dance party.
L to R: DJ Tikka Masala and DJ Whitney Day
Whitney Day, a regular on the decks at high profile Manhattan parties Proposition, Q-Girls, Stiletto and Snapshot and several queer parties in Boston, said that Check My Grill sprang out of her and Tikka’s mutual love of food and music. "We wanted to create a fun, queer party in our neighborhood that involved two of our favorite things: food and music," she said. Tikka added, "For me, the concept of food and music linked up has been part of my M.O. since day one – hence the name DJ Tikka Masala. Last summer I got inspired by going to an event with a chef friend in Berlin for an art show I went to after a gig in Amsterdam. It involved firing up an amazing grill and then getting the community out to enjoy art, food and music together – it was super casual, laid back, outdoors – the antithesis of a chic club night."
Whitney Day on grill duty
The crowd is a racially diverse mix of old guard Bed-Stuy queers, hipsters in skinny jeans, recent college grads, and a smattering of young professionals. Said Whitney Day, "Although it is mainly a queer party, all are welcome! Anything goes."
I asked Tikka to characterize Bed-Stuy’s queer scene in 2010, and she replied,
"[T]he queer people who live nearby come from a lot of different backgrounds and have different histories in this neighborhood, and they appreciate a breadth of musical styles. They love their dancehall here, they love their hip hop too, there are riot girl influenced kids who are really into the dancey punk stuff as well, and then there are folks who need their house music fix on the regular – they all chill together here because it’s not a designated area for a certain type of queer person. Bed Stuy is eclectic and really laid back, and it’s got some old queer landmarks, a history of queer activism – especially in the people of color communities – plus some young queer kids who don’t feel like hauling their lazy asses into the city to spend a paycheck for a fun night. Music really brings it together in the best possible way."
Said Whitney Day, "The area of Brooklyn where Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy are located is a very LGBTQ-friendly area. I definitely see more and more lesbians moving here."
The next Check My Grill is Thursday, September 2, at Sweet Revenge.
Sweet Revenge is also home to BBQueer, an event produced by Tikka and her That’s My Jam business partner Trent Brooks, that will be held every Friday in September. That’s My Jam’s second year anniversary party will be held September 18 at the Bell House in Gowanus, and Tikka also hinted at a new monthly party to launch in Manhattan "on the biggest baddest sound system in town. It literally has the lowest, clearest bass in the city. The turntables are on shocks because the bass shakes that hard." Also, check out Whitney Day’s DJ/Artist feature and DJ mix currently running at No Labelz Magazine. Wow, these girls are busy. We learned from the Beastie Boys that there is no sleep ’til Brooklyn, but it looks like there’s no sleep for these ladies in Brooklyn either.
So a while back I made a map of the world according to Brooklyn lesbians, and I concede that there is a glaring omission. Allow me to amend the map.