Inside the Volcano

POMPe Offers Queer-Centric Haven

  • Partygoers let loose at POMPe at Katacombes. Photos courtesy Guillaume Bell

On a dreary, rainy November evening, rumors circulate that an underground queer dance party is taking place somewhere within the city, drawing all sorts of characters out from their hideouts.

My curiosity tempts me to investigate this phenomenon, so I throw on an itchy Christmas sweater and take off into the night.

“Do I have the right address?” I whisper nervously to myself as I stand outside Katacombes on St. Laurent Blvd., a venue which traditionally showcases heavy metal acts.

I anxiously analyze the graffiti that lines the walls outside of venue as if deciphering hieroglyphics, and watch for any signs of life. Soon, I notice a small sprinkling of people trickling inside, with bursts of music igniting the street corner each time the door swings open.

Casting my fears aside, I muster my courage and enter this forsaken temple. Just as Alice falls through the rabbit hole, I find myself immersed within a whole new world. My pupils dilate and my heart rate quickens as I try to absorb my new surroundings. It’s clear that individuality thrives within this space as I immediately pass a rainbow array of avant-garde outfits you’d rarely see in daylight.

This is POMPe, a monthly queer dance party that attracts people from all walks and summons them to the dance floor for a night of passion and debauchery. This is the last one of 2015 until it relaunches in January at a brand new venue, ending an extensive residency at Katacombes.

One individual catches my eye, appearing to be dressed in a full unicorn ensemble, including a towering horn and a bright hair extension glued to their chin.

“There’s a kind of release in nightlife, a place where you can create a parallel universe. A place where you are anyone you want to be,” explains Laura Boo, also known as DJ Like the Wolf, and one of the creators of POMPe.

“[There are] a lot of queers who still don’t feel like they fit in with the mainstream,” she adds. “I want POMPe to be home to weirdos and freaks, affordable enough for activists and artists who have leveraged their whole lives to pursue change.”

The cost to enter is a mere $5, echoing the sentiment about POMPe being affordable for all. Although the event is labeled queer by nature, it appeals to a wider audience including those from the gay and transgender community who are looking for something more than a generic evening in the Village.

“POMPe is fucking amazing!” screams reveler Riccardo Galvaldes over the bombastic beats. “I get to play dress up for one night a month,” he adds, pointing to his carefully applied eye makeup, echoing this sense of freedom and self-expression. I met him on my way to the washroom, and was immediately stricken by his choice of white t-shirt and jeans, coupled with the thick visage of makeup.

Following this encounter, the music cuts and Laura Boo makes an appearance on stage to introduce rapper Marshia Celina, who electrifies the crowd and provides a change in pace with some live music.

The event has long been a place where queer artists can take the stage, and showcases underground acts that would otherwise struggle to find mainstream success.

“We have musicians, drag artists, video artists, burlesque and lots of indescribable stuff,” adds Boo. “Folks that defy categorization.”

It’s demonstrative of just how diverse the monthly lineup can be. POMPe is not the only queer dance party to hit the scene—there is a litany of queer-themed events around Montreal. Monthly parties are held at Notre Dames Des Quilles and also at Le Belmont under the title of Mec Plus Ultra, to name just a couple.

As the clock strikes 3 a.m. and the crowd disperses from the dance floor, I watch three ethereal drag queens gracefully enter a taxi and drive away from paradise, back to reality.

Although partygoers now must wait almost two months until the next POMPe event, which resumes in January at a new venue called Felix, the evening was clearly a success.

I make my way to the dreaded night bus and ponder, feeling elated that I got some insight into this scene, and proud that Montreal is host to such diverse and accepting nightlife.

For upcoming queer-centric events, search for Jeudi POMPe Thursdays on Facebook.

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