Experimentation, Empowerment, Connectedness: Talking with the SELTZER party founders about their first year of LGBT clubbing in West Philly

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A Seltzer party in West Philly | photo by Evie Yui-Ha | @snaxho_ | courtesy of the artist

Sometime in the previous decade, Philadelphia’s underground LGBT / queer community stepped out of the pit and onto the dancefloor, oftentimes transforming those same basements and living rooms that nurtured punk rock and other alternative bands into clubs. Powered amps were lugged, turntables were plugged in, and mics were checked. Out of this explosion of banging beats, and with the influence of Philly’s groundbreaking vogue/ballroom scene, the eponymous “queer dance party” was born. Venues like Elena’s Soul and the Treehouse were West Philly staples, where DJ’s like Seltzer’s DJ Precolumbian carved out a musical identity for themselves despite the odds volleyed at marginalized people.

Seltzer is that new, new though; a roving party building on the legacy of queer involvement in house, techno, hip hop and dance music, injected with the raw, nervous energy of downtown ’80’s New York. As such, it’s more than a movement and difficult to pin down to one specific sound. Certainly, there is the ever-present vogue battle beats or the syncopated rhythm and bash of Philly / Jersey club blasting out of speakers. But its playlist is also informed by world music, EDM, and experimental music– like a Soundcloud autoplaying from a queer, utopian Cybertron. With this eclectic, yet culturally refined soundtrack, DJ Precolumbian, along with Bearcat and the whole Seltzer squad, are all set to push boundaries, move bodies, and foster community all at once. With their one-year anniversary party happening this weekend, we sat down with Precolumbian and got the entire dish on Seltzer and what these parties mean for the future of queer dance sounds in Philly and beyond.

The Key: Who are the members of SELTZER, what are your specialties and how did you form?

DJ Precolumbian: Seltzer is Bearcat and Precolumbian. Precolumbian is a DJ, musician and cultural creator and Bearcat is a DJ, producer, sound designer and all around brilliant artist. We’ve been friends for a few years, and last summer, when Bearcat moved to Philly, we were chillin’ like, basically everyday. Throwing the party was Bearcat’s idea, Precolumbian was on a little sabbatical at the time rekindling her love for music and DJ’ing and taking a much needed break from touring and playing out all the time. So Bearcat was like “I’ve always wanted to have a party, lets throw a party b**ch!!”

TK: What motivates SELTZER? Why this party and why now?

DJP: One of our main motivators is creating a space for experimentation, empowerment and connectedness in West Philly, where not just our community feels cute in, but a space for us to experiment with all the different sounds we wanna play with, a place where we can book our friends and let them shine on a big stage. For our lineups, we always try to pair a local DJ with an out-of-town guest. We are both very invested in the local scene and want it to grow, and part of that is shining a light on all the talent in the city. We also host mixes on our Soundcloud from our friends and Seltzer alums. We want Seltzer to be more than a party but a platform that nurtures queer and trans artists of color in Philly. Really, we wanna get to a place where we all consider ourselves headliners [laughs]. Like, Seltzer feels really important to us for many reasons, but also, it’s an important party for the city, where events are becoming more and more homogenized and catering to more mainstream audiences. Seltzer is really unlike anything happening in Philly right now.

TK: How is representation important to SELTZER crew? Many people consider the dancefloor to be the last place for political enlightenment, but SELTZER seems to have a certain thoughtfulness that’s missing in the dance music scene. How do you navigate creating that space and still having a totally wild party?

DJP: Lots of people will tell you music isn’t or shouldn’t be political, but the opposite is actually true. Music and dance has always been political, they’ve always been a form of resistance, of healing, of giving voice to marginalized communities. Seltzer is a representation of our values, our hopes, our artistic visions, and like, we both have long resumes, people know what we’re about, they know our politics. We’re both very accessible and have close ties with the people we work with and throw our party for and it shows. The party feels like a family affair.

DJs Questionmarc and Bearcat at Seltzer, with seltzer | photo by @lorbih | courtesy of the artist

TK: Do you find the general Philadelphia DJ scene inclusive? Why or why not? If not, what are some ways that it can improve in that area?

DJP: Yes! We feel like Seltzer has been very well received and we both have relationships with many artists across the city and other cities. We both try to go to other parties, support other artists, and what not. And like you can always improve on anything so we just want to keep building in Philly and beyond.

TK: LGBT folks and POC have been at the forefront of dance music, house and club culture. Why do you think the perception of dance music as mindless high energy jams for “bros” to mosh to while taking bad drugs has taken precedent in the scene?

DJP: That type of stereotype feels so distant from what we do and the spaces we navigate that it’s almost irrelevant. Dance music, whether it’s house or Baltimore Club or whatever, was created by queers, and has been a huge part of queer culture, and we honor that in our work.

TK: Reflecting on a full year of amazing parties, what’s next for Seltzer? Any surprises, advancements or parties you’d like to announce?

DJP: Its been a wild year! But we’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up. Next month we will be hosting our second annual Seltzerween at Lacquer, details for that will be coming very soon. We also recently announced our new residency in New York City at Nowadays, we’ll be there 11/24 with special guest Tygapaw. More cities and cuties in the works so stay tuned, follow our instagram: @seltzerworldwide and our individual instas: @b_e_a_r_c_a_t and @cordill3ra.

Seltzer celebrates its one year anniversary at Lacquer in West Philadelphia on Saturday, September 29th from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. More information can be found here.

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