Photography by Michael Wichita
If P Street is where the roots were planted, the family tree has since branched out to Connecticut Avenue, 17th and 14th Streets and up to U Street. Now 18th Street seems to be the latest growth area for gay and lesbian hot spots, what with the 18th & U Duplex Diner and Larry's Lounge already in full swing, and the progressive gay party called Filler keeping the Blue Room swank each Sunday.
Feint is 18th Street's most recent gay addition. And however obnoxious it is to brand an entire group of people by the venue they frequent, the temptation to tag Feint's patrons as the Queer Black Cat crowd is irresistible. Wedged into that unassuming space called Staccato, just to the right of the Duplex, Feint takes place about once a month on a Sunday. As far as we know, it's the local scene's only party that doesn't make an electronic beat or remix its centerpiece. But pigeonholing it as an indie rock party would be like calling Martha Stewart a cook -- the range of music spans from Eighties pop to hip hop to electro to dyke rock.
"I was wishing someone would do something like this ever since I started going to clubs," says Matt Kane, who co-founded Feint in October with his friend, Michael Eichler. "When I was in school at St. Mary's, I would come up to D.C. and go to Tracks and all those places. But we don't really go to those clubs on a regular basis, and we just sort of got fed up."
Eichler and Kane both had the idea for a queer party like Feint before they even met. When Kane moved up here about a year ago, Eichler had already been here for eleven years and was tentatively planning a party like Feint with an ex-boyfriend.
Neither Kane nor Eichler had ever thrown a party at a club, but Kane has lived with enough DJs to know the basics of music sequencing, and Eichler, a self-described out-of-work computer programmer, handles the technological side.
D.C.'s licensing laws say that Staccato can't have a DJ, so Eichler burns Feint's playlist for each night onto CDs and sets the order in advance. The inability to make song selections on the fly can be a little restricting, it allows for a more intricate and thought out pre-selection process.
"If there were people dancing, having a DJ would make a lot more sense," says Kane. "But this is kind of a lounge mode. It's more about hanging out."
The air at Feint is refreshingly laid back. Plenty of seating and board games encourage interaction, and patrons are more approachable than shirtless K-holers. And though Eichler and Kane wish the crowd was closer to fifty-fifty genderwise, the mix of boys and girls is more balanced than most gay parties achieve.
"Every other event I've been to that doesn't have many women there, the women that are there are clustered into little groups of five," says Eichler. "At Feint, everyone's mixing."
Feint has no plans to go weekly at the moment, although the full house it routinely draws suggests that it could. Because it's so outside the mainstream, Kane and Eichler want to proceed with caution for the moment, rather than "go whole hog and ruin a good thing."
Right now, the party's expenses are minimal. Promotion is done via Internet and word of mouth. But even with hardly any active promoting and no DJ, Feint is quickly becoming well known amongst those looking for an alternate buzz in the increasingly popular Sunday night scene.
"I see a lot of the same faces at Feint that I see at shows at the Black Cat," says Kane. "But then I also see a lot of the same faces that I see at places like Cobalt."
This eclectic crowd mirrors the variety of music, and helps ensure that people will keep showing up. Eichler admits he's surprised that no one thought to throw this sort of party years ago.
"It's really not that novel an idea," he says.
Feint happens this Sunday, January 19, at Staccato, 2006 18th Street NW. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.meichler.com/feint or email firstname.lastname@example.org.