Josh Bis

"The gayest I've seen Neumos since it was ARO.space. Or something." So said no less an authority than Adrian Ryan of Hercules and Love Affair's long-awaited Seattle debut, and I'm inclined to agree.

Last Wednesday night, a packed, hot, and steamy Neumos crowd lost its collective shit for Hercules and Love Affair, waving hands in the air, clapping and singing along, dancing like maniacs, all for what was basically two dudes pumping classic house music and disco while a pair of towering Paris Is Burning queens—Shaun J. Wright and Aerea Negrot—vogued, threw shade, and, along with Kim Ann Foxman, belted out lines like "Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars/Where do I come from," "I'm looking for a place to stay," "Baby, this might be who you really are," and "I am FREEEEEEEE." Word.

H&LA mastermind Andy Butler introduced the group with campy and genuine enthusiasm: "This ain't no disco; it's Hercules and Love Affair. Y'all ready to party hearty? We're gonna start elegant, no comments about the tampon in my mouth." (There was what looked like an unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth the whole show.)

Butler stood behind a long table stacked with equipment sprouting wires out the backside (spotted: one Roland SH-101 synthesizer), flanked by one Mark Pistel of Consolidated ("He's helpin' me out back here; it's harder than it looks"). I was hoping to see the band's bass lines and horn flourishes played by live musicians; instead, those parts emanated unseen, the bass still sounding every bit as loose and rubbery, the horn parts maybe just a little thinner than would've been ideal, both coming from somewhere in that pile of wires.

Still, it sounded great in there. The bass drum pulsed loud and low enough to vibrate your legs into dancing almost of their own free will, the acid bass was deep and squelching, the glassy keyboard melodies sounding shoplifted out of some early-'80s Madonna production (fitting, Madonna being like the patron saint of bringing NYC snap queens into mainstream consciousness), and the trio of singers sat right in the mix, melting into the groove one moment, stepping out for some inspired diva declamations the next.

Easily half the songs were new material, leaning a little more toward the housey side of things than the disco to great effect, especially one jacking house number on which the vocalists instructed, "No time to spend/No time to sleep/It's time to jump/It's time to go." Of the older material, they opened with "True/False, Fake/Real," they played "Athene," with its subdued Foxman vocal, the stomping "Raise Me Up," the bleeping back-to-basics house of "Classique #2," and, of course, the anthems "You Belong" and "Blind," both of which played to enormous cheers.

"Seattle, I hate to tell you this," Wright said after "You Belong," "but the party is over. And when I say over, I mean ohhhhh-verrrrrrr." This was, of course, before the encore, after which, Wright said it again: "Okay, Seattle. For real this time, the party is really over. Okay, girl? The party's over... ohhhhhhh-verrrrr!" But, damn, that was some party. recommended