Into the Woods
Every weekend, there's a long line to get into a forest-themed nightclub above the Butterfly Lounge above Grim's. What is going on up there?
When I visited the Woods on a Thursday night, DJ Nark was in a tree house–like booth up among the enormous exposed rafters playing the assortment of disco songs that make me love Nark. The crowd was sparse but dancing enthusiastically. I regretted the $4 tall can of Tecate I bought the moment I saw someone served a mason jar of whiskey. My disapproval of $4 tall cans would make me feel like an old man complaining that candy used to cost a nickel if I wasn't convinced Tecate is pretend beer that children made out of puddle water whose only cost should be buttons and pinecones.
The club, illuminated by strands of red Christmas lights and chandeliers made of rope and antlers, gradually filled with dancers sipping mason jar cocktails that twinkled under the disco ball. Guys were mainly in tank tops and dress shirts, but many ladies were dressed more elaborately, including one woman with her hair in a bun resembling a Thanksgiving centerpiece whose dress molded her tits into a huge mustache. Couples of various gender combinations had retreated to the corners to make out.
I met a guy whose date had come out three weeks ago. He was determined to give him a dazzling introduction to being gay and said he was more likely to accomplish this at the Woods than R Place or the Elite. He was from Portland and complained about the difficulty of making friends in Seattle. "I had to tone it down a little when I got here," he said. "My friend told me I was acting like Will Ferrell in Elf." His date, a shy boy with a crew cut who did seem charmingly dazzled, bought me a jar of Jameson that immediately made me feel better about the Tecate.
By the time Jacques Renault went on, it was packed. I'm not especially into house music, but I could tell why Jacques Renault might inspire someone to get out their mustache-boob dress. There were the usual configurations of dancers—couples, groups of friends, people dancing alone inconspicuously, and people dancing alone alarmingly. One such person was a tiny guy in a Gilligan's Island canvas hat who danced with a sort of nervous determination that cleared the dance floor in a three-foot radius.
An equally noticeable guy thrashed around in hammered oblivion, framed by the star-shaped patch of sky between the images of treetops on the wall. There was something wonderful about him, though he seemed in danger of kicking someone or himself in the face. He looked like the personification of a party peaking.
While I never reached a face-kicking level of excitement, I left the Woods content and covered in sweat, only some of which was my own. The jar of Jameson I'd had was big enough that I wasn't even irritated to find my bike had a flat. I pushed the bike down the street, thinking of how enticing a disco ball looks in a third-floor window.
Though I'd heard the Woods is a magnet for the feared Capitol Hill "weekend crowd," the Friday-night block-long line of bros and bro-ettes was a bewildering surprise. While waiting in it, I saw a guy attempt to hoist a woman over his shoulder upside down. They gradually collapsed on the sidewalk in a way that reminded me of dilapidated barns by the freeway. Someone behind me said, "I got food poisoning off a baked ham in the fifth grade." There were two girls in the street holding each other who I initially thought were kissing. I soon realized they were just at the stage of drunk where every conversation is profound. They were still there when I finally made it into the building, where the first thing I heard was some guy yelling, "These girls are hot, yo!"
I had to agree, though many appeared to be wearing Barbie clothes and most looked drunk enough to throw up if I made any sudden movements. I felt sexually invisible. It's not that I never hang out with straight people, it's just that I'm used to mixed groups like the one that had inhabited the Woods the night before. I guess I'm a Thursday-night Woods person and not a Friday-night one. I got the impression that the people surrounding me were oblivious to anyone who wasn't exactly like them, but decided I had no basis for this assumption and should talk to someone, preferably a hot girl, yo.
A San Francisco DJ played '80s and '90s hiphop I couldn't resist. I worried I was tonight's version of the pained-looking guy in the Gilligan hat until I realized there was already a pained-looking guy dancing alone, this one wearing a vaguely Scottish-looking hat. The thought that awkward dancing might be caused by hats made me relax, but it was too crowded to even try to dance with anyone, so I went outside.
I had just overheard someone say, "Left dick, right dick, and you're good to go," and was trying to determine the context of that statement, when I was approached by a well-groomed man in a blue dress shirt. He had an accent I couldn't identify. "Excuse me," he said, "why is the queue for this club so long?"
I didn't say the event must have been advertised in a newsletter for suburban asshats, though it would have amused me, because I was still in new territory and still hadn't drawn any conclusions about who the "weekend crowd" is or where they come from. The Woods is aesthetically appealing and the DJs are undeniably lots of fun, but there are other places with danceable music and interesting decor even on the same block. Jacques Renault's night had been well-attended, but not like this. By comparison, Friday night was madness. A friend who lived nearby texted me offering to pay for a pizza if I'd bring it to his apartment so he could avoid the crowds.
The guy in the blue dress shirt told me he was here from Greece for an electrochemical conference. When we finally ascended into the Woods, he looked around at the chandeliers, forest wallpaper, and dizzying mass of dancers and said, "Oh, I'm so glad I'm here." The expression on his face was a little like the newly out guy's the night before. He was experiencing something novel and beautiful and full of possibility. Maybe the "weekend crowd" was just too many damn people experiencing this euphoria at once. On my way to my friend's apartment, this possibility made maneuvering a pizza around a wobbly drunk girl carrying a rosebush feel a little bit magic.