The first thing that hit me when I arrived at the Montreal International Airport was everyone arriving for the Black & Blue were being sectioned off and vigorously searched for drugs. The customs search room was full of gay boys. The guy who did me seemed adamant he would find something and went through everything with a fine tooth comb for almost 20 minutes.
The second thing that hit me was that everyone speaks French, English is the second language. I knew that there was a large French influence in
The man behind
Black & Blue is Robert Vezina. He and his partner Christian Beaudry, first created the event back in the early 90’s. A time when the cruel reality of AIDS was setting in for gay men, though making them no less complacent. They wanted to create a world-class party for
They formed BBCM (Bad Boys Club Montreal) foundation, a volunteer based, non-profit organisation giving financial support to groups providing direct care to people living with HIV/AIDS. Money also went to gay & lesbian community groups. There are about forty five voluntary members that make up the BBCM foundation, each coming from various back grounds, reflecting the diversity of the community. Sadly Christian Beaudry contracted AIDS in 1994 and died. It was a personal blow for Robert but the death also lead to a further resolve in terms of the parties and the potential for the battlement against the epidemic. It inspired him and the organisation to work for him and all the others who had fallen.
These days Black & Blue attracts some 80,000 participants and is one of the top tourism generators for the city of
Some critics have pointed out that circuit parties are a haven for drugs which can lead to unsafe sex. So how can a foundation in which the key ambition is to promote safe sex and AIDS awareness justify raising money through circuit parties? They addressed the problem upfront, in a way that’s been highly effective. The BBCM was among the first circuit party organizers to offer condoms and non-judgmental pamphlets on how to party safely. The effects are clear with medical staff being on call in case of any emergencies; BBCM events have managed to remain almost entirely free of any medical incidents.
As well as keeping things safe, BBCM has worked to diversify the parties, making them appeal to a broader range of the gay community. Films are screened and have been organised in cooperation with the city’s gay and lesbian film festival. Gay-themed art exhibitions have been put on to coincide with events; and the city’s museums present special days which enable Black & Blue festival pass holders free admission into participating institutions for free.
Another good relations feature that comes with the decidedly mixed crowd that the BBCM event draws is that approximately one quarter to one third of the guests are straight. To describe in terms of the London club scene, the crowd is a mixed gay/straight proportion similar to DTPM with an underground Crash style atmosphere. Some heterophobes were complaining that it is becoming too straight but personally I think it’s a really nice mix dominated by the usual sweaty, tops off gay boys. The Montreal scene itself seems very open and there’s a great deal of crossover between gay and straight parties. Its something that BBCM is very proud of, the Black & Blue is a place where the rave scene and the gay circuit infuse with each other.
So how did the “unlucky for some” thirteenth edition of the Black & Blue festival rally this year? Well there were unfortunately some disappointed comments the next day. Personally I was a virgin Black & Blue party boy so I cannot really compare, although a lot of the hard core regular crowd said they had known far better. Stage performances were pretty flat and so was the music. The DJ’s, Mat Ste-Marie, James Andersen, Paulette, Tedd Patterson and Mark Anthony somehow managed to strike the same tone and simulate each other’s sounds throughout the evening and morning. Tony from TheCircuitDog.com said “Black and Blue 2003 sounded like one lone singular overworked DJ trying to pull up on the controls after each plummeting nose diving show.” Don’t get me wrong the party was spectacular, just apparently not as good as previous years.
This year, the Black & Blue theme, NU (“naked” in French), focused on the interaction of individuals in society… The foundations of a nation and of society are based on the individuals that constitute them. The differences emulate from the point of view of others, but at the roots, we are all the same. Every human being, every “naked” human being is equal.