Punk rockers in the gay disco

LAF neon

Disco Underground

The punk scene, from its inception, had ties to the gay disco scene, and this was as true for Vancouver as it was for the early days of punk in New York City and London. Part of the reason for this, in Vancouver anyway, was punk’s close relationship to the avant-garde/underground arts scene, and in Vancouver that scene was intimately connected to the gay and lesbian subculture. The first galleries to host and support the punk scene were Pumps, Helen Pitt, and Gambado’s, not to mention the artists’ lofts and warehouses that hosted gigs and parties. Outside of galleries, the other places that the punk subculture met the gay and lesbian subculture were in nightclubs. Two of the first clubs to host punk/new wave in Vancouver were the Quadra Club (formerly the lesbian disco Lucy’s) and Faces, a gay bar. The Luv-A-Fair had a mostly-gay clientele, but quickly became a popular mixed-clientele disco because of its willingness to play new music imported from the U.S. and U.K. New wavers and punk rockers (who were often the targets themselves of anti-gay epithets and violence) began frequenting clubs like the Luv-A-Fair because they could relax and socialize without fear of attack from roving gangs of homophobes.

Braineater at LAFLAF poster

In the early 1980s, the Luv-A-Fair began hosting live concerts by local acts such as 54/40, Braineater, Popular Front, Corsage, the Animal Slaves, Bob’s Your Uncle, and Bolero Lava. Soon, another gay club, John Barley’s, opened its doors to punk and alternative bands. Initially booking new wave/post-punk bands, John Barley’s quickly became the chief venue of the rising hardcore punk scene after the Smilin’Buddha era.

Les sez: When the Luv-A-Fair was The Talk of the Town, it also admitted heteros. This was in 1974, and the heteros were mostly shag-cut, Bowie-bouffanted glam rockers. The same hetero crowd flocked to Faces a bit earlier in the decade in order to hear a new form of black music — dare I admit it — disco. Faces was great because you brought your own liquor and they kept it behind the bar for you. Also, these sorts of clubs were, for some reason, always the best places to pick up chicks.