Boys and beats in the hills of West Virginia: The Honcho Summer Campout 2016 has come and gone, leaving a spectacular trail of glitter, glory, and memories.
The brainchild of Pittsburgh, PA-based promoter and queer party series Honcho, the multi-day celebration of all things gay, techno, and outdoors has grown into an entity all its own for its sophomore installment. Taking its cues from other alt-queer party series like London’s Horse Meat Disco, San Francisco’s Honey Soundsystem, and New York City’s wreckedNYC, the Honcho boys offer the diverse crowd of the city’s Hot Mass bar a queer, inhibition-releasing playground with DJs soundtracking the proceedings with selections outside the Top 40 spectrum.
Once again taking place at the Roseland Resort (a gay-owned, clothing-optional campground in—of all places—the mountains of Proctor, West Virginia), Honcho Campout expanded its 2016 programming to four full days with the addition of Thursday night offerings and a Friday pool party. Complete with poolside parties, backwood afterhour discotheques, and a Town Hall bar that served up beats, drinks, and pizza, Honcho Campout served up far more than the usual camping festival.
Fresh off a week in Atlantic City for the 2016 DJ Expo, we road-tripped down into the mountains for the debauchery. Here’s the full story of the DJ Times experience down at Roseland this past weekend, illuminated with the real-time thoughts we shot to presumably concerned friends via iMessage.
From the get-go, there was no doubt that the otters, bears, and daddies that took up residence at Roseland for the weekend came ready to serve looks. Despite the clothing-optional mantra of the campground, there was no shortage of heels, wigs, kaftans, and accessories on display from the moment the beats began at the pool on Friday.
The concept of “safe spaces” is often lambasted by Twitter Eggs and Facebook trolls across the internet, but in a year that’s seen the deadliest act of violence against gays in the United States’ history, it’s hard to adequately underscore just how important places like this can be for marginalized groups. And beyond the sheer beauty of giving your guests a place in which they’re celebrated rather than just tolerated, a happy and free crowd always makes for a better party.
And, for the record, the fabulous Sonja Morgan said that wonderful quote here.
Of course, there’s no music festival worthy of attendance that doesn’t feature . You know, the kind that rocks your entire foundations and does much more than just shifts the wig on your head a little bit.
It would be an understatement to merely say the jocks at Honcho Campout 2016 delivered on this. They snatched our edges right off.
After a soft-launch at the Town Hall ball on Thursday evening for early arrivals, Friday got the proper action started with a stacked lineup from the afternoon on over at the pool. From the early house of Scooter at 2 PM to Kevin O’Connor’s sassy grooves and Mark O’Brien’s breezy tunes, it was the perfect way to kick the weekend into high gear. The stage was headlined that night by Jackie House, and it was then when the Honey Soundsystem founder delivered a delightfully subdued mix of smooth house cuts that kept the beautiful crowd on its toes until the last beat dropped.
After the waterside action subsided at midnight, the crowd trekked to the dark woods near the back for the afterhours stage for shenanigans that reached well into the morning light. The two highlights of the evening? Fresh off the release of his Cosmologist EP earlier this summer, Bezier of Honey Soundsystem delivered a jaw-dropping all-live techno set that was explosive as it was technically impressive. Similarly, Looky Looky’s debut live set right was just as grooveable, perfectly ensconced beneath the cheeky balloons that spelled out and reclaimed the word FAG above.
As one would expect, a Saturday afternoon can be a pretty painful experience after dancing until dawn at a festival. As such, a pool chair proved to be the move (or lack thereof) that day and evening, offering a front row seat to the varied genre offerings interspersed throughout the schedule.
Mark Louque’s sunset performance proved to be one of the highlights of the evening, with bouncing deep house like “Memories” by Manuel Sahagun and low-fi sluggers like Cowboy Rhythmbox’s “Latin Sex Change” perfectly transitioning the vibes from relaxed to nocturnal wonderland. Later on, Chris Cruse’s 11th hour drop of Mike Servito’s electrifying “730 Reshape” of “Crystal” by Justin Cudmore absolutely slayed the crowd, which vogued, pranced, and kiki’d through the entire two-hour set.
The fun culminated with Honey Soundsystem member Jason Kendig’s peak-hour set from 10 PM to midnight. The Detroit native blended house, techno, and just about everything in between, with an appearance of Brodesser’s dubby “Tronco” corker being especially crowd-pleasing. However, right as Kendig rode the entrancing xylophone grooves of “Don’t Go (Rework)” by Vito & Druzzi, this magical moment happened:
The crowd thinned slightly on Sunday morning for those who couldn’t stay for the final day of sunny beats on the deck, but the lasting impression had already been made. Even without the flashy pyro, FX, and LEDs that characterizes much of the summer festival rat race, Honcho Campout was a home-run event that proved to be a definitive exploration of the robust queer American techno scene that’s finally being served its time in the limelight that it’s always deserved.