The Devil's Danceteria
For my chedda, the most creative cats and kittens in P-town's clubland belong to this city's Goth-trance underworld. The playas and playettes of the hip-hop scene may dress fly, and the Scottsdale party people may look like they stepped out of a catalogue for Abercrombie and Bee-ahtch, but they don't spend the time and effort on their duds that the "Bela Lugosi's Dead" set does, or lose themselves in role-playing like the "I-can't-believe-they-canceled-Buffy" crowd. I mean, even if you don't know Vlad the Impaler from World Wrestling Entertainment's Undertaker, you have to give it up for anyone with the huevos to wear black year-round in the frying pan of the PHX.
Of course, there's more to being a Goth than a fascination with things dark. I ain't gonna front and tell you I know everything about the Valley's vast, subterranean cult o' the macabre. Moreover, there's plenty of overlap with other scenes, whether they be fetish, industrial or noise. But until Palazzo's Tranzylvania opened a few weeks back, wedged between Club Dwntwn and Amsterdam on Central, just a stone's throw away from Circles, these alt-nightlife adherents were stuck with two or three venues with less-than-slammin' specs. We're talkin' 'bout sweaty, raunchy funk-holes, the kind the Jettster and I love to frequent when we're achin' to dip our wicks (hers a strap-on, natch) in the gutter. But the cloacal eau de Cologne of the sewer gets old after a while, and you start to hanker for an Eyes Wide Shut-meets-Queen of the Damned sort of ambiance. Enter Steven Rogers' Tranzylvania, which jumps off every Friday night inside Palazzo.
Tranzylvania is one part Interview With the Vampire, one part Merovingian's "Hel Club" from The Matrix Revolutions. Travertine floors. Gargoyles. Fixtures that look like naked angels or sphinxes. A huge bar of carved wood and black marble. And a second-story, New Orleans-style catwalk from which a select few can monitor the frenzied moves of the dancers below. From the ceiling hangs a crystal chandelier, and to the right of the dance floor are tables and chairs hidden in the darkness. Out back is an immense concrete patio, and in the rear, on the second floor, is a VIP section and a couple of hidden rooms. Rogers, who owns the entire block of clubs from Amsterdam to Club Dwntwn, is understandably proud of his latest creation.
"Palazzo actually opened two years ago, but then we had a fire, so we rebuilt it," says Rogers, a pleasant gent with sleepy eyes who's dressed very casually, not at all like the Goth pimp finery of his clientele. "This one in particular has been a work of love. A lot of it I actually did myself. It's not like there were a lot of subcontractors. All of the concrete and the molds, we did."
During the rest of the week, Rogers hires out Palazzo for corporate events, weddings, you name it. But on Friday nights, he turns the joint over to Satan's kiddies, and lets them run wild.
"This night is my Gothic-Romance-trance night," he tells the J-unit and me. "A hybrid of the Goth scene and dark trance. Most of the Goth clubs you go to are black-painted fossils. I like the dichotomy of this crowd with this kind of architecture. The club business is the only one I know where after you build the facility, then you get to do social architecture. The trick is getting the crowd you want. "
"So how did you get them?" asks the bi-lovin' Carrie-Anne Moss.
"I'd go to the art walk, and to some of the more Gothic galleries, and just start handing out fliers. That's how I got my 'core' of scenesters. They really like the club, and especially what happens at midnight.
"What you'll see tonight is what I live for," Rogers intones dramatically. "It's a little bit like a scene change at The Phantom of the Opera."
After showing us around, Rogers rushes off to attend to last-minute details, while we hightail it to the bar for a couple of Rockstars and Stoli. There, who do we run into but Simon Rohrich, the dood whose enmity we first earned last fall during the whole Black and Tan controversy. As fate would have it, the crowd pushes us together so we can't ignore each other. Suddenly, Simon extends a muscular mitt, and says something to me about a "truce." Well, fuck me and call me Popeye!
"I understand you have a job to do," Simon comments nonchalantly.
"Hey, truce sounds coolio to me, Big Poppa, let's drink on it, and let New Times pay the tab!" I exclaim, with a smile as big as the crack of my ass, while bellying up to the bar. Simon snares a Coke and vodka, while I stick to the Rockstar, which, oddly, seems to be glowing green in the dark.
Simon and I exchange pleasantries as the Jettster ogles some satanic sluts nearby. I notice that it's almost midnight. The place is plunged into inky blackness, someone flips the switch on the UV lights, and sexy, fluorescent murals spring to life on all of Tranzylvania's walls while the chandelier turns deep purple and spins above us. Apparently, it was the UV light that was turning the Rockstar-vodkas the color of radioactive uranium.
Directly above us, on the stretch of ceiling nearest the bar, is a glow-in-the-dark panel of naked sinners dancing through flames, led by some odd, greenish demon with a clarinet for a nose. Look close enough, and you'll see that some of the nudists have both tits and cock! On the large space behind the raised DJ booth where Kevin Brown is droppin' darkwave tracks from groups like Razed in Black and Blutengel, there's a bluish expanse that looks, well, Transylvanian, with a castle hidden behind lifeless trees. To the left of that is a Hieronymous Bosch-like orgy scene, and across from it, along the catwalk, are a number of fetish-inspired panels, one showing a fetish bitch givin' some lucky playa head.
"See that panel up there," I tell the AC/DC Katherine Heigl, indicating the BJ-one. "Study and learn."
"In your dreams, Kreme," spits Jett. "Plus, from here, it looks like the guy on the receiving end actually has a penis."
Before I can come back with a comeback, Rogers stops by us again to explain that the black-light murals were all done by Hollywood company WildfireFX.com, and specifically artist Kent Mathieu. Seems Rogers discovered the company at an FX convention, and contracted with it to produce the glow-in-the-dark art. Prior to midnight, the scandalous imagery is invisible. Only under UV light does it reveal itself.
Nearby, and equally in awe of Tranzylvania's "transformation," is James Bound, known for his work with Life Suspended, the artists who, among other things, suspend themselves from hooks plunged into their backs. We thought Bound was P.O.'d at us because of the B&T beef, but like Simon, he introduces himself to us, and is quite friendly as he explains that he is helping to bring the underground to Rogers' doorstep. We accompany Bound upstairs where he introduces us to the legendary Steve Haworth, a founder of the Church of Body Modification, who declines an interview, but seems cool nonetheless. The Jettster and I then wander into one of the hidden rooms where a whole passel of gals calling themselves the Pussy Posse is kickin' it.
"So, uh, how do you join the Pussy Posse?" I query.
"You need a pussy, and must enjoy women fully, sexually, okay?" replies a honey named Zen, a founding member of the Pussy Posse. "And you need to be a crazy motherfucker, willing to have a good time when you're out at the club."
"Right now, we only have about five members," relates co-founder Miss Cookie, eyebrow raised. "But there are many who want to be initiated."
"And what do you pussies do together?" gulps Jett, sounding very curious.
"We just hang out, and it's all about the girls," responds Miss Cookie.
"All about finding the power of the pussy," adds Zen.
"Excellent," coos Jett. "Do the pussies have a Web site?"
"We're working on it," Zen advises. "Right now we're on MySpace.com under PussyPosseGirls."
It's about this time that I start to pull the Jettster away from the pussies.
"Wait, I wanna play with the . . ."
"Shush!" I tell her. "If I let you stay, you'll be here all night, and there's more to Tranzylvania than just a bunch of horny bi's and lezbots."
"Jeez, I never get to have any fun," she whines as I tug her after me, and back down the stairs. Not that I would have minded watching a hot, steamy lezzy grope fest with Jett in it, but we do have to get some work done occasionally if we're gonna keep this column flowin'.
We head out to the patio where various cliques are mingling here and there. Over here is a dude in a leather kilt, and over there are two cats in drag, waving red-lace fans about, like a pair of 21st-century Blanche DuBois. But most amusing seems to be this dandy with a cane, drinking a spot of port, in flowing silk robes worthy of a Chinese prince. "Okay, we've got to conversate with this dood," I think as we perambulate in his direction. Come to find out he goes by the handle Xious, and tells us he does systems engineering for a living.
"What is this rock you're wearing around your neck?" wonders Jett.
"That's 30 grams fluorite, egg-shaped," he relates, slurring a tad. "Fluorite is an Oriental mineral respondent to fluorescent light and comes in either purple, green or clear. It's also useful for mental protection. You know, mind-shielding, and that type of thing [trailing off]. Sorry, I'm a bit smashed tonight. I think I've had about 15 drinks."
"Good man," I say, patting him on the back. "Have you been here before?"
"I've been to this club six times," says Xious, straightening himself up a bit. "I love it. I would compare it to Fang in L.A., but not as open. Still, it's quite nice."
"Evidently, he hasn't met the Pussy Posse," whispers Jett, nudging me.
"Heh," I laugh. "No one's seen the number of pussies you have, Miss Meow Mix. Not even my grandma's kitty litter box."