Icy Lake (Original Arena Mix) by Dat Oven
A Portal on the Club Floor, by Harry Lindsey
Artist's Pronouns: He/Him
I first entered the Icy Lake in Texas. I was driving with my dear friend Justin to the thrift store. The Texas sun boiled outside, but the teeth of the car speakers chatter with a cold beat, stopping me in my tracks. I immediately asked what the song was and where it came from. I had to know every detail that had led me to this moment.
I am not the only one to have felt this immediacy upon my first dip into the Icy Lake. After DJ and producer Total Freedom stumbled upon the song in a YouTube video of Junior Vasquez playing the Palledium closing party in 1997, the song began it’s scene-stealing re-emergence. Total Freedom’s re-discovery of Icy Lake led to a reissue of the track from UK record label Night Slugs in 2014.
Night Slugs & Total Freedom’s record label Fade To Mind collaborated on a short documentary on Icy Lake that is available on YouTube via the Thump channel. The documentary exposes the portals and possibilities of, specifically New York nightlife, but perhaps queer night life at large. After it’s discovery and re-release, the documentary exhibits how Icy Lake seemed to function as a wormhole back to the interwoven experiences of various queer nightlife figures of the 1990s.
Icy Lake is described in the documentary as a calling card for all nightlife characters, eccentrics and voguers to show up and out to. Produced by Jeffery Gratton and Shunji Moriwaki, it became a song shared by so many bodies on the floor. Connecting and interlocking in their movements. And while the space was shared, the documentary reveals the multitudes of individual experiences such a sharing can hold.
This is best exhibited by nightlife royalty Kevin Aviance. While many in the documentary sing praise and significance to Icy Lake, Kevin offers a different insight into that night at the palladium. Repeatedly describing Icy Lake as “cute”, Aviance clearly has greater memories of that night. Kevin speaks of the ritualistic lowering of the disco ball and how its glittering reflection held the faces and spirits of those he’s loved and danced with over the years. It is not the song, for Aviance, that holds significance, but the experiences surrounding it. The selection of the song by Junior Vasquez was merely the soundtrack to whatever possibilities were brought to the floor.
However, Perhaps such multitudes and possibilities are laced into the very structure of the song. Icy Lake includes a disembodied voice, left of an answering machine message. A frustrated Billy Jarecki called a friend to voice his irritants at his family during a vacation - a canonically queer experience. His dramatic joke of calling before he throws himself into the Icy Lake was repurposed by Dat Oven and brought to the dance floor. The context of Billy’s experience is left behind and we are instead given an eerie disembodiment to project our own wonders and myths upon. This feels like an apt metaphor for the exchange between dancer and club music; the music being our own collective site to project our own experience and memories onto.
When I finally heard the song with a room full of bodies, I felt the song’s ice down to my core. The alignment happened when House of Kenzo played at Day for Night festival in Houston. The dolls invited us to take a dip in the Icy Lake, encouraging us to “ACTIVATE THE PORTAL”, before diving into the pit of the crowd. The collective havoc of bodies and rhythm brought us together, sharing in the thrill, sweat and muck, but all left with our own experience of it. With every play on a floor full of bodies, all looking to cease their potential, Icy Lake has all the power to unearth and unlock the transcendence of a dirtied club floor. We just need to throw ourselves in.