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By Adam Lowe

Mentalists Block9 broke the rulebook when they set up shop as Glasto’s best and only queer clubbing arena. Theirs is The NYC Downlow, where they returned for their fifth year of nocturnal mayhem. For a newbie, the experience was as sharp as a Kitchen Devil enema.

The NYC Downlow looked for all intents and purposes like a life-sized ruin of a New York tenement block with a car through the wall. Whether the NYC club kid spirit was trying to escape or some daredevil driver was trying to get in, it was a nice touch.

The music policy was a sleazy mash-up of disco, soul, funk and acid house, played all night, every night. But it’s the performances that dazzle and disorient, making The NYC Downlow the experience that it is. Upon arrival you’re led through a simmering interrogation, a filth-strewn brothel and the threat of casual violence before you even get to the dancefloor. The actors are in character from the get-go, so all we can say is: don’t do this one if you’re anything less than sober. That is, unless you really, really enjoy a headfuck.

Horse Meat Disco’s DJs hit the decks alongside cabaret from Jonny Woo and Scottee. The stellar list of far-more-fabulous-than-thou acts included representatives from Botafogo Social Club, Disco Bloodbath, Dissident Records and Iz and Diz. All corners were covered and the crowd, although comprising only those lucky few who were in the know, was certainly alive! took over a brand new second room within The NYC Downlow: a black box with a fat sound system and a collection of the hottest vintage groove devotees this side of the Pond.
The Pale Blue Door offered The Plantation—a house like no other. Imagine a place where you could have a lovely three-course meal below, with A Man To Pet and a show. The love hotel upstairs offered rooms by the hour, while an eight-meter tower spurted out clean sheets on demand. Hardcore ravers slammed ‘moonshine’ in the house of the infamous Juana Fe before renting a room in the back with the in-character hosts and hostesses of this spaced out dreamworld. Meanwhile Vogue Fabrics took up residence in the Downlow basketball court, creating a kinky backroom in a field.

The arena’s interesting No Moustache-No Entry rule stands as a parodic tribute to the legends that are The Village People. Those without the time to grow their own handlebars could fake it by buying a face wig at the Porn Kiosk for £2.00 each, with profits going to the Mother of Mercy AIDS hospice in Zambia. Or you could do as we did and nick a used waxing strip after your mother’s Brazilian and glue it under your nose. Last year’s effort sent a record £10,000 to the AIDS hospice.

If this year is anything to go by, Block9 will be the queer festival experience of the future, and I recommend you try it (at least the once)—if you have the guts!