The new cultural hot spot Darling kicks off Pride Month

Tim Devriese
© BRUZZ
02/05/2019

There is a new cultural hot spot in town: Darling. To kick off Pride Month, Aswad Al Masrahi and Romain Poterlé are mixing diversity with an open stage, a dazzling club scene, and lots and lots of disco. “The club is like a temple; it is where we belong.”

Imagine Diana Ross walking across a stage, with big hair and an even bigger outfit. She chants “You look beautiful!” and sings from the top of her lungs: “I’m coming out, I want the world to know, I want to let it show!” The crowd goes wild, love is in the air. That is exactly the kind of vibe you’ll find at Darling, Brussels’s newest queer event. It is the brain-child of Aswad Al Masrahi (26) and Romain Poterlé (28), two Brussels club kids who are shaking up the scene. The day of the main event, 4 May, will be culturally experimental and musically diverse, from day to night.
Al Masrahi and Poterlé are no strangers to the Brussels queer scene. They party, they vogue, they pose the house down. Al Masrahi has been teaching dance classes in Anderlecht since last year and has a background in performing at cabarets in Paris and Brussels. Poterlé is also heavily involved in the local Brussels dance and club scene. After a lot of tossing, turning, and posing, they decided to shake things up at night. Because the scene needs a pop of colour. Literally. “Everyone at the gay parties we go to just wears black,” Al Masrahi laughs. “Don’t get me wrong, girl, I love wearing black. But where is the colour? Where is the love? Very few people dress up to go clubbing. And if they do, they get tossed aside. That’s not okay. The gay community is all about being masculine nowadays and so they disregard those kinds of dressed-up people.”

Us queers gotta stick together, and we do that through clubbing. It is one of the pillars of our communities

Aswad Al Masrahi

“You know, we struggled for a while,” he admits. “And then Romain and I sat together and thought: What do we do? What do we like to do? What do I excel at? And for us, it’s partying. That may sound stupid, but it’s true.” So they joined forces and created a dazzling day of queer delight. First, Al Masrahi is hosting an open stage at Volkshuis/Maison du Peuple. He assembled a flock of young LGBTQ artists to perform at the venue. Al Masrahi has some experience with open stages because he used to scout for talent for the cabarets where he worked. As he’s mostly known for his dance work, Al Masrahi expected voguers and dance queens to apply. But the open stage somehow ended up looking like a small queer music festival. Al Masrahi: “The stage is really begging for a show. So far ten artists have joined us, mostly musicians. If that’s what Brussels responds to, then that’s great. I love it. Cabaret is almost the only performative format Brussels knows. So people are still sort of shy about this kind of project. But this stage, this first year, is really to showcase talent. I hope it will grow.”

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Posing the house down: Aswad Als Masrahi (on the left) and Romain Poterlé

Is this what’s missing in Brussels’s club scene?
Romain Poterlé:
It’s true that there is something we can’t find here. That is why we approached Zodiak, the club downtown. Together with the people of Last Days Of, we are hosting a diverse and dazzling party there. There will be three different rooms with different vibes. The main floor is dark techno, but there is also a playful love room on the second floor, with a set by Suzy Q. And on the third floor there will be vogue beats, Afrobeat, and 1990s house provided by DJs like the young art collective from Liège Lait de Coco or DJ Fais Le Beau of Gay Haze, who has made a sexy, joyful set. Just joyful and colourful, you know? There will also be vintage clothes from Think Twice, to help people dress up the way they want to and there will be a show of Ysatis Rivart, a graphic designer.

That almost sounds like it’s going to be a really big afterparty?
Poterlé:
Yeah! Exactly. We are bringing the afterparty into the club. It is very innocent but at the same time crazy, sexy, and colourful. It’s like coming back from the rave you had the night before.
Aswad Al Masrahi: Don’t get us wrong, we love to rave. But afterparties…they’re a place where you finally just let go. Poterlé: We were inspired by the disco vibe. The craziness you see in pictures from the 1970s. People were dressed up, had costumes. There’s this rock ‘n’ roll vibe, but it’s so colourful, almost childish.
Al Masrahi: We’re channelling the atmosphere rather than the music, although I love that music. But the vibe! (His eyes twinkle and he raises his hands to the sky) The chill of it all, the hugs, the costumes, the dressing up for and with others.
Poterlé: Yeah, it’s a place where you can express yourself totally.

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Is this what’s missing in Brussels’s club scene?
Romain Poterlé:
It’s true that there is something we can’t find here. That is why we approached Zodiak, the club downtown. Together with the people of Last Days Of, we are hosting a diverse and dazzling party there. There will be three different rooms with different vibes. The main floor is dark techno, but there is also a playful love room on the second floor, with a set by Suzy Q. And on the third floor there will be vogue beats, Afrobeat, and 1990s house provided by DJs like the young art collective from Liège Lait de Coco or DJ Fais Le Beau of Gay Haze, who has made a sexy, joyful set. Just joyful and colourful, you know? There will also be vintage clothes from Think Twice, to help people dress up the way they want to and there will be a show of Ysatis Rivart, a graphic designer.

That almost sounds like it’s going to be a really big afterparty?
Poterlé:
Yeah! Exactly. We are bringing the afterparty into the club. It is very innocent but at the same time crazy, sexy, and colourful. It’s like coming back from the rave you had the night before.
Aswad Al Masrahi: Don’t get us wrong, we love to rave. But afterparties…they’re a place where you finally just let go. Poterlé: We were inspired by the disco vibe. The craziness you see in pictures from the 1970s. People were dressed up, had costumes. There’s this rock ‘n’ roll vibe, but it’s so colourful, almost childish.
Al Masrahi: We’re channelling the atmosphere rather than the music, although I love that music. But the vibe! (His eyes twinkle and he raises his hands to the sky) The chill of it all, the hugs, the costumes, the dressing up for and with others.
Poterlé: Yeah, it’s a place where you can express yourself totally.

When you say ‘Darling’, you just see the glitter coming down. It’s very flirty but also cute. I love it

Romain Poterlé

How essential is club culture to queer culture?
Poterlé:
It really is a stage for LGBTQ people. It’s a place where people can express themselves. You go there to relax and enjoy yourself. And it’s a place where you can connect with people. You can really showcase what you’re made of. Come as you are, but be extra!
Al Masrahi: Club culture is one of the pillars of our communities. It comes from this concept of gathering, of coming together, and celebrating together. We party a lot, but we’ve forgotten to celebrate. Where’s the celebration? That may sound tacky, but I really love that. Us queers gotta stick together, and we do that through clubbing. Clubs are like temples. I feel like I belong to a community when I’m there.

A lot of the LGBTQ party scene organizers are white. Chris, the woman who runs Zodiak, is black, and you are both People of Colour (POC). How important is it that this is a POC-run enterprise? What does it mean to you?
Poterlé:
It is very important. We bring something else to the table. We have different backgrounds and different cultural origins. We inspire each other, we learn from each other. Take spirituality for example. We’re going to put that in our club. It changes the atmosphere completely.
Al Masrahi: Exactly, we aim to mix lots of different things together. Techno downstairs and Afrobeat upstairs. Mixing the two together brings that little bit of extra that we are looking for.

Aswad Al Masrahi en Romain Poterlé

How was the collaboration with Zodiak?
Poterlé:
Chris actually came to us. She wanted to open her club to a different crowd. She’s really into it and looking forward to it. Al Masrahi: She is amazing. I’m grateful that a straight woman is so concerned about the LGBTQ community. She understands us.
Poterlé: It’s also brave of her to do that. It’s not her usual crowd. It’s a big step to shake the club a little and bring something new.

Ok, but why the name Darling?
Poterlé: Ah. (They both cackle with laughter) Darling!
Al Masrahi: It just goes with that disco mood we were talking about. Like Grace Jones used to say baby.
Poterlé: Or like Diana Ross! When you say “Darling”, you just see the glitter coming down. It’s very flirty but also cute. I love it!

> Brussels Open Stage 4/5, 19.00, Volkshuis/Maison du Peuple
> Love carnage :: last days Of x Darling 4/5, 23.00, Zodiak
> Pride festival 2 > 18/5, various locations

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