If you have a punk, goth or alternative friend, it's almost guaranteed they have heard of Dublin’s only queer punk rock and roll nightclub, Dance to the Underground. If you identify as any of those descriptors, it’s more than likely you’ve bumped into writer and photographer Al Fartukh along the way.
What started as a small monthly event where people with a preference for black clothing and niche makeup gathered to rock out to punk and goth music has now grown to be an event of which the queer alternative community speaks fondly and eagerly awaits. Identifying as one of the regulars, I learned all about how Dance to the Underground came to be and why people are buzzing for their next night.
Meet Rod and Rob, the two masterminds behind Dance to the Underground and pioneers of contemporary queer alternative events across Ireland. Their love for niche music styles and art of the punk and goth community pushed them to throw their first DTTU event in November 2021. “We were bored as hell!” laughed the duo, “We started DTTU after some long and hard times locked at home during the pandemic. To be honest, we were bored even before the pandemic.”
Both Rod and Rob have always found it difficult to find themselves a space where they could feel safe to express who they are in all aspects, “If you were a queer punk trying to find a space in Dublin to meet people and dance you just wouldn’t find any.” And so DTTU was born.
You can find the monthly event in the basement of Fibber Magees, the lights dimmed, the music booming and the community thriving. With the target audience being a collective of queer people with a love for everything alternative, there is no such thing as judgement - everyone is encouraged to come as they are and express themselves to the fullest. Personally, I have never experienced a more welcoming community and Rod and Rob are proud of what they have created. “The best thing DTTU has is the community we’re creating together,” commented the pair, “Since our debut night we see more and more people are coming back and bringing their friends. Then their friends are bringing more friends. Most of the times we really feel we’re in a house party!” They proudly acknowledge everyone’s part in making it happen, “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our community.”
Alongside the vibrant and loving community of the alternative nightclub, creativity is something that is heavily valued by all who attend. People have the space to groove and headbang to punk, goth, riot grrrl, dark wave and EBM anthems while also being graced by a punk drag show at every event. “Our rock’n’roll drag show is not your usual drag show. It’s punk rock! It’s fast! It’s raw! And it’s sexy!”
Hardcore queen Coco Ri is the resident host and both Rod and Rob value her work greatly saying, “It’s amazing to see all the numbers she has done on stage with our favourite being her take on ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ by Thin Lizzy. I bet she is the only queen to have performed to that song!” Many other fantastic drag talents have graced the stage including notable stars Lavender, Vicky Voltz, Donna Fella, Pixie Woo and Dr Count Evil. The alternative night also showcases new talents by having an open call where people are free to express themselves through performance for the most supportive crowd in Dublin. Drag is not the only option as DTTU have showcased Irish talent in previous nights through photography exhibitions, live music sessions, small business markets and kink shows - all happening in one venue!
On November 4, 2022, Rod and Rob celebrated DTTU’s anniversary with a big extravaganza. “It was really emotional and one of the best nights for us,” recalled the duo. “So many personal friends, familiar faces and new people came down to enjoy the music, the performances and the photo exhibition we had on. It was really a big celebration.” The sold out spectacle was truly a night to remember with the crowd soaked in celebratory champagne. Since their anniversary Rod and Rob haven’t stopped for a second, moving on to create themed nights, with past shows like New Year’s Queer Party, David Bowie Night and Love Kills. When asked about the future, the founders answered, “We needed a space like DTTU in Dublin and it’s our mission now to keep it going. What we truly expect from the future is to have a lot of fun with memorable nights, fabulous performances and the best craic. New projects are in mind too. A big DTTU festival would be nice, right?”
The punk and goth pair are ready to branch out and create more alternative spaces around Dublin. The two have started a new night called Alt.Theys where they take a step away from their post-punk and EBM playlists and share their favourite Grunge, Indie and Alternative Rock tracks. “The main idea is to have another queer alternative space in Dublin with music and performances,” commented Rod and Rob. “The All My Friends pub is beautiful and relatively new, so together we want to honour this new space and celebrate our diversity as a community.”
The two architects of the most iconic alternative queer nightclub in Ireland have no intentions of stopping anytime soon, “Our LGBTQ+ community in Dublin is very diverse and we need more spaces to accommodate all of us.”