Things to Do

This Town Is Cool: Gay Dance Club Has Drag, Dancing . . . and More Dancing

Chic "danceboutique" brings high-energy dancing, cabaret performances to the Shaw neighborhood.

Drag shows are part of Saturday's entertainment at Town.

Town (2009 Eighth St., NW; 202-234-TOWN), a new gay dance club in DC’s Shaw neighborhood, commemorated the recent national holiday with the Martin Luther King Jr. Special—more precisely, an act of the same name during its weekly drag show. With a pink fedora angled provocatively over her right eye, a drag queen dressed the part of Alicia Keys perfectly as she lip-synched to the hip-hop star’s “No One.”

Drag is just one form of entertainment at Town. A two-level warehouse-size space near the U Street corridor, the high-energy club combines weekend cabaret performances and pounding music with plush lounges and video installations to make for a “danceboutique,” as Town describes itself. The place is chic and cool, and the $12 cover—in a city that rarely charges at the door—only makes you more curious about what’s inside the double black doors.
Town is open nightly from 9 PM to 4 AM, with shockingly reasonably priced drinks (I got two for $12) served until 2:45 AM. Friday night (for 18 and over) is called Downtown and showcases cutting-edge music and avant-garde performances. The DJ pumps aggressive electro-pop-rock music, while Town’s own dance troupe, X-faction, performs throughout the night. Saturday night (for 21 and up) is known as Uptown—as the club puts it, “the classic Saturday night, wave your hands in the air, take your shirt off, dance all night, meet the man of your dreams, party experience.” And boy, is it.

On the first level, Saturdays kick off with two glamorous drag shows hosted by Miss Lena Lett, a leggy, cynical queen with big hair and a short skirt. In between each act, Lett quickly targets the more timid guys in the audience for crass questioning and hysterical comedy sketches. On a recent visit, other drag queens joined the MLK Special. They included Destiny Child, whose infectious energy and barely-there gold-sequined dress elicited a roar from the audience.

The second level is almost exclusively dedicated to dancing; multiple dance floors might feature captivating X-faction performances or accommodate the overflow of bumping and grinding. The vast space is dark, save for bright LED projections on the walls, making a dark sea of dancers happy to know that whatever happens in Town stays in Town. Small platforms perched on square columns hold a handful of partygoers who can show off, well, whatever they like.

If the crowd’s reaction to the MLK Special this past weekend is any indication of the DC gay community’s feeling about Town’s arrival, then there’s no question: It’s applauding, cheering loudly, and most certainly turned on.