Nick Monaco Dismantles Dance Music’s Heteronormativity One Lipstick At A Time

Photo by Adam Kargenian

“I’m still myself when I wear lipstick, and I think that fucks with people’s heads”

Nightlife is dead.

Well, it's not dead dead as much as it's just reborn. It's taken on a new form, a new vibe, and accessibility. The glory days of New York City megaclubs—like Twilo, Palladium, The Tunnel, and Limelight—are gone, and in their place are smaller venues with tighter lists and a scene more concerned with staging an Instagram post than dancing. A club like Berlin's infamous Berghain, which has a strict no photos policy, would never work in a city like New York or Los Angeles, because how else will the world know so-and-so was where they said they were if they weren't allowed to capture a few moments on digital celluloid?

Before this becomes some wistful piece ragging on social media's bastardization of nightlife, let's focus on someone who's keeping that OG club vibe alive—someone who, through his sets, honors dance music's pioneers without sounding like a nostalgia act. Hell, he does them honors through the creation of his entire persona.

We're talking about Nick Monaco, the San Francisco-based DJ and producer who, over the past couple of years, has become a force for positive change within the dance community. He's fluent in disco history, which adds a layer of timelessness to his work. Though he identifies as straight, he's intensely aware that the music dominating today's clubs and festivals is rooted within the queer communities across the globe and makes it his point to keep that history alive. "There's been a sort of historical exclusion," he says of the dance scene. "This modern-day club state is more masculine than it was then. I like the more feminine touch."

Indeed, an obscene percentage of festival and DJ set audiences rock gym shorts and muscle tank tops. Flamboyance has been traded in for uniformity. So Monaco wears lipstick on stage; he rocks jumpsuits, he plays with fashion—just like his icons did. Whether he's playing his own show or on a lineup of massive artists, like Dirtybird Campout, he actively avoids creating a monochromatic experience for his audience because nightlife and dance music is rooted in color. Turns out, this approach works. "People open up in a different way when I perform," he observes. "Wearing lipstick confidently rather than ironically inspires something different in people. Now I'm passing out lipstick at shows and seeing a dozen dudes smiling—wearing lipstick, too." 

Through his performances, Monaco gets people out of their phone bubble and into the mix. He takes people on a journey that uplifts and encourages peer-to-peer dance floor camaraderie, a journey that takes people away from the distractions outside of a venue. That journey includes creating a vibe that encourages bold self-expression and creativity, the kind that waves its freak flag with pride. "Back in the day, we didn't have a forum to post pictures of ourselves in our outfits or whatever," he says. "If we were feeling sexy that day or extra glam, club spaces became the exhibition of the performative self where you could be as extra as you wanted. It was your moment." 

Now, instead of dressing up for yourself, people dress up for the 'Gram. It's sanitary. The private, sanctuary-esque spaces, like clubs, are made public by Instagram. "The lines between public and private are completely blurred," he says, "so there's this feeling of paranoia when you're at a venue that your picture is being taken and posted somewhere you don't know; you can never really let go, you know?" Yes, but I also know (and believe) that it's possible to really let go and let the DJ guide you like "the good old days." With Nick Monaco on the decks, it definitely is. As he says, "I guess we're just figuring this out together."

Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, and Agyness Deyn also star

Elisabeth Moss is trying to keep it together as punk rock artist Becky Something in the trailer for forthcoming movie Her Smell. She's surrounded by iconic faces who make up her band Something She, Gayle Rankin as Ali van der Wolff and Agyness Deyn as Marielle Hell, as she grapples with the fact that her musical prowess just doesn't draw as big a crowd as it used to.

In addition to the wavering fame, Becky is "grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom," according to a press release. "When Becky's chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success." And what's clear from the trailer, Moss is absolutely meant for this role, transforming into the punk on the brink of collapse.

Rounding out the cast are Ashley Benson, Cara Delevingne, and Dan Stevens. Watch the official trailer, below. Her Smell hits theaters on April 12 in New York and 14 in L.A., with "national expansion to follow."




Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

In an acceptance speech at the BRIT Awards

As The 1975 accepted the BRIT Award for Best British group, outspoken frontman Matty Healy shared the words of journalist Laura Snapes as a way of calling out misogyny that remains ever-present in the music industry. Healy lifted a powerful quote from Snapes' coverage of allegations against Ryan Adams for The Guardian: "Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of 'difficult' artists, [while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don't understand art."

Snapes reacted almost immediately on Twitter, saying she was "gobsmacked, and honoured that he'd use his platform to make this statement." Snapes had originally written the line for an interview she published with Sun Kil Moon singer Mark Kozelek back in 2015, in response to Kozelek publicly calling her a "bitch" who "totally wants to have my babies" because she requested to speak in person rather than via e-mail, which she brought up in the more recent piece on Adams. Kozelek's vile response, and the misogyny that allowed it to play out without real consequences, it could be argued, could have easily played out in the same way in 2019, which makes her reiteration of the line, and Healy's quoting it on such a large platform, all the more important.

It should be noted that back in December, Healy caught a bit of heat himself on Twitter for an interview with The Fader in which he insinuated that misogyny was an issue exclusive to hip-hop, and that rock 'n' roll had freed itself of it. He clarified at length on Twitter and apologized, saying, "I kinda forget that I'm not very educated on feminism and misogyny and I cant just 'figure stuff out' in public and end up trivializing the complexities of such enormous, experienced issues."