DJ James Graham sensed he was on the wrong side of the Tracks 2000 entertainment lineup. A few months ago, managers of the popular Southeast night spot moved Graham from the large dance hall to a smaller back room. A devoted crowd followed, boogieing down to Graham’s blend of underground deep house and “runway music.”
But others who worked at Tracks told Graham that management wanted less obscure music and more mainstream tunes for mass appeal. Rumor had it that Tracks wanted to attract the “circuit” crowdwhite gay males with high-powered incomes.
Graham got other hints: Tracks brought in a substitute DJ for him whenever it sponsored a gay-specific eventGraham is straight. “People started saying to me, ‘They’re not going to tell you this, but they prefer to have a gay DJ for these events,’” says Graham. Then, a few weeks ago, Graham found out that a friend of his had been hired to spin tunes on his Saturday night shift as well.
So, on the evening of June 26, Graham announced to the gyrating crowd that Tracks was shoving him out; it would be his last weekend at the club. “Everyone started shouting, ‘This is bullshit,’ ‘Fuck that shit,’ and ‘We want our money back,’” says Damon Zawkhin, a Saturday night regular. Off-duty Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers moonlighting as security for the nightclub escorted Graham out of the building and told him not to return.
“There was a question as to whether they would arrest him for inciting a riot,” says Dan Stessel, Tracks’ promotional director. “He was endangering the safety of Tracks patrons and encouraging unsafe behavior.”
Devoted patrons followed their Pied Piper out of the club. Several club patrons were arrested for disorderly conduct by on-duty MPD officers who came across the commotion.
Stessel disputes that Tracks gave Graham the bum’s rush. “There was no reason for [Graham] to believe that he was being fired,” says Stessel. But Stessel emphasizes that Graham didn’t bring huge throngs to the club. “His type of music does not attract a big followingmaybe 10 people,” says Stessel. He vehemently denies that identity politics played any role. “No one knows [Graham’s] sexual status at the club,” says Stessel. “We certainly don’t make it known.”Elissa Silverman