Downtown Abbey: Beefquake at AWOL

Abernathy Miller, Columbus Alive

Olde Towne East's favorite LGBTQ bar played host to a party of seismic proportions on a recent Saturday. The Barracks at AWOL was wall-to-wall people for the first installment of Beefquake presented by Ken Baldwin and Justin Ray Stanley, a monthly deep house homo dance party with a real set of balls.

As a resident of Olde Towne East, AWOL had always been my go-to for strong drinks and a relaxed atmosphere, your typical hole-in-the-wall with a LGBTQ bent. I never really thought of the watering hole as a place to sweat it out on a dance floor - and when we walked into a sparsely populated room at 10:30 p.m., it seemed like my assumptions were right; I was wrong.

"The party is in the back," the bartender said.

We passed a few people playing pool and made our way past a sparsely populated patio to The Barracks, the fog-filled addition with a dance club vibe.

At 11:30 p.m., it was just us, the DJ and a bartender. Despite the empty room, Tony Fairchild (Midwest Fresh, Contrast) was pumping out deep house tunes at full volume. A few people trickled in from the patio and started dancing around (but not on) the dance floor.

It seemed like the party might be a bust at first, as most of the crowd were hanging out on the patio sipping drinks rather than filling up the dance floor. But by 12:30 a.m., a line was out the door, and bartenders were struggling to keep up with all the Kamikaze shots and Long Island iced tea orders. The club must have been at capacity; I've never seen AWOL so crowded.

"I wish more clubs were this foggy," my companion said. "Everyone looks so good."

The party filled up with off-duty drag queens and muscle men in tank tops, but it wasn't a typical night at Axis. Instead of standard remixed club tracks, both DJs kept the Lady Gaga to a minimum and focused on bass-heavy gay disco, diva house and "four on the floor" rhythms. I was sure when Nitzer Ebb's "Join the Chant" came on the walls were going to fall.

If Divine was still around, I bet she would have been front and center.