A techno and house music scene, particularly for the queer community, was lacking in Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Bohan, otherwise known as Father of Two, is one of three who put together In Training – the city’s freaky, most prominent club night.
Bohan was born and raised in Cleveland. For the past six years he has resided on the west side of Cleveland, barring a short stint living in Chicago in his early 20s. During his free time he says “you can usually find me gliding around the streets of Lakewood delivering for Jimmy John’s, or at home with my boyfriend acting like a dumbass online.”
I inquired of him to reveal the mystery behind his moniker, Father of Two. “I had a much, much, much worse fake DJ name when we first started In Training that I will decline to share. So I was already in the market for a new one when one day, I was contacted by a stranger via a gay hookup app,” he says. “His opening salvo to me, which I assume he was hoping would lead to some sort of sexual congress, was ‘Hey! Father of two great kids here, how’s it going?’ It all fell into place instantly. I responded, ‘I’m doing well, and even though I’m not remotely interested, thank you for giving me my new DJ name!’ And the rest is history.”
He started DJing mostly through In Training, the monthly party he hosts along with Shane Christian (who DJs as Kiernan Laveaux) and Aerin Ercolea.
“There aren’t many avenues in Cleveland to get to play out the type of music I wanted to play before we started doing this. The only previous experience I had was doing a small Monday night residency with my friends in a crew called 4NPLCY a few years ago,” he says.
The idea for the queer-run and queer-focused party was developed by Aerin and Bohan in 2014 on the first night they met. “I mentioned offhand that I had always wished that I could do some sort of freaky queer night with weird music at a weird venue and she basically came back to me a few days later with all of the initial logistics for it planned out. Shane was (and is) Aerin’s roommate, so she was just always around when we were discussing all of this stuff so she became a part of it pretty quickly as well,” Bohan says. “I think we all happened to meet at an interstitial point in each of our lives where we were all very ready to switch things up and try something new, and that energy translated into all of this getting off the ground quickly.”
In Training is held at Now That’s Class, an underground bar and venue located in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood of West Cleveland. The venue is a sanctuary and blank space for the events that don’t quite fit into the more frequented and popular spaces of the city. “Now That’s Class, for better or for worse, has long been a venue and gathering space in Cleveland for freaks, weirdos, and musical acts that realistically couldn’t get booked anywhere else. The few ‘clubs’ there are in Cleveland (LGBT or otherwise) were useless and tacky, and we had zero faith in them to let us do what we wanted to do or be any sort of asset to us. Their incompetence and lack of ambition is a large part of what drove us to start doing this, so in a strange roundabout way, I almost have to thank them. We needed a space that we could transform and fully control, and Now That’s Class has provided that. The venue and location isn’t perfect, but it’s our home and it’s almost impossible to imagine doing it anywhere else in Cleveland. The world’s shittiest dive bar with, somehow by the grace of God, a really great soundsystem, knowledgeable tech people, friendly staff, and bathrooms that demand an iron will.”
The party has hosted artists and performers including Titonton Duvante, Bill Converse, Tony Fairchild, DJ Shiva, Clark Price, Sassmouth, Jarvi, Pat Bosman, Steve Mizek, Savile and more. The name of the party was Aerin’s idea. Bohan says, “It sounded mysterious, kind of slutty in some undefined way, and open to interpretation. It mostly just sounds cool, and it can mean something different to everyone”
Cleveland is among the smaller U.S. cities that play a very important role of the evolution of the American dance floor. “I think our small communities provide the blueprint that some parties in larger enclaves do their best to try and emulate. I can only speak for us here in Cleveland, but we do what we do because we would otherwise have nothing to live for. It’s that simple, and that (apparently) gives what we do in these places a sense of urgency and authenticity and ‘grittiness’ or whatever people in the larger cities can attempt to create their own version of with their more abundant resources.” Cities with the tight-knit family structured communities are fueled by concentrated energy, cooperation and a do-it-yourself attitude.
“Our communities drive this thing. We are the source of the energy. I think a lot of people generally assume that we basically just do small town versions of a big city phenomenon when it’s often the other way around. I may sound like I have a slight chip on my shoulder, but I think all of us doing things in these places should acknowledge our place and be proud of the work we do and what it means for the culture as a whole.” – FATHER OF TWO
Although he says it’s difficult to be objective about how In Training has played a role on a larger scale, he delves deeper into what the party means to him, being queer in Cleveland. “Doing this has really helped me spread my wings, so to speak, and really embrace being gay and feeling like I can define what that means for myself in a way that encompasses every aspect of my personality. Cleveland’s wider LGBT scene is pretty emaciated for a variety of economic and cultural reasons, and it was pretty hard to connect with most of the people I was coming across or even trying to date. So I hope it’s done for the scene what it’s done for me, which is put the right people in close enough proximity to each other under pleasant circumstances so that they can grow, teach each other, learn from each other, dance together, act stupid together, and make a bunch of new weird-ass friends.”
The In Training crew identifies wholeheartedly with the community they have cultivated, bringing an authenticity and ingenuity to their parties and their mission. Aerin Ercolea identifies as non-binary/femme and Shane Christian is transfemme and her talents as a DJ are becoming increasingly recognized. Historically and culturally house and techno has roots as a refuge for minorities and the oppressed. Although today’s youth has embodied a culture of acceptance, it is clear through recent events that there is still a lack of understanding and compassion. So queer focused parties will continue to maintain defiance against prejudice and hate by allowing strength in unity on the American dance floor.
“As much as we stress the by-queers-for-queers aspect of our party, at the end of the day, a substantial portion of our audience is straight and cisgender. In a city where it’s a struggle to get enough critical mass for anything besides bad garage rock and fusion tacos, we’ll take what we can get, and as long as these people recognize that they are guests in the space, we very rarely have any problems with the queer and cishet crowds coming together. Personally, I view it positively.”
Similar to Hot Mass, the Pittsburgh party that strives to blur the lines between the gay and straight communities of their city, Bohan revels in the relationship he has developed with that particular dance floor and everyone involved. He says the Hot Mass family “has become a huge part of my life personally and some of the strongest and most supportive allies for us as a crew. So much of what they do has served as the initial [and continual] inspiration for what we do and how we operate, but I think both the vibe and our goals are pretty different. I think that’s what makes the relationship between our two institutions so special.”
When it comes to the queer community of the house and techno scene beyond Cleveland he says he’s not sure how much of an impact their party has made yet. “But I hope we are part of a process that will start to open up space for all queer people and weirdos in this current sort-of Renaissance we are having for underground dance music in America.”
Catch Father of Two, along with Chicago’s Jarvi, on Saturday, March 4 for the next installation of REDUX in Buffalo, N.Y.