Sante Suffoletta and Tina Berger have been club DJs in the Colorado scene since the ’90s. Over the years, they have attended and performed at numerous dark alternative club nights. Though they have enjoyed the atmosphere and the opportunity to dress up and be creative, they wanted something beyond the norm. So they created Deviant, formerly known as Ominous, in August 2017, with the intention of focusing more on community involvement.
Their night is held the second Friday of the month at Tracks, each evening boasting a unique theme like "Wicked World of Disney." Ultimately, Suffoletta and Berger want to create an environment with performers, decorations and art where everyone feels welcome, able to express themselves and, most important, dance.
"We looked at just how we could throw the scope of what we’re doing to be more aligned with what we wanted, which was sort of all these different subcultures, and for it not to be elitist and snooty, but approachable for everybody," Suffoletta explains. "Whether you just enjoy dressing up in costumes and going to [conventions] or go dance and whether you’re gay or straight or anywhere in between, you’ll feel welcome there."
We spoke with Berger and Suffoletta before their Game On! theme night about what one could expect from a DJ set at Deviant and how they create a judgment-free space.
Westword: You've opened up the night so much, bringing in new crowds. Have you noticed a shift in the dynamic since you rebranded as Deviant? Other than it just being so diverse, does the new brand bring other cultures into the fold? What does that look like?
Sante Suffoletta: It’s a lot more fun, honestly. It’s not just focused on one subculture where everyone knows everyone already. There tends to be more drama associated with that, or more, “They don’t belong here.”
Tina Berger: There’s not that judgment.
Suffoletta: Calling all weirdos to come have a good time every month, where nobody is going to judge you and you can just be free, expressive, dance and have a good time. It’s so much more fun. And the team can have so much more fun because their embodiment of the event is a blank canvas for them to communicate, express and have a good time every month. That just floats down to the guests, because they see us enjoying ourselves and having a good time. It’s just automatic.
Berger: Everything Sante said I echo. There’s not pretension. There’s not judgment. It’s so nice to go somewhere and it not feel cliquey. People are like, “Oh, I’m overdressed" or, "Oh, I’m underdressed.” No matter what you wear, you’re having fun and smiling. It’s so gratifying to look around and see so many people of so many different worlds just hanging out and having fun. I don’t know of any other club that has anything like that. Definitely within our team, we’re all on the same page and are so excited for this. Our DJs, dancers, the actual Tracks team, our deco, our volunteers — everybody is having a blast.
Is the music based on each night's theme? Or is there a general genre, like house?
Suffoletta: Yes, we do play electro stuff. It’s definitely on the harder, edgier side of things as opposed to more mainstream, because it is an alternative night. But we’ll play anything from ’70s and ’80s glam and classics to house remixes of that stuff to goth industrial to electro clash, punk and rock. It’s really dance-oriented. The mainstay is energetic dance-beat stuff, like house beats.
Berger: Our first hour, we stay a little slower to let people warm up. But for the most part, the music is very high-energy. I try to introduce new songs and bring back favorites that people are going to recognize, but maybe different remixes or takes on [those songs] or covers, things like that. When we started, it was really dark. We did a lot more of the gothic industrial harder things that while people enjoyed it, it could intimidate some people. We don’t want people to be intimidated. We want it to be acceptable to everyone but still have a dark edge. I think part of our appeal is that dark edge; i’s unlike any other night that Tracks already has — or that any club has, for that matter.
Suffoletta: It will be a mix of familiar, and we do play new music. Another thing that I think has changed in the rebrand is that we’re not playing the same playlist every month. Even though there are a few tracks that are crowd favorites that we’ve [mixed in], we really do try to tailor the music to the theme. Tina and I both do a lot of work to find stuff to play every month that will fit the theme but will still be dance-y and the high-energy format.
Berger: This month will be a fun one. Video-game songs are definitely some of my favorites. I have a ton of stuff that I would like to play that are all kind of in the vein of either fun dance mixes of the sound effects from video games or their actual theme song.
Why do you think a space like Deviant is important? To be free of judgment and to promote free expression? Did this kind of space have an impact on you as you first were getting involved in the scene? Why?
Berger: I feel having a night like Deviant, where people are free to express themselves, is a much-overlooked necessity in the nightlife world. There is so much judgment, bullying and cliques at other clubs that the entire going-out experience can be upsetting and create impossible standards for some people. Being at Deviant, you immediately feel welcomed as you walk inside. You can see the smiles on everyone's faces, the interaction between patrons, staff and the Deviant team. I think it's impossible not to have fun! To have an outlet like this where you can come dance, socialize, dress up, play, enjoy the venue and deco or even just close your eyes and lose yourself in the atmosphere, is priceless. There weren't clubs like this when I first started getting into the scene. I was judged all the time, I was scared, and there was a lot of violence from people who couldn't tolerate others that were different from themselves. Because of that, I have done my best with every club night I've ever run to include everyone and give them a safe space where they can be proud to be themselves.
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What about providing this type of open, inclusive space resonates with you specifically, beyond it being a lot of fun?
Berger: Besides this night being a lot of fun, I also love the feeling of community and seeing people enjoy themselves so much. Not only during the actual club night, but also at our community meet-ups, during deco setup/tear-down and promotions meetings. The enjoyment is infectious! People see how much fun they can have, how freeing this group and event is, and they want to share that with their friends. So every month gets bigger and better.
In addition, as a DJ, I love how Deviant lets me be more progressive and varied with my music selection. At a lot of my other nights, the crowd seems to want to hear a lot of music they're already familiar with and are resistant to change. At Deviant, they love the different formats and exposure to new songs they might have never heard, as well as new remixes or covers of songs they do know. And the challenge of pleasing an extremely diverse crowd is quite exciting, too; deejaying is never boring at Deviant. I also love finding a few songs that fit our themes and throwing them into the mix. That always is a crowd-pleaser and definitely sets Deviant apart from other nights. How often do you get to hear the theme song to Super Mario Bros. at a club?
Deviant: Game On!, 9 p.m. Friday, March 9, Tracks, 3500 Walnut Street, 303-863-7326.