Honey Soundsystem

Gay Performance Art in the ’90s Detroit Techno Scene

120 minsFirst aired 23 May 2019
Courtesy of Adriel Thornton and Patrick Burton

Adriel Thornton and Patrick Burton discuss the sounds and spaces that shaped the city’s queer club scene, and its avant-garde theater.

Live from Red Bull’s Detroit studio, Jackie House continues our week-long celebration of the city’s music and culture with a spotlight on two Motor City natives who have dedicated their careers to building its LGBT nightlife scene. One of them is Patrick Burton — a DJ, poet, painter and performance artist who promoted at the legendary Music Institute in the late ’80s, and later went on to become a resident artist at 1515 Broadway. Burton shares tales of pushing the boundaries of Detroit dance music culture with a number of his performance art pieces — many of which he debuted at actual nightclubs, sometimes to an original soundtrack by Derrick May. Adriel Thornton was one of the young performers Burton enlisted, a party promoter, activist and entrepreneur who fell in love with dance music after listening to tape recordings of Burton’s’s Saturday night parties as a kid. He eventually became one of the scene’s key players as the founder of long-running club night FAMILY. On this episode, Thornton joins Burton to reminisce about being an upstart promoter in Detroit’s early rave days, and together they unpack the history through a cross-generational lens, touching on dance music’s pivotal role in the city’s queer community, the spaces where its members gathered and the radical performance art scene that grew out of Detroit techno. The episode includes audio excerpts (transferred digitally for the first time) from three of Burton’s plays from his 1515 Broadway days: Beauty, Punk and Until.


Produced by Emilie Friedlander and Jordan Rothlein
Engineered by Joe Hazan
Illustration by Brian Quick

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