Chop Suey
Seattle, Washington



Grrrls just wanna get down.

       Chop Suey is the every-hipster’s club, beckoning and beguiling 20-somethings all over Seattle to the edge of the city’s most insistently hip neighborhood, Capital Hill.
       Priding itself on being a home away from the dive bars, exclusive clubs, and cooler than thou watering holes that usually dominate the scenester’s scene, Chop Suey seems to have a little something for everyone: a good range of microbrews, trendily tacky domestics, and ciders; not-too-stiff but also not-too-steep mixed drinks; a revolving showcase of indie rock bands for the trucker-hatted and faux-hawked; electronic music ranging from the crystal-powered, world beat-infused to the gearhead, laptop battle variety; tricked-out hip-hop nights featuring sick beats, and sicker b-boys and b-girls breaking to them. And here’s the best part: Chop Suey pulls it off. A short dark entryway opens into the large main room, containing a large bar, dancefloor, DJ booth, stage, and a small seating area. A smaller back lounge (with booths and a second bar) provides another option to the left of the door. Both rooms are lit with a hazy red glow, decorated in an “Oriental” theme that is kitschy enough to avoid offense, and ready and waiting for whatever the night’s scene may be. Speakers are from EV, driven by QSC amplification, with Behringer limiting, Yamaha reverb, TC Electronics delay, and Shure mics.

Stalker #1
       My friends and I answer the hipster call on Chop Suey’s monthly dyke night, when the club turns itself into a lesbian dance party produced by the local company Fox-C Productions, with hip-hop spun by DJ Miss A. Bruce Lee leers down at us from stenciled prints in the entryway as we arrive unfashionably early at 9:45 to take advantage of the $5 cover (after 10 pm it’s $10, which is fairly pricey for a Seattle party with a local DJ, but pretty typical for dyke nights in the area). Even at that early hour, Chop Suey’s rather vast, airy space is already crawling with a decent number of impeccably dressed ladies. This month’s party is a black and red Valentine’s Day-themed bash, but other than a few fliers and a handful of pimped-out patrons, it looks to be a run of the mill Chop Suey/Fox-C production.
       Chop Suey itself, however, is always dressed to the nines, and the club’s sensual red color scheme lends itself well to almost any theme. Dusky red walls adorned with stout, smiling Buddhas and faux-ornate altars (complete with electric incense!) hug a long bar and a small enclave of tables to the right of the door. To the left is a vast room of black leather booths and Chinese lanterns. This room is dark and cool, and its windows (the only windows in the club) are completely blacked out except for a few small portholes that are nearly impossible to see in through. Where are we? An ancient pagoda turned chi-chi restaurant? A swank hangout for the Asian mafia? Oh, no’s just a make-out room. A couple in the corner is already, um, whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears. And why shouldn’t they be? It’s not even 10 and DJ Miss A is already busting out Khia (of “My Neck, My Back” and other unmentionable lyrics fame).

Stalker #2
       Out in the main room, the dancefloor is empty. It’s still early and the periphery is gradually crowding with women daring each other to be the first on the floor. But Chop Suey’s dancefloor, while relatively large and strategically equipped with the crucial disco ball, is not particularly inviting. The DJ spins from a booth in the back that no one pays attention to but that sticks out a little too obtrusively onto the floor. Even as the floor begins to fill, dancing has to be negotiated around a few poles that could be effective hoochie dance tools, but instead just get in the way, stubbornly waiting for the indie rockers to come back and lean on them. The room’s attention is drawn to the stage at the front, which, even when scattered with a few paid dancers, seems glaringly empty, longing for the hip-hop show of the night before.
       But whatever...DJ Miss A throws down some Justin Timberlake and we edge a little closer, looking for that “come hither and groove” look from one of the brave souls already doing her thing out there. Outkast’s “Hey Ya” comes on and we make a run for it, joining our sisters in an attempt to “shake it like a Polaroid picture” as only a room full of mostly white lesbians can. On the stage, the paid booty girls, whose dance skills range from “could have been a Fly Girl” to “looks good in hot pants,” mug and pout and shake their red and black-clad behinds for the benefit of the crowd, which mostly ignores them. A couple of patrons, who either don’t get the “these girls are paid to be hot so you don’t have to be!” philosophy behind the stage dancers, or are too drunk to care, rush the stage to join in as the DJ makes a rather clunky transition into the “Thong Song.” They are just as quickly booted off.

Stalker #3
       Only a handful of patrons are of the biological male persuasion. They stand slack-jawed at the edge of the dancefloor, ogling first the midriff-baring stage, next the sweating, gyrating dancefloor (did that girl just do a backbend?! Oh, yeeeaaaah...), then the bar, which is appropriately staffed with attractive, meticulously attired female barkeeps ready to sling a weak but friendly vodka-tonic your way if you can weather the five- to 10-minute wait for your chance to order. What they don’t do is use the bathroom: the men’s room lies barren and deserted, dejectedly waiting for a daring lass to defy societal conventions and the clogged women’s room, Designing Women-style.
       As the night winds down, the women’s room is traffic jam of lipstick reapplication, furtive cell conversations, and beer tears. The graffiti and poster-dotted stalls, their floors swathed in toilet paper since the night began, belie the studied opulence of the rest of the club, revealing with a comfortable accessibility its inner hipster dive. A pointed message to the would-be scenester is scrawled on a stall door: “How many hours did it take to make you look like you don’t care today?” The comment does not apply to Chop Suey, which, more or less, looks effortlessly fabulous, whatever the scene.

– Compiled by Rachel Devitt

Copyright 2004 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2004 TESTA Communications