Hard French Takes It On The Road For The Winter Ball
by Ray Aguilera
If you've ever been wandering down Mission Street on a Saturday afternoon and heard the boisterous sounds of '60's soul jams wafting through the air accompanied by the scent of BBQ and sexy San Franciscans of all stripes sweating it out on the dance floor, then you probably know all about Hard French.
The monthly party returns to El Rio for its fifth season on March 2, but if you just can't wait to shake your tail feathers, the annual Winter Ball on February 22 takes the Hard French crew, dolls them up in formal finery, and drops them at Santa Cruz's historic Cocoanut Grove right on the beach. It's a once-a-year bonanza of cruising, dancing, and drinking, featuring the vintage grooves of Hard French's resident DJ's Carnita and Brown Amy spinning soul classics on 45.
To get ready for the party, we sat down with Devon Devine, self-described "Producer/Daddy" of the Hard French crew, to get the tea.
Ray Aguilera: Tell us about the Hard French crew.
Devon Devine: The Hard French crew consists of myself, Jorge Portillo (Video Wrangler/Art Director), Tim Strong (Producer/Booty Shaker) and two DJs, Carnita and Brown Amy.
How did Hard French come to be?
A hot baby dino scissor virgin immaculately conceived five unicorn eggs into a Richard Simmons workout video and then—ta-da! Hard French was born!
Hard French is known for old-school soul jams. Why did the HF crew decide to start a soul party?
Our DJs (Brown Amy & Carnita) grew up listening to soul music at family picnics and backyard barbecues. We grew up on soul and there's something so innate about it. Soul can cross generations and sets off a dance floor like no other genre. We use 45s because, frankly, if you digitally compress soul music it starts to lose its soul and that is just wrong.
Hard French parties are always full of sexy, friendly people having a great time. What is it about your party that brings out the best in people?
When we build an idea for a party we start with ourselves. If we like it, we figure our friends will like it and if our friends will like it, we figure their lovers will like it and well... you get the point. No idea is too grand! We usually start off with these huge concepts that involve celebrities and helicopters, but then they end up in really awesome places like a haunted hotel in the mountains or a turn-of-the-century ballroom on the ocean. We just wanna party with our friends, and we're hella genuine about it. As long as we love the party, you will too.
How would you describe the Hard French vibe?
Happy, queer, warm, dancey, giggle, cute butts, shades, looks, BBQ, make out really hard.
Speaking of "looks," what are you cooking up for the Winter Ball?
One word: Balenciaga!
Okay, Can we still get tickets?
Yes! We have a limited number of pre-sale tickets available online and at the Pure Pleasure Shop in Santa Cruz.
If any first-timers are on the fence, what can they expect at the Winter Ball?
We don't always get the chance to get dressed up and go to a ball, so we decided to throw the prom we'd never had with the people we wish we'd known in high school—drag queens, fashionistas and dirty queers!
We thought it would be absolutely mind-blowing to have some of our favorite performers gracing the stage at a classic venue like the Cocoanut Grove. We don't want to spoil the show, but rumor has it there will be solo numbers, group numbers and lots of gowns involved.
Every year we work with Lil Miss Hot Mess to coordinate the King and Queen of the Ball. This isn't your run-of-the-mill popularity race. We use it to honor folks who work hard to create community. The winners get showered with gifts from local businesses and we donate cash to the charities of their choice. This is one of our favorite aspects of the Winter Ball, honoring our community members who kick ass!
What are the chances of getting laid at Winter Ball?
One hundred percent.
Hard French Winter Ball: $25. February 22, 9pm-1am. Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach Street Santa Cruz. www.hardfrench.com