Pomona nightclub 340 is the kind of club you’d see in a movie. The facade of the building is polished in a dark blue with windows covered by curtains obscuring its neon rays. This time around, its absence of grime and smut drew suspicion about the night’s promise of fun. It is a Wednesday night, and assumed students and other twenty-somethings all managed to end it here. It’s still early, only 10:30 as I wait for my friend to arrive. There is no line to get inside, only steady arrivals. The tall, thin club door holds a steady beat as it opened and closed as people entered letting Too Short’s “Shake That Monkey,” spill over into the street, spewing its grimey raunch into the cool Pomona air. On an off-beat my friend had arrived and we slid in 340’s doors.
The mouth of the club is a long, narrow hallway that opens into a larger pool of a dancefloor. The velvety hallway that trailed downstairs promised a subfloor which would reveal itself as the night went on. The go-go dancers at 340 had raised stages from which within they danced quickly and provocatively, occasionally reaching down for a dollar.
The club was packed. I managed to land at the bar where a sparkling turquoise drink had captured my friend’s (and, apparently, everyone else’s) interest. It was the night’s special, “the Kylie Jenner,” a name that only affirmed that I was not consumed in the vaporous slime of an LA flower district warehouse party, or, near the campy glam of Mickey’s in West Hollywood, and even further away from Riverside’s comfortable Menagerie. I was somewhere between the three.
By 11:30, the drinks began to wear off and the club’s lower-level cavern was unlocked. A man emerged wearing a “Bitch! I’m Madonna” t-shirt to announce the night’s crowning jewel, Cupcakke. This announcement was a bit historical, on account of 340’s dedication to serving a mostly working class Latinx community which, then finalized into his own candied nostalgia of clubbing in the ‘80s — going to Madonna’s club tours. “The energy of Cupcakke is like that of Madonna’s,” he asserted. It came off as bleary and a bit self-serving, the crowd growing impatient for Cupcakke, but nonetheless an important anchoring of place, the club where many queer people congregate to form and become lifelines for one another, or to hook up, which is just as vital.
It was like a forced blessing, his nostalgic spiel that called for the importance of having a space like 340, for queer people, and specifically black and Latinx queer people in the Inland Empire. It’s a place they can claim to, a claim that can refute the thirty miles east towards West Hollywood and its drapery of muscles and blue eyes. In that context or refusal is where Cupcakke’s sole club performance was thirty miles inland — in Pomona. She knows who and what her audience looks like: Young queers of color, black and brown — maybe in college, maybe not — who find sexuality to be a way to fantasize a way out of the world. She brought her world to the 340 stage in Pomona and nowhere else.
Minutes later, Cupcakke emerged in the downstairs stage, wearing nothing but a black sheer shirt with black FashionNova pasties embezzled with the words, “Fuck Me.” The LED screens behind her enshrining her like a patron saint of the gays with their sharp and pointed rainbow lasers lended themselves to Cupcakke’s empathic presence. The quick five-song punch of a set ran through the hits like “LGBT,” which felt like a national anthem at 340. Cupcakke, for all of her fearlessness, played coy, testing the limits of the crowd when sliding a few fingers down her shorts. As she rapped “Duck Duck Goose,” she assumed total control. It is a control pinned down by Cupcakke’s infectious fearlessness, silly and inviting. On stage it translates into the asked question, “Who is sucking dick tonight?” Jolting and intrepid, any and all cool evaporated, already having been morphed into something else.