Necto Nightclub has been a hub of Queer life in southeast Michigan since 1984. Formerly known as the “Nectarine Ballroom,” the club’s name was shortened to “Necto” in 2001. Now celebrating its 21st birthday since the alteration, Necto remains Ann Arbor’s premier spot for queer (and non-queer) nightlife. The club and its performers have consistently swept local awards, recently voted “Best LGBTQ+ Club” and “Best Dance Night” in Washtenaw County by Current Magazine. Necto was also nominated for “Best Nightlife” by The Michigan Daily’s 2022 Best of Ann Arbor series.
In a Midwest college town competing with iconic spots like Rick’s and Scorekeepers (more commonly known as “Skeeps”), what is it about this “gay bar” that makes Ann Arborites go crazy? After spending a Friday at Necto, I understand what the hype is all about.
8:20 p.m. on the first night of fall break and the line for Necto is already down the block. Raucous laughter, smiling faces, fishnets and thick black eyeliner eagerly await the entrance into the Best Nightclub in Michigan. It’s Necto’s famous PRIDE Night featuring legendary drag queens Violet Chachki and Gottmik.
Before the show began, I had the honor of meeting Chanel Hunter and Perry Dox, the hosts of Necto’s PRIDE nights. Chanel has worked at Necto since 2013 and has been doing drag for 21 years. She’s played all types of gigs all across the state of Michigan and recognizes “there’s something unique about [Necto]. It makes you feel like a rockstar.”
Perry Dox, who has only been working at Necto for a year and a half, described her time at the club as a “metamorphosis,” helping her grow as an entertainer and a person. “Necto offers experiences not a lot of clubs offer,” Perry said, and as the only “gay bar” in Ann Arbor, Necto serves as an example and a standard of queer life in the city, creating important, safe space for the community. Perry agrees with Chanel that there is something indescribable about Necto: “you feel it, it’s an energy that infects and moves the community.”
The two drag queens emphasized that at Necto they live to entertain. “There’s one thing that Necto has always been rooted in, and that’s not to be too serious. We have a responsibility to inform about important issues,” (at this point Chanel pulled out a bodycon red, white & blue dress patterned with a bedazzled Joe Biden logo) “but we know people come here to escape and dance the night away.”
Looking to the future, Necto is intent on continuing to push boundaries and offer special experiences for all party-goers. The club is known for bringing in big names from RuPaul’s Drag Race, but they are also excited to bring in more up-and-coming musical artists and uplift different theme nights for new crowds, like goth-industrial Factory Mondays. Regardless of what comes next, the community can clearly count on Necto to outperform and offer fun, safe and collaborative experiences for all.
My evening spent on Necto’s main ballroom dance floor truly was extraordinary. The club lets everyone (18+) live out their nightclub fantasy in an environment that genuinely feels supportive and safe. Necto allows U-M students to escape oppressive frat basements for a night out under the Necto disco ball and smoke machines, bodies pulsing with the deep bass of pop remixes and throat raw from laughter and endearingly screaming “yas queen” and “slay” whenever someone tries to pole dance.
So why does Necto remain at the center of queer nightlife in this college town? In the words of Perry Dox, “you just have to come out and experience it for yourself. You can talk the talk and walk the walk, but you have to come see it for yourself.” Slay, queen!
Daily Arts Writer Maya Levy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.