Club Mesh is a collective of three women DJs and producers. Chess Knight, Dial Jess, and Lani Love, each longtime veterans of the Chicago and Los Angeles music and nightlife scenes. Each DJ came together as Club Mesh in 2018 in order to create a truly inclusive dance party in Chicago. Everything from classic party jams, deep house, hip hop, bass, indie, and left field brought people of all ages and backgrounds to the same sweaty dance floor. During the pandemic, that expanded to create an even more diverse international community, beyond the club, on Twitch. DJ Dial Jess describes how Club Mesh pivoted to support their community during quarantine.
The world shut down, and the online world expanded: Community building in the pandemic, one year later.
Just over one year ago, the country shut down, and so did our trajectories and social lives. Our sense of self, and our relationship to the outside world became a strange sort of lonely chaos. We missed people, we missed life as we knew it. As much as Zoom hangouts and more regular phone calls helped, they never quite replaced our day-to-day interactions. Influencers and public figures cheerfully encouraged us to gather on the internet, and embrace streaming as the new nightclub. As a DJ, streaming was the antithesis of everything I liked about my gig - reading a room, silently orchestrating little moments on the dance floor, and letting the music do the talking for me. So how did the gaming website Twitch, become such a thriving community for music and culture lovers? We stopped trying to bring back the past, and built something for our new and bizarre present.
Bringing Club Mesh to the internet
Pretty soon into the pandemic, Club Mesh decided to give Twitch a try, partly to alleviate creative cabin fever, partly to reconnect. Once we noticed some of the same people—not real life friends—returning to our streams over and over again, Lani suggested we start a Discord server (which is a kind of a throwback to the messaging boards of the 90s), where our growing community could continue to chat off-stream. As it all grew, I realized that one of the biggest things it seemed we’d all been missing was just the fun asides, new inside jokes, and deep, spontaneous convos shared with a stranger late at night.
We expanded our little universe, creating homes in the discord for topics like environmental, political, and social causes important to us, and reaching out to other streamers to team up in fundraising efforts for those causes.
We held discord (and yes, Zoom) parties which got people to dress up and dance again. Our streams became both DJ sets and chatting sessions that felt more natural than Face Time, because they were centered around other activities, like being at a concert or a benefit in past times. It was as organic and as natural as technology used in isolation could be.
We experienced a real moment of togetherness one night after making sets of Club Mesh shot glasses. Soon after, we were in a video chat with our new friends from all over the world, toasting the night with our matching glasses. It brought back waves of nostalgia for old nights out, but was special in a completely new way - with friendships we couldn’t have made in any other setting.
Beyond Club Mesh
Although we can nearly see the end of the pandemic, the return to normalcy isn’t promised to be as it was before. If you’ve been yearning to connect, streaming communities aren’t going anywhere. Find music or gaming streams that appeal to you in some way - the music is exactly your taste, the streamer is particularly engaging, or you just find the chat has the exact sense of humor that you love. Compared to real life, it is remarkably easy to just scope out the scene without feeling awkward—you’re literally invisible if you want to be! Jump into a chat, talk to someone, ask for an inside joke to be explained - people will be more than happy to fill you in - and feel a sense of belonging.
What would you like to share?
Joining a community this way, as a member, and not a content creator, can make the leap to streamer much smoother. In our own community, we’ve had members start DJ, gaming, and even sex advice streams, with a little built in audience of people met online. Find a community you vibe with, and hang out. Be vocal, remember people. See if there’s a discord to join and share things. You can often find people eager to help with tech tips and other kinds of support. If you’d like to stream yourself, let people know, and invite them in.
Besides Club Mesh, some great mid-sized communities with a presence on Twitch to check out are Sofi Tukker’s Freak Fam and Femme House by LP Giobbi. Freak Fam is a community for fans of the Sofi Tucker band that offers exercise, book, and music groups. Femme House aims to democratize electronic music making for womxn, trans, non-binary, and other marginalized gender expressions in technical areas of music.
Please find us and introduce yourself if you’re curious about this virtual world - you may find it’s not merely a substitute for the real one, but something else completely.
You can also stream their latest release Peace Love Mujje on Bandcamp.