Retro Factory’s Journey On Uplifting Queer Marginalized Communities With A Series Of Throwback-Themed Parties

Carlos Armesto and Zach Job are the team behind Retro Factory – the retro-inspired immersive parties that are held roughly twice in a year. Retro Factory is fairly new to the party-throwing game, but Zach and Carlos believe they have a niche to fill.

With the first event launched right before Pride, during summer 2018, Carlos – who is Producing Artistic Director of Theater C – was looking to bring his form of hybrid theater to nightlife, while Zach – who may be better known to some as his drag queen alter ego Glow Job – was looking to make his mark as a party host/producer, as well as introduce his drag persona to more people. 

As a drag queen, Glow Job felt that she had to use her platform to start conversations about bigger issues than herself. “Here I saw an opportunity to create something that isn’t addressed in nightlife: intersectionality in our queer spaces and real support for the marginalized communities within our LGBTQIA+ family,” Glow Job says.

The very first party was called “1983.” Glow Job goes on, “It was a pre-Pride party and an homage to the Pyramid Club. Our first event set out to create something missing in New York City nightlife: a space for queer people of every demographic that could be celebrated and who could witness their story reinterpreted through dance and a party with a throwback twist. In this one we had pop-up performances that reinterpreted music videos from the ‘80s with queer leads instead of the heterosexual story lines we were given at the time.”

Since then, Retro Factory has had three more editions: another “1984”-themed party, a Moulin Rouge-themed “Voulez Vous?,” and the most recent ode to Studio 54, “Le Freak.”

We like going back in time and using some key moments in history and allow a queer voice to be heard,” Glow Job expands on why the fascination with the past. “It’s powerful seeing and feeling a story we know but now through a queer lens. What if we had witnessed that kind of a history? What if these stories were told back then? The thing is, the stories were there, they just weren’t shared and uplifted. Now is our chance to celebrate our community and bring to the forefront OUR story. And not just the white cis-gendered kind of story. That is why it is super important that we involve our queer and marginalized family in the production, the crew, the talent, and our audience. This is powerful to witness as an art form, but also it creates a space where we own that world, and we can feel safe and supported truly. The honesty and openness that I see at our parties is truly breathtaking. Watching our guests dress up, express themselves, and twirl with total abandon is the beauty we strive to create.”

Zach cites Riis Beach as one of the spaces that inspires the mood and energy for his events:

“People there are free. That love, that feeling of safety and freedom to be your authentic self, that radiant energy – to me, this is what we are striving to create in nightlife.”

And that showed during “Le Freak.” The party was thrown at 3 Dollar Bill, on an off-kilter Thursday night, managing to bring out a colorful lot of people. The first thing that greeted you once you walked inside the venue was a wall covered in a reflective material and a flattering ring light, allowing guests to take photos without having to use Facetune. There was a stripper pole and a mini lifting crane doubling as a platform for go-go dancers.

From 9 pm until 12 am, drag numbers were alternating with flash-mob dances that would interact with the crowd every half hour on the dot. At some point Glow Job walked around with a huge bowl of sour candy, giving it out to anyone who needed half a carb to keep drinking.

The organizers pulled no punches on the entertainment level, and they spared no expense in creating the ambiance. It was almost like your extravagant friends throwing an over-the-top, well-produced, lavish birthday party in their dad’s shipping container warehouse. It’s rare to see a party where most of the people are throwing it down on the dance floor and almost no one is standing around feeling left out.

Thee Suburbia, Iman Le Claire & Glow Job post performance


Alexey Kim