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'Boystown' Anthem Celebrates Singer's Self-Discovery in Gay 'Hoods

By Serena Dai | March 7, 2013 2:42pm | Updated on March 7, 2013 3:51pm

BOYSTOWN — A local singer has penned an anthem for Lakeview's gay neighborhood — and the spirit of gay neighborhoods across the world.

Mark Ortega declares in the lyrics of his single "Boystown" that it's a place where young men can where yellow neoprene, or rubber, without causing a scene, and where "the boys are pretty and the men are pretty down."

One inspiration: The bars of Halsted.

"I was almost like a kid in a candy store the first couple times I came out here," Ortega said of Chicago's Boystown. "I really hadn't explored it. It was amazing."

Ortega is celebrating the fun-loving attitude and gay discovery by performing a single release party at Spin Nightclub, 800 W. Belmont Ave., at 10 p.m. Saturday.

The poppy, electronic dance anthem, written with L.A.-based co-writer Danny MacArthur, is about the experience of discovering gay communities, Ortega said. It references major gay streets like Castro Street in San Francisco, Shenkin Street in Tel Aviv, Israel, and — naturally — Halsted Street in Chicago.

"In Boystown," Ortega sings. "Where your love is always welcome, and our broken hearts are found."

Ortega himself is a self-described "small-town kid from Iowa" who said he discovered himself in the comfort of Los Angeles' gay community. His brother, who is straight, lived in Chicago and kept telling Ortega he needed to visit.

When Ortega showed up, that "kid in a candy store" experience involved a trip to Sidestrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., where he quickly realized last call wasn't until 4 a.m. instead of the 2 a.m. he was used to.

He thought the bartenders had forgotten to close up shop, he said with a laugh.

"Well, I thought, I'll take advantage of it," he said. "And that's the last thing I remember for a bit."

Ortega's music style is very much inspired by gay events, he said. Because he and his writing partner MacArthur were performing at Pride parades in Los Angeles and Long Beach, it turned into music to party to.

"Our sound evolved into that fun, celebrating, kind of partying, clubby, pop music," Ortega said. "We found that was fun for people."

The singer works at a craft store in the city as a day job but would jump at the opportunity to one day work full time as a musician. For now, he will perform "Boystown" in Chicago's Boystown, which happens to be the first official gay village in the country

"I find that very inspirational," Ortega said. 

"Boystown" can be heard on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play or Amazon