Portland Scene: Roller derby, goth bingo and the Bridgetown Comedy Festival


While I love Portland and have managed to move here three times (don’t bother with the math), I definitely left pieces of my heart in Chicago and scattered around Southern California. Lucky for me, and thanks to the Pacific’s Northwest’s recent fame, Portland has become a regular stop for many a touring artist. Quite randomly this month brought some of my favorite derby girls, comediennes and friends through my fair city and I was overwhelmed with all of my options for rockin’ good times.

Let me tell you what, if you have yet to attend a roller derby bout you have no idea what you’re missing. Granted it was a bit more fun back in the day, pre-Whip It, when the crowd was smaller and suicide seats provided opportunities for derby girls to lose footing, or get nailed by another player, and land in your lap. Then again, maybe that’s just my deep-seated derby girl fetish showing its true colors. Whatever the case, however you experience derby, it showcases admirable athleticism, and of course, attractive ladies hip-checking the –ish out of each other.

Photo courtesy of Frank Lavelle

So having mentioned that I am a tried and true Chicagoan, I was beyond pumped for the Windy City All-Star Team to come play Portland’s Rose City Rollers‘ All-Stars, The Wheels of Justice. Back when I lived in Chicago, I was a big WCR fan so I was well aware of their abilities to crush ALL THE COMPETITION. This fact made so I walked into the arena feeling particularly assured that my team was going to do all the winning. And win they did, well, until the last few minutes of the game when Portland’s ladies totally came from behind and, you know, got more points. Enough with the sports talk. As bummed as I was to see my old team lose, I was secretly excited that my current hometown team made for such an exciting bout.

I am definitely in the minority only having learned about Michelle Tea’s traveling performance art collective Sister Spit within the last year. Even having been late to the party, I have quickly become a fan of listening to her read, well, anything in public and jumped at the chance to see her and her band of queer-centric literary misfits on tour.

Before the show even started, I was mesmerized by the energy of the gorgeously diverse crowd. See also: epic people watching. And while I can’t compare the New Generation with days of yore, I imagine that both the performers and, of course, the Portland attendees were a throw back to Sister Spit’s early ’90s feminist roots. Cassie J Sneider started off the evening with an always-funny tale of childhood and Brontez had most folks buckled over in their seats with his own brand of hilariously shocking frankness. Of course, our host Michelle Tea read some of her work between Erin Markey’s one-woman musical and Mr. Transman Kit Yan’s slam poetry. The highlight for the evening for the literary nerds was author Dorothy Allison reading from her legendary Lesbian Appetites.

Each stop on the tour also featured local special guests. We are lucky enough to have Aubree Bernier-Clarke amongst us who screened her chapter of Michelle’s Valencia adaptation. Local zinester Nicole J. Georges was also on hand to share some of her newest work.

Pretty sure I’ve beaten the lesbians love comedy horse but if you missed the memo, lesbians do funny well. The only group I can generalize as funnier than lesbians, are Chicagoans so when Portland’s annual Bridgetown Comedy Fest offered a Best of Chicago show hosted by one of Chicago’s funniest ladies, I was in. Said funny lady goes by the name of Ever Mainard and is one of the Top 100 Comics in Chicago according to Chicago magazine.

Photo by Caitlin Bergh

For my virgins, things I’ve learned at comedy fests: When attending any performance after, we’ll say late afternoon, you’ll sometimes find it hard to tell if performers are drunk or if it’s just their shtick. Our show started at 11:30 p.m. and we witnessed some of the most hilarious fake drunk funny and real drunk flops known to man. Ever did an amazing job holding back everyone’s proverbial hair and spent the rest of her time gaying up an otherwise overwhelmingly straight line-up. My only comedy criteria was met as I left feeling as if I had spent hours working on my abs. Because my workout regimen assumes laughter is equivalent to doing sit-ups, duh.

Meanwhile, in Portland: GOTH BINGO. In attempts to fill my semi-non gay quota of the month, I swung by Sloan’s to attend their goth bingo night because, how could I not? I defy you to curb your curiosity as to what makes bingo goth. Turns out, the answer is darkwave music, black lipstick and dimmer lights. I was definitely introduced to a whole new side of Portland. In other words, I only recognized a handful of folks instead of a room full of usual suspects. We only got two rounds into bingoing when familiarity slapped us in the face in the form of crazy-ex drama and cut our evening of gloom short. Which was fine, we were there just long enough to inspire me to re-watch every episode of “Goth Talk with Azrael of Abyss.” If that is unfamiliar to you, do yourself the favor and get to googling.

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