Portland Scene: The Best of the Year


I don’t know if anyone can ever really capture the queerness that is Portland, Oregon as it is really something that can only really be experienced. That being said, I made the bold choice to attempt to compile a list of the NW Lesbian Hub’s most intriguing happenings of 2011. While it is that time of year when one becomes inundated with best ofs and year-end reviews, a list of momentously awesome events from a city that is just so Portland should provide some refreshingly unique favorites.

I myself have finally stayed planted in this city for an entire year, a feat in it’s own right, and I feel that I am fully capable of regaling you with some of this year’s finest. I will spare you the details of my dog and my first anniversary (yes, I am that lesbian) and instead give you plenty of reasons to say goodbye to job security and adulthood, rent a U-Haul and make the journey to the Beaver State.

We’ll start with the obvious. The queers, they never stop dancing.

Best Event. Period: MRS.

MRS. has been providing Portland with amazingly themed events since last year and they keep getting better with age. This year’s parties included, but were certainly not limited to, John Water’s Cry Baby Divine, Beyond Thunderdome: Mad Max-style, Twin Peaks and Seattle ’94. I don’t know about anyone else, but having a monthly reason to dress up really gives my social life meaning. Also, Bloodhound Photography and Deya Card Photography provided the masses with default pictures for Facebook, for which we’re all grateful.

Best Night of Dancing: Hot Flash

So here’s the deal: While I had yet to get myself out of the house to an event that started at 6 p.m., I assumed Hot Flash is where I would one day land the cougar of my dreams. As the name suggests, it is a dance party for the more mature crowd and I am hoping you are just now understanding the name and chuckling to yourself at how appropriately epic it is. Also, please keep in mind that Portland is where young people come to retire; so mature means anything over the age of, well, 30. I was finally able to experience Hot Flash in all it’s glory, and while it took a drink or four for the initial awkwardness to subside, I will say that it was the best night of dancing I had all year.

The Little Queer Party That Could: Sweet Tea

Every first Thursday, unbeknownst to most Portlanders, a little southern style bar on the north side of town hosts one of the most adorably named, and cozy queer nights in the city, Sweet Tea. And while The Fixin’ To’s self-proclaimed neighborhood affair for NoPo (North Portland) homos and friends is merely a gathering amongst Arkansas-themed walls, they have three of my favorite things to offer: frito pie, sweet tea on special and a handful of ladies. (Pretty sure that’s what she said.)

Event We Miss Dearly: Junktion

If you’re into pop themes and the ability to request Bieber without shame like I am, this is the night for you. Or, rather was the night since Junktion is one of the many awesome parties that has since become defunkt. See what I did there? Anywho, their best event this year was by far the I’m Not a Girl…Not Yet a Skinny Little Bitch night where it was encouraged to dress and, most importantly, act like Britney Spears or Courtney Love. The evening wouldn’t have been complete without Cheetos, K-Feds and Kurts, who were also in attendance. Glee wishes it had thought up this mash-up first.

Moving right along, the best of the rest.

Trivia Night: Knowhomo

I’m still waiting to find a career path that allows me to use all the useless knowledge and random facts that seem to be taking up space in my head. Don’t even get me started on how much of my memory is wasted on knowing the lyrics to the entire Goo Goo Dolls catalog. Fortunately, bar trivia exists where I can get a little tipsy, admit I know the Hanson brothers first names (can you?) and sing Iris in it’s entirety.

When Sloan’s announced they would be hosting a queer trivia night, I was over the moon. I mean, when I came out at the age of 23 my dad gifted me the first season of The L Word on DVD and I made sure to run out and get Ani’s greatest hits. So clearly, I was prepared. After Knowhomo’s inaugural night and the handful of trivia nights since, I have started questioning my own gayness. Turns out, queer history is vast, challenging and chalk full of references that I need to take a crash course in. Never fear, my teams have won the titles of last place, best team name and, most recently, second place. I’ll take it.

Kick-Ass Queermo Owned Business: Record Room

Opened last year and building momentum throughout 2011, the Record Room hosts nightly DJ sets and was home to this year’s pre-Pride event, Preludes to Pride. Not only do they showcase an array of new and talented DJs, but they also schlep new and used LPS that you can peruse while having a beer, some wine or after you’ve played pinball. They even have free wi-fi. Pretty sure if Portland was Sunnydale and queers were vampires that Record Room would be the Hellmouth. Bam, Buffy reference out of nowhere.

Ahem, anywho. Record Room is in an ideal location, sharing a wall with the nations only feminist bookstore, In Other Words. As you can imagine, that row of businesses is definitely topping the list of areas single ladies should make a point to strut past.

Unexpectedly Enjoyable Reading: The IPRC Presents: An Evening with Michelle Tea

This was like a public processing sesh with one of your favorite lez authors, and I mean that in the best possible way. Michelle shared stores of PMS haircuts, Facebook stalking and the trials and tribulations of writing her personal memoirs. I may be the only lez who hadn’t read any of Michelle Tea’s work, so I went into the evening with absolutely no expectations. Turns out, Michelle is extremely charismatic and I’d have let her read the phone book to me if she had offered, assuming I could hunt one of those relics down.

Further Evidence That Lesbians are Hilarious: Lez Stand Up

Bad comedy hurts. I’m just gonna put it out there that one of the most painful experiences is witnessing a comedienne bomb because someone in their life told them they were funny. It’s on par with watching American Idol try-outs. Coming from comedy-laden Chicago, I was hesitant to check out amateur comedy in Portland. Luckily enough, I happened upon two installments of Lez Stand Up this year. Hosted by Kirsten Kuppenbender, the evenings definitely had some hits and misses, but the hits were knee-slapping hilarious. My pick for the comedienne that was a tinkle yourself riot was Diane Gasperin. Mom impressions get me every time.

A Gun Show For a Cause: Ladies Arm Wrestling at In Other Words

If you’ve ever been invited to a gun show, it probably had nothing on the ladies arm wrestling tournament held at Portland’s own In Other Words. Even in your wildest homoerotic dreams you couldn’t fathom something this gay. I mean, a room full of woman-identified queers, arm wrestling to raise funds and awareness for the last unicorn, a feminist bookstore? Portland can go ahead and give itself a binder to binder chest bump because it’s really out done itself. Pun completely intended. This can also be filed under eye-candy o’ the year.

Cover-band-palooza: Sinead O’Covers/ Lez Phair & Georgina Michelle

You can get behind me in line if you’re one of those who wish you’d have thought of Lez Phair first. The names are epic in their own right, but once you realize the iconic musical chops that are behind the covers you damn near need to excuse yourself for a minor geek out. Nothing compares to Sinead O’Connor done by Team Dresch‘s Kaia Wilson and Jody Bleyle alongside Gossip drummer Hannah Blilie, Rachel Blumberg and Marisa Anderson. Jenny Hoyston brought the Liz as LEZ PHAIR.

And lez not forget this year’s Wicked Awesome: Big Homo Halloween Party and Queer Cover Bands Show which brought us an all-girl George Michael cover band. I’ll tell you what, I definitely stumbled upon a Wham! fetish I never knew I had.

Things lost this year: The ERoom & Just Out Newsmagazine

Two Portland institutions were shuttered over the last 12 months here in the land o’ lez: Just Out Newsmagazine, our only LGBTQ publication and the one and only lesbian bar, The Egyptian Club (most recently known as Weird Bar). Both cornerstones of the community are leaving behind a legacy and will be greatly missed.

2012 is already looking promising, but not before 2011 goes out with a bang! Look forward to Guilty Pleasures, Portlandia on tour and just how many sequins I can include in one outfit.

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