Portland Scene: Dance parties, Riot Grrrl Karaoke and the Not Enough Festival


Erika Star, a Midwest transplant with a serious big city complex and affection for all things sarcastic, has decided to live out her “Where The Wild Things Are” fantasies in the supposed Lesbian Mecca of Portland, Oregon. These are her stories.

I can only assume you, like me, take every word the members of the the Glee cast say to heart. Turns out, Dianna Agron is a huge fan of Portland and, while she isn’t the poster child for lesbianism, she knows Naya and that is good enough for me.

While I personally have made strides to retire from the social scene due to requests from my liver and simply suffering from burnout, I did move to Portland several years ago for one reason and one reason only: Lesbians. That being said, I will now serve as your official tour guide to Queerlandia because if you tried to do everything, as I did, you would exhaust yourself with awesomeness.

While Portland is more apt to claim a more ambiguous queer descriptor, it is still a place where lesbians flock in droves and, yes, U-Hauls. Maybe it’s the nature (gross), or the temperate weather (I miss snow), but I like to believe it’s the slew of dance parties, Riot Grrrls, and the ability to freely hit on any girl at the grocery store with only the slightest chance of getting turned down due to her being straight. I mean, finding a straight girl is like finding a unicorn but, then again, Portland was built on a unicorn burial ground.

While it’s true that the dream of the ’90s is alive and thriving here in PDX, and that I can count my gainfully employed friends on one hand, Bridgetown also serves as a mecca of amazing bookstores, wood-paneled music venues, delicious food and eccentric people. If you’ve seen Portlandia, you’re familiar with the latter. Because Portland is so heavily queer, everything becomes an unintentional gay free for all. Here is just a taste of some of the things I was able to do this past month.

Riot Girrrl Karaoke, Come As You Were: ’90s Night was exactly as the name suggests: A night of queers screeching out the likes of “Rebel Girl” and “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.” Held at The Foggy Notion, drinks such as the Grunge Plunge and Heroine Chic Grapefruit imbibed the night filled with three live bands covering bands such as Bikini Kill, Hole, Heavens to Betsy, Sleater Kinney and Team Dresch. I showed up mid-karaoke fest just in time to catch some Babes in Toyland. Being an ex-KJ (karaoke jockey — feel free to send your sympathies) I was expecting your usual, painstaking, drunken mumbling of ’90s cover song karaoke. Turns out, having a live-band really kicks it up a notch or 10. Add a crowded room of riot grrrls, and some well loved songs and you have a rocking good time! Overall, it was an amazingly successful event and all the proceeds for the evening went to Not Enough! Queer Music Festival — which we will get to, don’t you worry.

Here in the land of lez, queer dance parties are as frequent as seeing a tall bike riding down Alberta Street. (Seriously, every day, more than three.) There was a time in recent history when I remember being able to go to one, if not three or four, a night without breaking into a socially induced panic. The lifespan of a party here is fleeting and with a revolving door of cleverly titled, self-proclaimed queer nights of debauchery, it’s hard to decide which are the diamonds in the rough. This month I hit up a few of the usual suspects (Bent, Dirtbag and Mrs.) which offered their usual fare, but my recent fave was the first annual Some Are Sparkles. Put on by many of the socialites who put on the aforementioned parties, it proved to be a sparktacular mash up of some favorite DJs and a fresh new venue. I almost didn’t go, but then I heard my sequined mini-skirt beaconing me from the closet and I decided it was time to let it shine.

I grabbed a wing-woman and headed to Southeast Portland, which is not so secretly my favorite of the five quadrants. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Deep in the thicket of the south side of the city, where rarely a queer will travel, the party sold itself as a sparkly outdoor dance party to dance out the end of summer. Plan B was the location and while the name reminded me of a morning after pill, and the venue looked to more commonly serve a more metal/screamo audience, the open air back patio proved a great set up for a flock of sequined folks dancing to their favorite jams. DJs Beyondadoubt, Chelsea Starr and Bruce LaBruiser provided the bounce and Bloodhound photography was able to capture the queers in all their glitter glory. Unfortunately, my skirt didn’t make the cut.

Later that weekend, after making sure to catch a few lez jokes on the Emmy’s, I headed over to the second annual Not Enough! Queer Music & Arts Festival. Not Enough is a community based, weekend long event that encompassed all that is DIY and DIT (do it together, duh) and encouraged new collaborative projects from a city full of talented queers. The only criteria for submission of art/music/film or performance was that it be new, collaborative and of course, queer, regardless of skill level. Making our way through the braided art pieces and the candle lit tarot reading tent, NE was what I’d imagine Burning Man to be if confined to a warehouse, alcoholic drinks made with kombucha included.

I have yet to meet a pun I didn’t like. That being said, XXXplosionZZZ concluded the festival with a bang.

Of course I couldn’t write an entire post without mentioning putting birds on things, or rather, birds putting things on us. Spoiler alert: The following contains bird poop casualties. In September, a flock of swifts (see also: birds) prepare for their migration south and make a stop in Portland providing a month long, natural wonder that attracts some thousands of people to gather in the Chapman School yard to wine, dine, ooo and ahh over falcon fights and watch as the swifts gather to roost in their chimney. The short description: glorified bird watching.

I made the very brave choice to miss the season premiere of Glee for the chance to gather a huge group of my favorite queers and watch those crazy birds in action. I will admit that I was banking on the nature aspect of bird watching to bring all the ladies to the yard but the only lez action were my own very attractive friends and a number of older ladies, clearly taken, nearly falling over themselves when a falcon tried to pick off one of their little friends. I’d rate the dating potential a solid zilch, and the putting of anything on anyone was a friend of mine getting pooed on during the grand bird cyclone finally.

Please try not to worry about my missing Glee. I am a master at tracking down my shows and was able to enjoy all the glitter-bombing, pepperoni nipples and newly-street-clothes-bow-tie fetishes with the rest of you.

I rounded off an exceptionally diverse social month by going to see Lovers at the Doug Fir, one of the many wood-paneled music venues Portland has to offer. While I realize I am eons behind having only listened to the Lovers over the last year, Portland’s music scene has served as a crash course in all that is lez rock as we are lucky enough to live among members of The Gossip, The Butchies, Wild Flag as well as the Lovers. Needless to say, the show was caulk full of feelings and swaying and provided an excellent soundtrack to my own personal episode of The Dating Game, in my head.

Where bird-watching lacked in ladies, seeing the Lovers found me swimming in a sold out room of some new to me Portland ladies. I would definitely give the dating potential at least an eight. All that being said I, went home to my dog and watched the new Project Runway.

Next month, look forward to George Michael covers, Rebel Grrrls and Halloween in a city where costumes are already the norm. Get ready.

Find Erika on Twitter and Facebook and check back soon for another “Portland Scene.”

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