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Celebrating my Decade +1 Anniversary of producing events at the World Famous Kenton Club

I threw my first dance party in Portland back in 2005 at Sloan's Tavern (RIP), but my official career as a Portland party producer was launched in 2011 at a now defunct bar called Tonic. Then Saratoga (RIP). Then it was back to Sloans, then to the Spare Room, then to Foggy Notion (RIP), and back to Spare Room. 

In 2013 I finally found the courage to present a "crazy idea" to the booker at what would become my HOMEbase, the Kenton Club. A queer dance party featuring classic country music.  

At that time the Kenton Club had a reputation as a rugged, punk rock/honky tonk dive bar with a primarily non-queer clientele. Quite frankly, I found it to be a little uncomfortable to be there as a queer person, though some of that can be attributed to my own assumptions based on certain visuals.

However, what Kenton Club was once perceived to lack in cultural sensitivity, it fully made up for in being an authentic VINTAGE venue dating back to 1947 that has one of the best dance floors in town.  I wanted a venue that felt like stepping back in time to allow my party guests to have an immersive experience that matched the music I spin. Kenton Club is that place.

At the time, I was seeking a venue that was "Old Portland" gritty, but not too grimy.

What is Old Portland? It's loosely defined as the pre-gentrification era. Willamette Week recently defined "Old Portland" as 1985 early 2011. The culture of Portland during that era was a mixed bag of a cultural renaissance, broken dreams, people insisting that they were "weird," and resourceful DIYers living on clouds of hope they fashioned from materials foraged from free boxes and dumpster dives. This contradiction was deeply intriguing to me when I followed love to live here in 2005.

Back then, despite Portland being an "affordable" city, low-paying jobs meant it was difficult to make ends meet.  A city is not affordable if the jobs don't pay enough (and there aren't enough of them to go around). It was still a tough town in 2011 as I began regularly producing dance parties. As gentrification pushes the cost of living to the high heavens, it still is a tough town for those who don't have the resources and connections to rise above.

Just to be clear, I can't fault people for moving to a more affordable city. However, it inevitably erases much of what had naturally evolved here for decades, aka the stuff that people loved about Portland in the first place. Portland did and does need improvement regarding inequities and discrimination.  Also true is there were many positive aspects of the Old Portland scene worth trying to preserve, and I wanted to help.  

With my events, I wanted to be a bridge for "Old Portland" and the new people moving here.  That way I can help the new folks develop an appreciation for what I love about Portland and help to keep those things alive through the transition.

Anyways, getting back to 2013, I never expected to do more than a handful of events at the Kenton Club.  11 years and 70ish events later, I dare say I've become ingrained into the Redwood walls (or perhaps they're ingrained in me). And the Kenton Club has become one of the most popular places for LGBTQs to dance in this town, while still maintaining it's original rough and tumble atmosphere and lovable clientele.

 It is unusual for a DJ/Party Producer to have a residency of this length at the same venue and still have people showing up in support.  Even more rare for it to be a woman. Women endure so much scrutiny and harassment in the nightlife industry as well as the music industry. I'm deeply proud of the fact that I am STILL doing this during all of the challenges. 

DJs/dance party producers aren't typically the "creatives" who are given credit for contributing to their communities in a meaningful way, and yet we're here to try to lift our people up during the most devastating times while also assisting you in celebrating your most joyous occasions.  We're here trying to bring our people together when so many forces are trying to tear us apart.

When people from the future look back at this time they're likely to read news pieces and pour over prose to learn about the history of these times in Portland, Oregon.  But if you want to see what was going on in a segment of this town and how we addressed our times, take a look at my event posters.

Here is the one at the cusp of the 2016 election

Here is the one responding to the election results.

Here is the one for the first event after the complete COVID shutdown

And here is an outdoor event I had to cancel because of the ongoing extreme heat and/or forest fire smoke, or was it extreme rain? There were so many extremes.

Here is the one for the week-long outdoor holiday light and music event I produced in an effort to cheer people up after we all realized the vaccines didn't work as well as we thought.

And here is another outdoor party that had to be postponed due to some kind of annoying factor that kept events struggling.

Return of Club Nitty Gritty Soul Dance Party Poster, World Famous Kenton Club, DJ Action Slacks, Vintage Vinyl DJ

And FINALLY, here is the first indoor event I was able to throw after COVID began. It was Oct in 2022!

And just for kicks, here is that time John Cameron Mitchell came to DJ with me at the Kenton Club and also memorialize Aretha Franklin a couple of days after she passed-

and so on...

As with many/most others, especially marginalized people, this past decade has been culturally, emotionally, and financially BRUTAL for me. I would be lying if I said that throwing these events hasn't been extremely challenging and even excruciating at times (most especially directly after the Pulse Night Club incident and during the first two years of Covid.  Well, actually, from 2016 to 2022.)  I'm proud to have hung in here, and I'm thankful to the Kenton Club for hanging in here with me and allowing me to pretty much do whatever I want.

My Kenton Club dance parties are not only an attempt to foster greater appreciation for the music and musicians I love.  I hope my events encourage us to bind together as a community (particularly the queer community) and support each other as we recoil from societal backlash. We gather together with our allies to recharge our souls, and rebuild our courage to simply be ourselves in the face of very real physical threats.

Yes, I'm proud of my 70ish Kenton Club events (and my 60ish events at other venues). I'm still here celebrating all kinds of vintage music WELL beyond classic country, and I have a community of vintage music-loving dancers to thank for it.  So, thank you Portland for going on this strange and glorious journey with me!

And here is what 11 years of my Kenton Club dance parties looks like in event posters (except to the two most recent)

And here are a few images of my Kenton Club events and the decorations I've made

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