A Dozen Venues That Must Be Kept Alive
By Sydney Miller, Associate Editor
Live music. I miss it. You miss it. Artists definitely miss it. Possibly most of all, the people who run venues miss it. The folks who run queer-friendly, country-friendly performance spaces are most definitely not in it for the money. They do it for love, and right now they’re looking down the barrel of a serious crisis.
We found a dozen of the worthiest queer country venues, and if you want to take in live music during the After Times, we gotta keep these gathering places alive.
(Full disclosure: that headline is clickbait: we love ALL queer country venues, these are just the ones we know about. So if we missed your favorite spot, contact us and we’ll be sure to shout them out.)
Branded Saloon (Brooklyn, NY)
Branded Saloon is nestled in Brooklyn and proudly serves the queer community in NYC, as well as “artists from all walks of life and visitors from around the world.” It’s also the site of Karen Pittelman’s (Karen and the Sorrows) “Queer Country Quarterly” series, although that, too, has been interrupted by the pandemic.
Jalopy Theatre (Brooklyn, NY)
The Jalopy Theatre, another Brooklyn venue, is working hard to support artists through the pandemic by coordinating live streamed shows until they can get back to real shows. In their words, they want people to “STAY THE FOLK HOME!”
Union Hall (Brooklyn, NY)
Another Brooklyn-based venue, Union Hall is the perfect place for an intimate live show. It’s a “5,000 square foot bar, restaurant, and live music and comedy venue in the heart of Park Slope” that was converted from a warehouse. It has fireplaces, a library, and not one, but two indoor bocce courts. They’re currently open for outdoor seated dining. Make sure you check them out so that once the vaccine hits, you can head on inside.
Hideout (Chicago, IL)
You make remember the Hideout from our Cosmic Country Halloween Show collaboration with them. They didn’t choose the name Hideout, it chose them. It’s “a regular guy bar for irregular folks who just don’t fit in, or just don’t want to fit in.” They’ve got a ton of online residencies lined up for these cold winter nights, and you don’t have to live in Chicago to appreciate these performances.
Cactus Club (Milwaukee, WI)
The Cactus Club definitely has the coolest name of any of these ventures, and the coolest club rules. On the front page of their website, they state: “No sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no transphobia, no fatphobia, no hatefulness.” Make sure to check out their live radio shows during the next couple months so their safe space can keep on keeping on.
The Pinhook (Durham, NC)
I think their website says it best: “We are here to party and amplify marginalized voices in our Durham community.” They’re hosting some dope radio shows and a virtual drag show so they can “stay queer as hell and support grassroots movements” during the pandemic.
The Warming House (Minneapolis, MN)
The Warming House‘s lease was a casualty of the coronavirus. But even though they’ve had to move out of their building, they’re looking for a new spot. And they’re continuing to host virtual community events and open mics, because not even COVID can kill our creativity.
The Back Door (Bloomington, IN)
The Back Door is “Bloomington’s only dedicated LGBTQIA+ space.” They aim to promote Queer Liberation through community building, mutual aid, performance, revelry and dance — although right now that looks more like Zoom karaoke for them.
The Ivy Room (Albany, CA)
An all-inclusive, women-owned venue, the Ivy Room is a “special home for the LGBTQ+ community” that helps showcase all kinds of artists in and around the Bay Area.
The Lost Church (San Francisco and Santa Rosa, CA)
The Lost Church is an organization that supports the creation of new and innovative live music venues. They’ll turn anything into a place that can sustain live music, from the back of a restaurant to a portable circus tent. Their flexibility and innovative thinking is just what live music venues need during these difficult times.
The Bourbon Theatre (Lincoln, NE)
The Bourbon Theater in Lincoln is a great medium-sized venue that unfortunately hasn’t been able to do any livestream performances. But in the After Times, you should definitely check it out if you’re looking for great music and a fun, welcoming environment: their FAQ page states that “unwelcome remarks about gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, physical appearance, body size, age, race, or religion will not be tolerated.”
El Rio (San Francisco, CA)
El Rio is one of the oldest queer music venues in the country. Founded in 1978, they are an “LGBTQ+ space that is welcoming to all good people.” They also hosted the West Coast version of Queer Country Quarterly and can’t wait to get back to creating a welcoming and roof-raising environment for Bay Area queers.