WORDS BY ISABELLE WATTENBERG
Attend a Daddy Issues dance party (and you should!) and you’ll be welcomed into an inclusive, come-as-you-are, decked-out space with music that you want to dance to and people you’ll want to meet and mingle with.
Daddy Issues was formed by two queer DJs, Tyler Copeland (DJ name: POUR HOMMES), and Peter Witrak (DJ name: Tender Ness). Copeland explains Daddy Issues arose from a desire to give older queer people a space to dance and be themselves. Too many venues, he said, tend to cater to younger people.
“I’m talking about queer men who were part of pioneering gay rights and lived through the AIDS epidemic,” he says. “Wanting to hear really great music and feeling sexy doesn’t go away at 50 or 65—or ever, really.”
The initial party—hosted at a friend’s rooftop and entirely self-funded by the pair—drew more than 350 people. It was the sign Copeland and Witrak needed to prove the community craved the type of space Daddy Issues was creating. Subsequent events have been held at BEAST BBQ, Conga Lounge, and the Eagle, and while the venues and décor may change, the events share a few key qualities.
Daddy Issues parties honor the strength and ingenuity of early queer culture. Their tea dances—afternoon dance parties—pay homage to the 1950s, when it was still illegal for men to dance with men and women with women. In those days, queer folks would organize so-called “tea dances,” which allowed for surreptitious dancing—and, in the event authorities arrived, they could quickly switch partners to create mixed-pair couples.
The organization strives to recognize and credit the Black queer artists who created the foundation of dance music and the foundation for many other types as well. To honor these founders, they bring in BIPOC and queer artists both locally and from other cities nationwide.
“Both Peter and I are just so passionate about the origins of dance music,” Copeland says. “Dance music stems from Black queer creators, and that doesn’t get enough spotlight or attention. Black queer creators, the pioneers of that time, created a sound that influences everything today.”
Another hallmark of Daddy Issues’ mission is a celebration of weirdness. The spaces they create welcome everyone—helping build community and recognize the beauty of individuality at the same time.
“I feel like there’s a universal truth amongst us queer people about feeling different than other people, especially as we’re queer and growing up,” Copeland says. “We really want to honor the weirdness of people, because that’s what makes life interesting. Uniqueness and individuality is what makes life interesting.”
To support this mission, Daddy Issues aims to keep events affordable, with options for those who need financial support, and requires no dress code. Even the leather party they’re throwing for Pride is leather-optional. The leather party takes a step further toward embodying this mission because it celebrates a community that is often ignored during Pride.
“We’re taking a stand on Saturday [June 24], going all-in on leather, which is not represented at Pride,” Copeland says. “While it’s not like you must be in leather to attend—it is the feeling and the essence: It’s San Francisco in the 1970s, THE STUD, that feeling of being at a place, and is a reference to that kind of queer establishment.”
Curious about attending? Here are Copeland’s tips:
- Wear whatever feels like you.
- If you’re not sure you can afford the cover fee, talk to Tyler and Peter—chances are, they can get you in.
- Bring a friend, or not! These events tend to bring interesting people who are easy to mingle and chat with.
- Dance, or not! While good music is guaranteed at every event, you can enjoy the sounds and the crowd without getting on the dance floor, and no one will bat an eyelash.
For Mari Navarro, the goth community is where they first found acceptance and celebration of weirdness and individuality. And when they came out in the early 2000s and were struggling to see themselves within the queer community, the goth scene continued to welcome and support them, embracing and representing a much-needed diversity in sexuality, creativity, and self-expression.
“The goth community was very accepting and I really enjoyed their approach to destroying the binary,” they say. “There were very diverse backgrounds, as opposed to what we all think, that everyone who’s goth is tall, thin, and white… A lot of the communities around me were very diverse, so goth, to me, was this introduction of being more open with your sexuality and how you presented yourself and I loved that.”
The other community Navarro is passionate about is the synthwave, new wave, and dark wave music scene, which they discovered growing up and living in Chicago. They made the move from dance party attendee to DJ after moving to Portland in 2010. When they moved to Minneapolis, Navarro noticed that CIS white men dominated the goth dance scene at the organizational and promotional level, despite the diversity of the crowd they catered to. So they introduced Gothess—an intentionally feminine name—in October of 2017.
“It’s amazing to see the audience reflect who I am,” they say. “Having people that are trans—me coming out as trans and nonbinary is a big deal, like that’s a journey of its own— and seeing that expressed in the platform is a big deal to help people come to these communities. And we can kind of lean on each other because it is still a wilderness out there…Gothess has really kind of become this advocacy powerhouse in the city, and I really do believe that it’s opened up the gates for a lot of people.”
In its current form, the Gothess Collective—composed of Navarro and a small group of DJs—is focused on building community. In particular, Navarro seeks out DJs—often those with little to no experience—who are already participating in and supporting the local goth scene, rather than finding established names to draw crowds. Navarro names Cristian Ybarra, Lea Reed, Bobbi Vaughan, and Jei Herald-Zamora as people who have really grown within the Gothess community and, in turned, helped it grow.
“A lot of it is just being patient and mentoring, and setting the ego aside, having a lot of humility and saying, ‘Hey I know this is my brand, but it’s not going to hurt me helping someone that really has a passion to try and do this,’” Navarro says. “A lot of people are very careful to craft their image and get the right people to just fit these slots so they can continue and there’s no growth in that, so you’re just kind of sustaining a superficial approach more than a communal approach.”
Following each event, the night’s DJs gather for a testimonial to share thoughts about how the event went and how they’re feeling.
“It’s really helped me grow a lot too, because you can only do so much on your own,” Navarro says. “I want to invest in the people who are supporting me as an artist—and that’s the way of creating that bridge to community.”
Eventually, Navarro hopes to own a brick-and-mortar space dedicated to BIPOC, trans, and queer events so that other groups can work with a venue and crew that have the experience to clearly see and accept these communities and their specific needs. Until that happens, Gothess continues as a monthly event, creating joy through the celebration of doom and gloom.
Curious about attending? Navarro’s info to feel in the know:
- Expect a little Madonna and plenty of New Wave—those are Navarro’s go-tos to get the crowd going.
- You don’t have to be goth to attend, you just have to accept people as they are. (But if you’re looking for inspiration, Navarro’s partner and fiancé Anna Brauch creates and sells leather fashions through her business Leather & Velvet.)
- Gothess also plans themed nights that invite an additional layer of creativity, including ’90s and nautical.
GRRRL SCOUT has been around for a decade, and while their audience and venues have changed, their mission remains the same: to provide a fun and safe space for queer people of all types, and represent the diversity of the community both in audience and on-stage performers.
The organization—co-founded by friends Kristen and Jack—debuted at the former Nomad World Pub and drew a crowd of 350, blowing away their expectations. As they’ve grown— events now typically host 500-650 attendees—they’ve found more venues and partners, focusing on safety and respect for audiences and performers.
“Finding a venue can be difficult,” they say via email. “Many venues don’t want to turn existing customers away by dedicating some of their offerings to the queer community. In contrast, several venues use our community as a profit-making model rather than a form of allyship.”
The group’s Pride Month events include a block party-style summer camp, featuring live music, DJs, and drag performances at the Hook and Ladder and a stoplight dance at the Fillmore where folks can dance and mingle and wear a color that represents their relationship status (green for single, red for taken, yellow for anything in between and beyond), if they so choose. The dress code at GRRRL SCOUT events is always open-ended.
“Come as yourself and in whatever makes you feel fabulous,” Kristen and Jack say. “How we present to the world is such a huge part of queer culture. We embrace that individuality and promote it.”
GRRRL SCOUT sees themselves as part of the young queer person’s journey, but they’re intentional about making spaces for all people–not the CIS white gay men that are often centered.
“The LGBTQIA+ umbrella is so vast,” they say. “People need a place to celebrate queer joy and be their authentic selves, especially in a place where they can see representation on stage and in the crowd.”
If you attend a GRRRL SCOUT party:
- Be prepared for a big crowd (of likeminded, accepting people!)
- Wear breathable fabrics and comfy shoes (so you can dance all night!)
- Be open and respectful to those around you and ask folks what their pronouns are if you aren’t sure.
Daddy Issues presents Warm Leatherette
The Eagle, 515 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis
Saturday, June 24
Tea Dance from 4-8pm DJs POUR HOMMES & fluidtranquility
Leather Dance Party from 8pm-2am DJs Dean Frisby, AFRO & Dazzle
Daddy Issues X Flip Phone
Pride Disco Block Party
The Butcher’s Tale, 1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
Sunday, June 25
$10 advance tickets
Gothess Presents: Burning Up Pride Kickoff
Friday, June 9
Mortimers, 2001 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis
10 PM-2 AM
Gothess Nautical Goth Theme Night
Friday, July 14
Hook and Ladder, 3010 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis
Hook and Ladder, 3010 Minnehaha Ave, Mpls
7 PM-1 AM
Fillmore, 525 N 5th St, Mpls
9:30 PM-2 AM