GAY FAVES 2015: Nightlife
Nashville nightlife is as diverse as this up-and-coming city’s growing populace. Nashville was once known mostly for its neon-signed honky tonks, but the city has so much more to offer, from downtown dance clubs to the hip bars of East Nashville.
Nashville’s LGBT nightlife is equally diverse: on Church Street alone one can find watering holes as diverse as Tribe, Play, Canvas, and Blue Gene’s, while Stirrup and Traxx anchor a mini-gayborhood, and Lipstick Lounge and Mad Donna’s are staples of East Nashville.
Nashville has also progressed to the point where the “LGBT scene” isn’t confined to LGBT establishments. Three Crow Bar and Beyond the Edge welcome a significant LGBT clientele, while venues as diverse as Ibiza Night Club and The Stone Fox hold themed events appealing to LGBT patrons. My, how far we have come!
Bartender – Timmy Harkum (Stirrup)
This year was one for the books! One bar, Stirrup, which is far outside the Church Street gayborhood (being located out near the Fairgrounds), was the home to ALL three finalists for GayFaves Best Bartender! This year’s winner, Timmy Harkum, also happens to be the owner of Stirrup.
Harkum has been slinging drinks for Nashville’s LGBT community for over fifteen years. After the restaurant chain he worked for went out of business, Harkum began working at Illusions on Donelson Pike. “It was only gonna be temporary, but that was fifteen years ago. I guess I am still looking for a real job!”
Harkum is rightfully proud of his bar’s non-pretentious atmosphere and diverse clientele, which ranges from guys in suits on their way home from work to the t-shirt-and-jeans crowd. And slowly but surely he’s cooking up a new surprise for LGBT Nashville, as he’s recently started work developing a property just across the street into a new venue! Look for more information in the coming months.
Place to Dance – Play Dance Bar
Play Dance Bar is simply THE place to dance, according to the LGBT community, as they again top the charts in this category by a wide margin. Surely there are a number of reasons for this—including a great bar staff, top notch entertainers, and a group of DJs capable of keeping bodies moving until 2:45 a.m. even on a work or school night. Yes, school night: there aren’t many 18-and-up dance bars left, and that’s a big draw for the local college crowd, including a ton of straight people. With its special guests (like Pearl & Sharon Needles), and its popular party nights (like paint and foam parties, as well as its Student Bodies competition), Play Dance Bar will remain an anchor for LGBT nightlife in Nashville for years to come. (Photo: Julius Greene)
Disk Jockey – Deejay Phil
He takes it again! We’ve said it before, but it seems this master of mixing who can spin no wrong in the eyes of Nashville!
This veteran has twenty-six years of deejaying under his belt. “My first major deejaying gig was in the early 90's at 176 Underground down on 2nd Avenue,” he said. “I deejayed two popular 80's nights and a 70's disco night. My second major gig was spinning at The Chute. After that I decided I was done with deejaying, until David Taylor called me and asked me to work at Tribe. When Play opened, Todd Roman asked me to join the team and I spun there opening night. I worked at Tower Records for seventeen years, and when they closed, the Tribe/Play team was kind enough to make me full-time and I started deejaying the drag shows. So, a part-time hobby eventually became a full-time career!”
“My sets always have a lot of classic music,” Deejay Phil said, “because I think that strikes an emotional chord with people. Currently, I am delighted that the trend of 80's and 90's house music is becoming popular again. It's timeless, feel-good music that everyone can dance to. However, I also like it when the crowd steers me too. You have to really listen and not be afraid to play something you might not like. It keeps a good deejay on their toes and therefore, makes them good at their job.” (Photo: Sid Niazi)
Drag Queen – Kitty Kincaid
Miss Kitty Kincaid took top honors in this heavily-contested category. Some of you may not know of Kitty’s work, but those who do know her clearly love her! For the last eight years, she has been the hostess of Nashville’s Gospel Night drag show, currently held at Play Dance Bar on the first Sunday of the month at 8 p.m.
Kitty has been dragging it up for a long time, but she hasn’t always been so keen to perform on stage, she said. “I went dressed in drag at Halloween years ago, and I was dared to enter a pageant after that, about two weeks later. I lost by one point, and I was kind of bitten by the drag bug. But I didn’t like performing at the time, I just enjoyed going out but a few years later I tried it again.”
Gospel was a passion for Kitty long before drag. “I’ve always been a lover of gospel. I performed it as a piano player in my teens and twenties—on the road actually—and when I found out they had a gospel show at the Chute, I went to check it out. Someone who had seen me on the road recognized me, and he told the show director about me. He asked me to perform, but I was afraid I would fail, so I went to Atlanta where no one knew me! I ended up on cast there. It was a couple of years later that I came back to Nashville to join the cast here. and got on their cast. After a couple of years, I came back to do it in Nashville.” The rest is history.
Drag King – Leo O’Rion
This year’s favorite drag king, Leo O’Rion, has quickly become a fan favorite at Play Dance Bar, where he got his start. “Seeing shows at Play and being encouraged by fellow drag kings, I performed for my first time ever on the Ladies’ Night cast audition night almost three years ago.”
Play was a very nourishing environment for the young performer. While learning how to perform, a big influence was fellow Play drag king, Eazy Love,” O’Rion said. “I have been tremendously helped by my family at Play—the cast of kings, the Glam Squad, and the Playmates.”
O’Rion’s dance style is hiphop. “I can be seen performing Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Bruno Mars, and Michael Jackson,” he said. “In the future, I see myself performing more of my new favorite artist, MAX.”
Happy Hour – Tribe
For another year, Tribe has taken this category! With deals as generous as $5.00 top shelf drinks from 5–8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, $7.00 Coors Light pitchers and $5.00 Long Islands during Show Tunes on Sundays, and a famous Wednesday special featuring $2 Smirnoff, $3 Smirnoff Flavors, and $4 well drinks, Tribe has won over Nashville’s LGBT patrons looking for a place to enjoy drinks with friends at a great value. Tribe remains the place to go when you need a brief vacation from the stress of life.
Overall Bar – Lipstick Lounge
After two years of barely tailing Tribe for Best Overall Bar, Lipstick Lounge, one of East Nashville’s favorite neighborhood establishments (featured on page 14), has unseated the former champ. Boasting a homey atmosphere, an established bar staff, nightly karaoke, and theme nights including Trivia Tuesdays and Cards Against Humanity Wednesdays, Lipstick has something to offer almost everyone.
NonGay Bar — Beyond The Edge
Beyond the Edge is a popular locally owned sports themed bar in the Five Points area of East Nashville. Beyond the edge features a whopping 125 beers—twenty-five of which are on tap—and carries all the major sports channels on twenty-five HD TVs. For those in need of more first-person entertainment, the bar has darts, Golden Tee, and Buzztime trivia. The bar’s daily two-for-one drink specials and popular wings are perennial draws as well, with at least one reviewer saying that they serve, “The best bar food in 5 Points”!
Meet (Stirrup’s other) Best Bartender Contenders
“I originally started bartending to pay for college,” Warner said. “I've been doing it on and off for 17 years.” He says the Stirrup’s clients love the bar because, “It's a home away from home. I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcomed. It's not always an easy job but if it happens we all have a great time.”
Asked whether he has favorite customers, Warner said coyly, “Anyone with a good attitude is my kind of customer. As far as favorites, you can't ask someone that works for tips to pick a favorite! I do however have a Top 5 list and they know who they are!” When it comes to drinks though, he is happy to name his favorites! “My favorite drink to make would have to be single liquor shots! Gets the job done! Personally I'm a Jack and coke, or a beer and a shot, kind of guy. I like my drinks like I like my men: No nonsense!”
Asked whether there is anything else he’d like to do, if he wasn’t a bartender, he joked, “If I had to choose another line of work mortuary would be the top of my list. The clientele is quiet and nobody plays any Prince songs at funerals. No offense to Prince but I think he has sponsored happy hour for the last two years.”
Benji Brown may be one of the worst cooks in America—no, that’s not shade, that’s a certified fact—but he is one of the most popular LGBT bartenders in Nashville! Seriously, Brown competed on Worst Cooks in America and was *notably poor* in his performance. He says to this day his favorite thing to cook is Jello shots, and that “McDonalds pretty much cooks my meals for me!”
Brown got his start at Applebee’s, which does nothing to help his reputation in the kitchen, but, “Years later, I still bartend because it's great money, I love meeting new people, and I enjoy being able to wear whatever I want to wear to work!”
As a bartender he can enjoy the easy way out, just popping open a can of beer for a customer, Brown also likes “mixing up a drink called a ‘Walk the Plank.’ It's a fruity cocktail that has a splash of Bacardi 151... So it will make your clothes fall right off!” For himself, he enjoys a simple Makers on the rocks or “a shot (or 10) of Jägermeister. That always makes me feel super manly.”
As for his customers, he enjoys, “Anyone with a good attitude who is actually old enough to get a drink! Being 21 is very important! I really enjoy meeting anyone from out of town. I always appreciate hearing about other bars and events in different cities around the country. I personally don't have a favorite customer... Typically if you are fun, spend a good amount of money and tip fairly, you will be my favorite customer for that brief moment in time. Gotta love everyone!”
He says the funniest thing that has ever happened to him at Stirrup involved fellow competitor Brody Warner. “A few years ago, when I met Brody for the first time, he told myself and my boyfriend Andy that he got paid to strip out on our patio on Friday and Saturday nights. He may have been a little drunk... I'm unsure, however, he claims that never happened. Now he is one of my best friends, but sadly I never did come to see him strip on the patio.”