Ivy Riot! Pride Month series gives center stage to the queer musicians & community

  • by JL Odom
  • Tuesday May 28, 2024
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The Ivy Room marqee; DJ Christina C. Villanueva, Mya Byrne, Commando
The Ivy Room marqee; DJ Christina C. Villanueva, Mya Byrne, Commando

Pride Month is nearing, with myriad dance parties, drag performances and social gatherings soon getting underway at queer venues in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area. In the East Bay, the owners of The Ivy Room are going above and beyond, hosting an unprecedented 19 Pride events, all within a relatively short period of time.

Summer Jager and Lani Torres, co-owners of The Ivy Room in Albany, created Ivy Riot!, a month-long LGBTQ series featuring live music, workshops, panels, resources, performances and dancing, all in celebration of Pride and the queer community.

"We're really proud of this. I think it's a great series, and I hope people love it," said Torres in a Zoom video interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

Ivy Room owners Summer Jager and Lani Torres  

Safe space
The series, the name a nod to both the venue itself and the historic 1969 Stonewall Riots, started on Monday, May 20, with the Portland, Oregon-based indie rock band Glitterfox kicking things off on the Ivy Room stage. It runs throughout June, with the final show featuring indie singer-songwriter Joh Chase, along with Katie Cash and Brittany Ann Tranbaugh, happening on Friday, July 5.

"As a queer and women-owned music venue in the East Bay, we are very passionate about trying to give back to our community," said Jager in the Zoom video call with B.A.R.

For Jager and longtime friend Torres, ensuring a safe space for the local LGBTQ community has been a key component of The Ivy Room, which they've owned since 2015. Their aim for such a space carried over into their conceptualization of the Ivy Riot! series.

"We knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to somehow, in some way, help and provide a space and become a vessel for developing creative ways of healing and support and education for our community," said Jager, who is a lesbian.

The next step was to obtain funding for Ivy Riot! to bring it to fruition. In 2023, she and Torres applied for, and were awarded, a "Music in Action" grant from the Live Music Society, a nonprofit founded in 2020 that supports small music venues in the United States.

LVS's acceptance of their grant application, and the money they were subsequently awarded meant that they could put together the "huge celebration" they had proposed, said Torres, who is queer and a lesbian.

"I think that's what was really great about making this decision. It was like, 'Well, we're getting this money, and, at the same time, we get to funnel it into hiring our community' ... and it really does feel good to double down on that," she shared.

From there, Torres and Jager reached out to bands' and musicians' agents to see who was available for Ivy Riot!, a feat in and of itself in that Pride Month is a busy time for queer performers.


"We just slowly started putting feelers out, and it actually wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. We thought, 'Great! We're in the queer community, we have all these connections, these are our friends, and realized that June is a big month for our community," said Torres, a former band member herself and The Ivy Room's talent buyer.

Going Commando
She and Jager still managed to put together an impressive live music lineup for Ivy Riot!, including the gay nü metal band Commando, whose members include Juba Kalamka of the homo-hop group Deep Dickollective; Lynn Breedlove, former member of the San Francisco queercore band Tribe 8; and Honey Mahogany, director of the SF Trans Initiatives Office, with the Oakland-based post-punk band Boyswitch opening the Saturday, June 15 show.

Also in the Ivy Riot! schedule of events are the Los Angeles-based synth-pop band Male Tears (June 1); Oakland-based EDM DJ and producer Bored Lord (June 14); Thelma and the Sleaze, a rock band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee (June 19); singer-songwriter Mya Byrne, a former Bay Area resident who now divides her time between Nashville and New York (June 23); Oakland-based indie rocker Sarah Coolidge (June 26); and the rock band Skip the Needle, featuring Bay Area veteran musicians Shelley Doty, Kofy Brown, Katie Cash and Vicki Randle (June 29).

On June 22, Team Dresch, the punk/queercore band behind the 1990s albums "Personal Best" (1995) and "Captain My Captain" (1996) is playing a sold-out show with Oceanator, The Homobiles (featuring Breedlove) and a DJ set from Allison Wolfe, founding member and lead singer of the punk rock band Bratmobile.

Thelma and the Sleaze  

"I kind of just made a wish list of bands, with Team Dresch being one of them at the top of it. We've actually had them at The Ivy Room before, but with this particular series, they were so perfect for it, as are the other bands and artists," said Torres.

Other events
Other live music events include "Pillow Talk: Music and Community Building with Songwriters of the East Bay" (May 28), featuring performances and a panel discussion with six queer Bay Area songwriters; "Bang the Bay!" (June 4) featuring Doubleplus Alright, The Cramp-ons and Everything But The Everything; and "Blenderfest" (June 7) with Paradise Blossom, Cardboard People and Pocket Full of Crumbs.

Music will also be emanating through the Ivy Room's speakers for two dance-themed events: "POPPERZ," a BIPOC queer femme and trans-centered party showcasing several Bay Area DJs on June 21 and "Queer Prom: Pride Edition," with queer burlesque and cabaret performances, on June 27.

There's a comedy night in the Ivy Riot! lineup as well, with stand-up comic Irene Tu performing a sold-out show on June 8.

Mya Byrne  

As Jager said, "We were extremely ambitious, and it was kind of a really huge undertaking. We could have easily just done a weekend thing, but we felt like it had to be a full-month event."

The series also includes a few "QT" empowerment panels and workshops that center on the well-being of queer and trans individuals.

Torres said, "One of the things we thought was, 'What can we do besides music? We do music; we've been a space, a safe space, for our community. How can we double down and do something more?'"

"We decided to do all these workshops that I think are as important as live music and creating a safe space for our community," explained Jager.

There's a "QT Self-Defense Workshop" on Saturday, June 1 led by Cha Apostol, a self-defense trainer and the owner and head coach of Misfit Combat, a gym based in Emeryville; a "Decolonizing Mental Health" panel on Saturday, June 8; and the "Mutual Aid Panel & Volunteer Fair" on Saturday, June 22 featuring East Bay community-supporting organizations such as Berkeley NEED, CALMA and the Oakland Tenants Union. These panels and workshops, scheduled in the afternoon, are free to attend but require an R.S.V.P.

"Some of the classes, the queer self-defense class or mental health, are things that our community needs that are more than just a safe, fun space," said Torres.

DJ Christina C. Villanueva (photo: Deja Whitney)  

Expanding network
She and Jager enlisted the help of Oakland-based Christina Villanueva, aka Hot Goth GF, in setting up the QT panels and workshops and some of the shows.

Villanueva, queer, books femme and queer artists in venues in the Bay Area, is the curator and host of the radio show Hot Goth GF Radio and is a DJ. She'll be DJing at a couple of the Ivy Riot! events.

"[Villanueva's] very much where we were when we were her age, which is really great to have somebody who's just in it, doesn't have children and other things going on. She's just a wealth of knowledge for a lot of the stuff that we just don't have our finger on the pulse of as we did when we were 22," said Torres.

"She facilitated all these with working with that community that she had a lot of connections with, which was great. For The Ivy Room, it was good that we brought her in so we could expand our network a little bit and create a home for the community in the month of June," Jager added.

In an email to B.A.R., Villanueva, who is queer, expressed enthusiasm about her involvement in Ivy Riot!: "I'm so thrilled to help bring gay goth bands, local trans DJs, and nonbinary BIPOC artists and performers to the Ivy Riot! show lineup, and so proud to curate the QT Power Panel workshop series."

She also conveyed her appreciation of Jager and Torres, describing them as "queer role models in nightlife."

Joh Chase  

"I can't wait to see this series come to life and I'm so inspired by Summer and Lani for everything they're doing to hold down queer spaces in the East Bay," she said.

From the grant writing to the confirmation of performers, events and dates, Jager and Torres' many months of Ivy Riot! planning and efforts have paid off, as the series is now officially off and running.

Said Torres, "It's been fun; slightly stressful, too, but as anything is when you start something new, right? To announce it was so exciting because it's like building this thing. It's like opening up a business. It's not always easy, but it's great to get to the other side and see all the work that you've done."

She and Jager anticipate the series having a positive impact on the queer community.

"I'm looking forward to seeing everybody out at all the shows and the panels, and I hope that somebody finds something that they're interested in. We really just put our heart and soul behind this," said Torres.

The Ivy Room, 860 San Pablo Ave., Albany. www.ivyroom.com

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