If Pride is considered gay New Year then WetSpot is the cuvee de prestige of champagnes. Created and hosted by Girl-ish Productions, co-founded by Maggie Haywood and Leigh James Brown, WetSpot intends to metaphorically and figuratively flood the three floors of the Argyle Bar & Grill with bubbles, balloons and super-soaker water guns July 26.
James Brown and Haywood were tired of the same old gay bar scene, but where could they go rather than the usual rainbow gravy train? Instead of sitting around complaining they took matters into their own hands. The result was Goin'Down at the Khyber, held in the spring of 2005. Approximately 75 patrons showed up, women mostly, and Girl-ish Productions began carving its place in the heart of Halifax.
"There is a pretty strong history of women-only dances in Halifax, which is great if that suits you, but it doesn't suit everyone," says Haywood. "It doesn't suit people who have close male friends, or women who identify as queer but date guys. It doesn't suit trans guys who feel strongly within the dyke community.
"We were looking for an alternative that was more inclusive."
Girl-ish Productions certainly lives up to its original mandate, as Haywood and James Brown have thrown more than 20 parties with various themes and seasons. The emphasis is more on the "ish" rather than the "girl," as their Halloween and Christmas holiday soirees are famous among the straight, queer, trans, bi, dyke, gay and lesbian community, but it's during Pride that everyone comes out of the woodwork.
"Pride is like gay New Year, right? Or Christmas, whatever," says Haywood. "People bring their husbands, girlfriends, whoever. Straight people want to celebrate pride, too."
"We want to make a comfortable environment for everyone," adds James Brown.
"We have lot of bars in the city and each bar has a certain style and there are a lot of people who don't do bars but want to go out, meet people and party. We've always thought of it as a place where people can go who have nowhere to go can come; it's completely comfortable and accepting."
WetSpot began as a pride party in 2005 with more than 250 drenched partiers on the patio of the former Stage 9. In the midst of their magic, Haywood and James Brown managed to find one another among the frenzy and the two caught a glimpse of what can actually materialize from a bitch session over a couple of drinks.
"It was exactly what we dreamt of," says James Brown. "The opportunity for people who have never met in a mainstream environment to get a chance to hang out together, there was a huge diversity of people under one roof."
"That's what Pride and WetSpot are all about," says Haywood. "I think the most noticeable thing is age. We've had people sneak in under-age, we've had people old enough to be our grandmothers, all shapes and sizes, and they are all partying in the same place. It's pretty amazing to be a part of."
Members of Halifax's Pink Velvet Burlesque often grace the girl-ish stage, since the troupe combines the valour aesthetic of vaudeville with satiric comedy and the ebullient flare of traditional cabaret. The cacophony that soundtracks their girlie variety show is inspired by post-World-War-II-era films, music and fashions, which proves to be both girl and 'ish.
Local poet Tanya Davis has found herself on the late-night stage and Toronto-based rapper Nolan Natasha has even made an appearance. But, "We really want to showcase talent in the community," says James Brown. "For the most part it's living room artists, people that don't normally perform in public or get the opportunity to, but they want to showcase what they can do. We'd really like to encourage more of this, people asking us to play."
As for the future, both Haywood and James Brown hope to keep Girl-ish going. They even toss around the idea of eventually opening their own venue---a bar, cafe or performance space that's flexible.
"It's just lacking in general, queer or not queer," says James Brown. "A transformative space---it's a matter of getting a solid space. It's a risky thing to do in this city, not only is there a turnover in people, there is a turnover in bars, especially in gay bars."
WetSpot, Saturday, July 26 at the Argyle, 1575 Argyle, 9pm, $12/$15.