If the term “safe space” doesn’t sound sexy to you, allow us to introduce Daddy, a new(ish) queer variety show and dance night returning for its fifth incarnation at Icehouse on Thursday.
Founded by musician Brent Pennington and cartoonist, sexual health educator, and Fist You podcaster Archie Bongiovanni, the four-hour event bookends musical, burlesque, drag, literary, and performance art acts with DJs and booty-shaking. In addition to providing a platform for local LGBTQ+ performers, Daddy also raises money for local queer nonprofits like Reclaim, Navigate MN, and Cafe Southside through merch sales.
We asked Pennington and Bongiovanni about the elements that make Daddy such a blast – and have resulted in four previous sold-out shows.
City Pages: How did Daddy come to be?
Brent Pennington: My idea was to have a party called Daddy, but we [wanted it to be] a more subversive, more inclusive thing. I think that “daddy” is often thought of as something more with gay men.
Archie Bongiovanni: We loved the name. We liked the concept of “daddy” as taking care of each other and being sweet, but we wanted to get rid of any hyper-masculinity that is often tied to “daddy.” We worked really hard with who’s performing, who’s hosting the shows, the logo, and branding to make sure we got that across.
CP: Have you ever had a performer who was too risqué or in some other way controversial that you couldn’t let them perform in the show?
AB: No, at least not yet. We like to have the performers try to run their stuff with us first, if possible. Performers know that we try to be careful and considerate about cultural appropriation and telling stories that aren’t their own. We’re pretty good so far about finding folks that are aware and careful about that kind of thing. Otherwise, I don’t know what too risqué would be. [Laughs.]
BP: It’s a pretty sex-positive show. There is partial nudity with some of the performers, but they’re all experienced in that and know the guidelines around what they can and can’t do. We haven’t had anything be too much of a problem.
AB: One of the first things our MCs always emphasize is consent. That goes towards how we’re treating our performers and also each other in the audience.
BP: Our MC always starts the show with saying, “Consent is mandatory.” Especially in a dance floor environment, a lot of queer spaces don’t always feel like consent is emphasized and it doesn’t always feel welcoming to people.
CP: Fashion and makeup seem to be a big part of Daddy as well.
AB: I think everyone brings their best look.
BP: We’ll always see people posting selfies a day or two before, being like, “This is my look for Daddy.” Or they’ll enjoy going all out with style and fashion. We don’t have themes for it, but I would say a lot of people choose to dress up and bring a good look. It’s really fun.
AB: It creates a more comfortable space because everyone is so cool in their bodies and their presentation and their fashion. It makes you go, “Oh, next time I want to wear that leather piece that I have in the back of my closet.”
CP: What does Daddy do for the queer community that other events don’t? What need is it fulfilling?
AB: I think it’s filling the variety show [need]. You’re going to see a live band, you’re going to see performers, dance, DJs. The music is varied as well. It’s a nice mixed bag.
BP: What’s different about it is people may be going to see a band or they may be going to see a friend who’s DJing or they may just want to come to dance and they like to party, but it pulls from a lot of aspects of the community. It’s pretty unique... It can go from serious – there’s a lot of performances about vulnerability – and right after that, there might be a queer punk band playing. The mood shifts. It’s interesting how things that are so different can all share the same stage and be very cohesive at the same time.
AP: You get moved emotionally in a lot of different ways. You can watch an emotional performance of someone processing something hard and then you can sweat it out on the dance floor after.
CP: What are the elements of a “safe space” and how do you create them at Daddy?
AB: We try to emphasize that we create a safer space. No space is actually 100-percent safe. There’s only so much we can control. We emphasize consent.
BP: "Daddy Delegates" are there if anything comes up. If someone needs to talk to someone about a problem, if they don’t feel safe, if they have any issues with the venue, they can talk to them about it. They also are there to keep an eye out for people if they need help finding their friends or getting a ride home at the end of the night.
CP: How do you fund the show and pay the performers?
AB: That was a super important thing when we first started brainstorming. We were both like, “We don’t want anyone to perform for free,” so we made sure that the door covers the costs for all performers.
CP: Daddy also raises money for local queer non-profits. How do you do that?
AB: We sell handkerchiefs designed by Jared Maire and T-shirts designed by Tim Cronin.
BP: We’ve had a friend who helped us screen-print the shirts. Archie got Daddy condoms made.
AB: Our merchandise is also for sale at Smitten Kitten and b. Resale and the money from there also goes back to the nonprofits. We were able to raise about $500 for Reclaim and Café Southside. We’re still working with Navigate MN.
CP: Why was giving back to the community important as part of Daddy’s mission?
BP: We really like the idea of that merchandise going to help smaller, queer nonprofits that benefit the community and really need help. That’s a priority to us. That’s a way in which people can get fun merchandise to take with them but it also promotes the event in another way. It’s not money that we’re pocketing. It’s money that we’re able to give back.
When: 10 p.m. Thurs. Dec. 14