D.C. nightlife has changed for the better, and at a warp pace in recent years, says Shea Van Horn. “I love the speed with which the city is evolving and adding [in terms of] the number and diversity of performers,” says Van Horn, who performs under the drag alter-ego Summer Camp. “I see many more drag kings sharing stages with drag queens. I see trans performers onstage. There is a totally different dynamic [than] 20 years ago, when just saying you’re a drag queen made people take pause.”
These days, drag and drag performers are the chief attraction at nearly every LGBTQ-geared event in town. So it is with Bent, the 9:30 Club’s immensely popular, quarterly LGBTQ party. This weekend, Bent will lean into its second year with a headline performance from Summer Camp. “It will certainly be the biggest thing I’ve done in years,” Van Horn says. “I want to deliver something great. I want to fill the stage with energy.” He’s done that on other occasions, of course, albeit as a DJ with Matt Bailer for Mixtape, the party that was a precursor to Bent.
“I’m so happy [Summer Camp is] back,” says Steve Lemmerman, the party’s lead producer and head DJ under the alias Lemz. “And to bridge the gap with Mixtape, it just feels like a natural progression to have Summer. She’s so outrageous and wonderful.” Also reporting for Bent duty is drag queen Baby and drag king Majic Dyke, both from Baltimore. The show will be hosted by local drag sensation Pussy Noir.
Each Bent in 2020 will be guided by a particular theme — and a different decade. First up is “Ringing in the Raging ’20s,” which Lemmerman describes as “a celebration of both going into a new decade, and a throwback to the last ’20s [a century ago], so we’re going to have some fun with retro-futurism.” There will also be nods to The Great Gatsby in terms of decor and music. The party’s DJs — Sean Morris, Lemz Vs. Tezrah, Baronhawk Poitier, and DJ L Stackz — will likely spin a few new “future” dance tracks mixed in with older “pop favorites.” Even more enticing, Lemz says to expect “bouts of electro-swing,” referring to a modern jazzy electronic genre with vintage flair that he calls “perfect for the party.”
The new year also ushers in other, largely cosmetic, changes, from removing the stage curtains to installing 32 new lighting devices to give “a bit more of a wilder light show.”
What hasn’t changed? “It’s still the same people putting it together that put together the first season.” Lemz praises his “amazing team of collaborators…a talented group that all give great input and help push this party into something new.” Of course, he’s still awed by the party’s success last year, when all four editions sold out. “I truly am floored by the love that D.C. has shown for this party. It’s such a dream to do it.”
Bent: Ringing in the Raging ’20s is Saturday, Jan. 4, at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. Doors at 10 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 202-265-0930 or visit www.930.com.