Metro Weekly

How To Spend Your D.C. Pride Week On Rainbow Overdrive

Capital Pride 2023 is finally here, and we have all the perfect recommendations to keep your Pride soaring high.

2019 Pride – File Photo: Randy Shulman

The second weekend of June is when the tentpole events of Capital Pride annually occur. It’s also when the Nation’s Capital, a progressive, inclusive, and diverse city year-round, reaches Pride fever pitch. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists emerge to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

Yet a week out, there’s already a palpable Pride-affirming feeling in the air — a sentiment partly conveyed in this year’s Capital Pride theme, “Peace, Love, Revolution” — not to mention all the buildings, homes, streets, and sidewalks festooned and decked out in rainbow-centric decor. 

What follows is a selective rundown of Pride-related highlights starting this weekend and going through next, with links provided for more information. For all official events, visit www.capitalpride.org.

While not exclusively focused on Pride-related nightlife, a majority of the events and activities highlighted here do take place at area bars and nightclubs. And for good reason: Bars are the lifeblood of any LGBTQ community, and the birthplace of many notable, even revolutionary ideas and developments. None of them have been quite as revolutionary as New York’s Stonewall Inn, where in 1969, the push for gay rights and freedoms helped spark the LGBTQ movement.

More than 50 years later, even in a time of social media, bars and nightclubs are still a key gathering place for queer people. They play a critical role in helping to shape our identities and interests, as well as to meet others like us who become friends and partners — part of our chosen families.

All of that happens all of the time, all year round. Yet Pride is special, drawing more LGBTQ people out and about than pretty much any other event or occasion any given year, possibly excepting for New Year’s and Halloween. There is something more to be said about celebrating Pride in an LGBTQ venue — even if they’re not offering specific Pride specials or hosting special events for the occasion.

Still, there is something special about every last LGBTQ venue in town. That’s true for two of the city’s newest, The Little Gay Pub (1100 P St. NW, www.thelittlegaypub.com) in Shaw, which isn’t even three months old, and the As You Are Bar (500 8th St. SE, www.asyouaredc.com) in Barracks Row, which opened a little over a year ago. Neither seem to be doing much out of the ordinary for Pride, and that suits them just fine. They’re so new, they’re special, full stop.

Also refraining from any specific Pride celebrations, as far as we could discern, is Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St. S., Arlington, www.freddiesbeachbar.com), which appears to be sticking to its drag queen-heavy knitting — because that’s what makes them special.

If all you want for Pride from your favorite LGBTQ watering hole is to see new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 8 — well, your options every Friday night this month are Trade (1410 14th St. NW, www.tradebardc.com) with host Ve Vee Majesty, Number Nine (1435 P St. NW, www.numberninedc.com) with host KC B.YoncĂ©, and Dirty Goose (913 U St. NW, www.thedirtygoosedc.com) with co-hosts Tatianna and Crystal Edge. 

Pride moves into full swing starting Saturday, June 3, at Red Bear Brewing Co., which will host the Pride Kickoff Block Party, an all-afternoon bash on Red Bear’s patio focused on the brewery’s two new Pride beers — “Come Out and Slaaaaaaaay,” an American Wheat Ale with mango and papaya, and “Pride Pils,” the latter developed in collaboration with DC Brau.

That’s followed in the evening by Spectrum Pride Kickoff w/Ra’Jah O’Hara, featuring the Drag Race alum, along with host Desiree Dik plus regulars Blaq Dinamyte, Crystal Edge, and Elecktra Geel (6/3, Red Bear Brewing Co., 209 M St. NE, www.redbear.beer).

On Sunday, June 4, you can celebrate Pride with your canine companion if you both head down to Wunder Garten for District Dog’s Annual Pride Pawty, a fur-filled fundraiser for SMYAL (1101 1st St. NE, www.wundergartendc.com). 

A non-bar-related offering kicking off this weekend is the annual Proud Showcase at the Georgetown location of local retail mini-chain Shop Made in DC. A diverse assortment of artwork and crafts by 20 local LGBTQ-identified artists and makers will be showcased all month long in the store throughout June (1304 Wisconsin Ave. NW, www.shopmadeindc.com).

Consider starting your Capital Pride week with a visit to Kiki. The U Street LGBTQ club has put together a full slate of Pride events, yet surely the most entertaining programming of all is Monday’s Staff Drag Show. Held in conjunction with neighboring bar Dirty Goose, DJ Phil and Pirouette will host the turnabout show, and all tips will be donated to Trans Maryland (6/5, Kiki, 915 U St. NW, www.dcwannahaveakiki.com). 

The next evening ushers in the 18th Annual Pride Night OUT with the Washington Nationals. Thousands of local LGBTQ fans of the professional baseball team are expected at this event, a fundraiser for Team DC. Participants will wear an exclusive t-shirt so as to show their support for the Nats and for each other, as the Nats take on the Arizona Diamondbacks (6/6, Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, www.mlb.com). 

Also on Tuesday, June 6, Nellie’s Sports Bar presents a special Pride edition of Nellie’s Drag Bingo with hosts Sapphire Blue and Deja Diamond. This edition will be co-presented by Mosaic Theater Company, whose current stage production One in Two has been called “the perfect play to celebrate Pride month” (6/6, Nellie’s Sports Bar, 900 U St. NW, www.nelliessportsbar.com). 

Two other midweek attractions to consider are OUT Spoken: A Night of Queer Expression, an event featuring personal stories and poems read by a diverse lineup of voices, including cis- and trans-women (6/5, Busboys and Poets Brookland, 625 Monroe St. NE, www.busboysandpoets.com), and the return of Drag Race’s Lady Camden to Pitchers, for a free humpday performance. The show is hosted by Cake Pop! and Venus Valhalla and features Identity Crisis, Jasmine Clitopatra, and Maria Rose (6/7, Pitchers, 2317 18th St. NW, www.pitchersbardc.com).

On Thursday, June 8, Flash, the city’s best nightclub for true househeads as well as other club music connoisseurs, presents Victor Calderone, the Brooklyn native devoted to dark underground house who came to fame decades ago spinning for major gay events as well as for his own parties in New York that attracted a remarkably mixed gay/straight crowd (6/8, Flash, 645 Florida Ave. NW, www.flashdc.com).

Friday, June 9, brings two Pride Shabbat services. At the Edlavitch DCJCC, Bet Mishpachach, “DC’s LGBTQ+ Synagogue,” presents a service led by the organization’s Rabbi Jake Singer-Beilin — plus a “happy hour” drag performance and casual festive socializing known in Hebrew as an oneg courtesy of co-presenters GLOE, Nice Jewish Boys, and Nice Jewish Girls (6/9, Edlavitch DCJCC, 1529 16th St. NW, www.edcjcc.org).

Meanwhile, Rabbi Aaron and musician Aaron Shneyer are joined by DC’s Different Drummers for an inclusive service at Sixth and I including a sermon from Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, executive director of the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton Hillel (6/9, Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW, www.sixthandi.org).

On the eve of the parade, Friday, June 9, is Riot!, the Capital Pride Official Opening Party at Echostage. The rebellious dance party in name and spirit doubles as a showcase for local drag queens Pussy Noir, KC B. Yoncé, and JaxKnifeComplex, and national headliners Alaska Thunderfuck and Tatiana from RuPaul’s Drag Race, plus porn star Beaux Banks. DJs Ed Bailey, Lemz, and Honey, will take turns behind the decks (6/9, Echostage, 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, www.capitalpride.org/riot).

Also on Friday, the 9:30 Club hosts the 15th Anniversary Mixtape Pride Party. In addition to the retro-pop, nu-disco, and deep house tracks DJ Matt Bailer is sure to add to the mix, this year’s event will also feature sets of “eclectic pop” tunes from Khelan Bhatia, New Jack Swing From Diyanna Monet, and jungle soundscapes by Pwrpuff (6/9, 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW, www.930.com).

Finally, the new subterranean nightclub Bunker hosts porn star Diego Barros for a gear-encouraged, dungeon-esque DTF Pride Party with “sexy house music” by DJ Conner Curnick (6/9, Bunker,  2001 14th St. NW, www.bunkerdc.com).

Consider easing into Saturday, June 10, with a walk in homage to notable LGBTQ forebears, all of whom have been interred on Capitol Hill. The neighborhood’s Historic Congressional Cemetery is one of the only known cemeteries in the world with a dedicated LGBTQ section. The guided Pride LGBTQ+ Tour is led by docent Jeffrey Rollins (6/10, Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E St. SE, www.congressionalcemetery.org).

The Capital Pride Parade steps off at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 10, and won’t come to an end until the last contingent winds its way around the route starting a few blocks north of Logan Circle on 14th Street NW, then down and over to Dupont Circle before ending a few blocks to the west. Before, after, or during the parade, spectators are welcome to drop by the Capital Pride Block Party presented by and set up adjacent to JR.’s Bar (1519 17th St. NW, www.jrsbar-dc.com) with food and drink as well as live entertainment planned from noon until 10 p.m. (17th Street between P and Q Streets NW).

Cool off after the parade Saturday evening at the Capital Trans Pride Pool Party, a free event with cash bar for food and drinks set to start an hour before sunset atop Vida Fitness (Penthouse Pool Club & Lounge, 1612 U St. NW, www.capitalpride.org).

The Official Saturday Party is set to take place at a large industrial space in Brentwood. Presented in partnership with the promoters behind Flashy, Revolution features music by the veteran DJ duo Thunderpuss, known for an unmistakably crisp, melodic, and invigoratingly bombastic electronic style, that was ubiquitous 25 years ago, and produced monstrous club hits for Whitney, Madonna, Britney, and Amber, to name only four (6/10, WEG, 1235 W St. NE, www.capitalpride.org/revolution). 

Clubgoers can keep on dancing right into Sunday morning courtesy of two official back-to-back parties with all proceeds benefiting Capital Pride. Immediately after Revolution comes the weekend’s Official Afterhours Party, presented by the Cherry Fund at Flash. DJs Ana Paula from Brazil and Jesus Montañez from Mexico will keep the crowd jumping and moving all around the Shaw venue’s main floor until 9 a.m. Sunday morning (6/11, Flash, 645 Florida Ave. NW, www.cherrydc.com).

Meanwhile, there’s also Kinetic Pride 2023, a lineup of four parties around town with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Capital Pride Alliance. It’s Saturday’s climactic, penultimate “Candyland” that offers the most widespread appeal, featuring veteran mixmaster extraordinaire Tom Stephan and a special performance by Betty Who, the pop starlet with a large and loyal following of D.C. gays (6/10, Echostage, 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, www.kineticpresents.com).

Consider ending the weekend with a stop at Green Lantern. The downtown LGBTQ fixture will send off Capital Pride with Decades of Divas: Pride Finale Dance Party, organized and spun by veteran retro-pop expert DJ Jason Royce. Viva la divas! (6/11, Green Lantern, 1335 Green Ct. NW, www.greenlanterndc.com). 

For more information and a complete list of events associated with Capital Pride, visit www.capitalpride.org.

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