Go to a drag show at The Grog Shop—they are far from a drag

TJ Disabato, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Sept. 4, a couple friends and I had the pleasure of going to our first drag show, “Songbirds & Sirens” put on by GlamGore, at The Grog Shop in Coventry. Heading into the event, feelings of ambivalence, excitement and nervousness washed over me and only intensified once I walked through the main doors. As someone typically far more introverted than extroverted, I was taken aback by the loud music and bright lights. This was not only my first time going to a drag show, but it felt like my first time going to a party, and it was definitely my first time going to a social gathering since before the pandemic started. I knew my social skills, or lack thereof, would be put to the test. However, I also knew that during the past year of remote activities I was always telling myself that I would take advantage of gatherings once they were back in-person, so I took a leap of faith and decided to have a good time.

Unfortunately, I don’t turn 21 for another month, and without a fake ID I got marked with an “L” on both my hands (for “lame” I’m assuming). Before I even entered the building, I saw some performers getting ready outside, taking pictures and sharing drinks. It felt ethereal, like a beautiful painting that I wasn’t supposed to bear witness to. After giving the bouncer my name and ID, I was welcomed with a cacophony of noise, bright lights and even more colorful outfits. I planned on sticking with my posse, as I knew any attempt at outside social interaction may prove futile, but after seeing some people from Case Western Reserve University there, I felt more at ease. After quickly downing a couple of small cups of Coca Cola in the frigid AC, I shuffled with my clique closer towards the stage. 

The master of ceremonies for the event was Anhedonia Delight, a beautifully dressed queen who kept the crowd laughing through the entirety of the event with her sharp wit and crass humor. The other performers at the event were Kaydence Jayne, Mona Lotz, Maelstrom West and the special guest from Dallas, May May Graves. Compared to the performers and many of the other people in the crowd, I felt extremely underdressed, although my shirt featuring Bill Hader as his character “Stefon” from “Saturday Night Live” got several compliments, so I left feeling happy. I knew I would experience a possible sense of discomfort in the beginning, with the large crowd and unfamiliar territory. However, once the event started I settled in quite easily, and felt just as welcome as anyone else in the building.

According to Anhedonia Delight, it is not common for the queens to sing live at drag shows, so we were in for a real treat. Rather than just putting on routines of vulgar humor and brazen flirtation, most of the stars sang their hearts out. I was blown away by a cover of “At Last” by Etta James. I can’t even remember who was covering it, I think Kaydence Jayne, as all of my senses shifted towards the auditory, with nothing else mattering for those few minutes. By the end of her performance, I sat my empty cup on the floor and clapped my hands together, just trying to remember exactly what I was doing when she blew me away. Later in the evening, someone performed Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” and by then there wasn’t a single unmoved soul in the room. I had finally made it.

One thing my friend told me heading in was that it is common etiquette to bring a lot of $1 bills to give to the performers while they were on stage. Most of my money had gone to the performer singing “Last Dance,” but I would have been willing to give all my credit card information to Kaydence Jayne had I known how “At Last” would affect me. The music was louder than I had ever heard it, the lights were brighter than I had ever seen them and the people were happier than I had ever felt. My next step was getting to know people. Other than shooting flirtatious looks, at least for a social recluse, at people from across the bar, I was constantly moving and dancing with my friends, hoping others would pick up on the action. During the second half of the show, a performer walked up to me, asking me if I wanted glitter. At this point, I had a choice to make. I could either back out and have the experience up to that point dampened from my inability to go all the way, or I could experience it all during my first show. I opted for the latter option and I was so glad I did. After getting an aloe-based glitter adorned on the sides of my face, I was ready to rejoin the masses. 

After special guest star May May Graves performed her last routine, all while downing shots of Fireball that fans handed her, Anhedonia Delight signaled for two fans to come up to the stage to compete for free tickets. Two girls then competed in a lip-sync battle but both ended up winning tickets. Anhedonia then asked them both about their experience, with both revealing that this was their first drag event. After commending the drag stars on their makeup, one of them remarked that it was such a welcoming environment, one anyone could participate in. I agreed wholeheartedly. At that point in the night, I could have gotten on stage and not been afraid of making a fool of myself. It was all pure fun with a mutual feeling of trust and camaraderie. 

As my friends and I made our way towards the exit at a little past midnight, we noticed it had begun to rain. Normally, I would have been annoyed at the inconvenience, having not brought my umbrella but I was unfazed. I was still walking with them, dancing with them and being with them, all the way back to my dark and quiet car.