When you receive an event invitation from #AdamandSteve, you know it’s game on. Party planners by nature, Adam Palios and Steven Hilliard’s get togethers in their Corktown neighbourhood home became known as the place to be among their friends. “We love the idea of being able to come together with friends, have a drink or two and celebrate, not celebrate anything in particular, but just celebrating being alive and having fun,” describes Adam. It was a logical step for the couple to branch out and bring their signature shindigs to venues in Hamilton.
Hamilton has lost some of its main queer bars and spaces in recent years; Adam and Steve observed a need for queer nightlife in the city. “We wanted to throw parties that people like us wanted to go to,” says Adam. “The gay bars went away, but queer people didn’t. We say, ‘We’re here, we’re queer, you’re welcome!’ The need for having a fun, safe place to hang out with your friends, or to party, or to meet other queer people, that need didn’t go away.”
“I think part of the reason why the gay scene sort of died in Hamilton and a lot of cities around the world was because maybe it was a little too exclusive,” adds Steve. “If you weren’t a cis, white, gay man, you didn’t necessarily feel welcome. What we’re trying to do to is embrace the idea of queerness. Queer includes everyone.”
After hosting a couple of events in different spaces, they found their homebase at Absinthe, who are open to all of their ideas. “Having the events run by queer people, for queer people, calling it a queer party, that was really important to them,” says Adam. “Now they just let us do whatever we want,” he adds with a laugh.
Taking place back in July 2018 at Absinthe, the theme for the first edition of Adam and Steve’s drag show and dance party Dessert was called “Summer Melt” and the event really had it all: inflatable ice cream cones, complimentary Grandad’s Donuts, glowsticks, go go dancers, drag queens, “Best Booty” contest, even a proposal (Steve proposed to Adam in the midst of it all)! Dessert became a regular event happening every other month. More event concepts soon followed. Adam and Steve’s Drag Wars sees drag performers lip syncing for their lives to be judged by audience applause and cheers. After the first smash event Drag Wars: The Fierce Awakens in December 2018, Gina Hamilton is the current reigning supreme queen. The saga will continue.
The drag show component became a major part of Adam and Steve’s events. The popularity of reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race helped revitalize not only the drag scene but sparked interest in queer culture and clubs. In fact, Adam and Steve are behind bringing a Drag Race alumnus to Hamilton this weekend! Thorgy Thor will perform two sold out shows at Absinthe from January 25-26.
Rather than going to Toronto for drag shows, we now have events from Adam and Steve and groups like Polyester and Queer Outta Hamilton who also throw their own events in addition to collaborating on the open stage event You Better Drag! If you haven’t experienced a lip sync performance or battle, you truly haven’t lived!
The presence of drag shows in Hamilton has inspired more performers to take part. Rather than seeking out performers in Toronto, Adam and Steve now draw from so much talent right here in Hamilton. Supporting local queer talent, from the DJ to the performers, is really important for the pair.
Adam and Steve also launched a new queer social event, Moonmist: Gayme Night at Arcade. Hamilton’s only gaymer party is now bi-monthly on the second Thursday of the month.
At the heart of all of Adam and Steve’s events, the priority is to carve our safer spaces for the queer and LGBTQI2+ community in Hamilton. “What makes a safer space is the intention,” describes Adam. “We sat down with the venue and their security staff and said ‘This is how you can help us just enjoy ourselves instead of worrying.’ So they look out for predatory behaviour, and on all the descriptions of our events we highlight – very importantly – that any type of predatory behaviour, any type of homophobia, casual or not, we take seriously.”
“The most important thing is education,” adds Steve. “The very first thing we did at all of the venues that we use for events, especially when they’re not necessarily owned or run by queer people, we let them know how to deal with situations where there might be those sorts of things happening. Educating them on how to use a critical eye.” Adam agrees: “It’s education, it’s intention, it’s awareness.”
“And it’s community,” Steve finishes. “The other amazing thing about our events and especially being part of the queer community is getting to know people and looking out for each other. So not only do you have the staff at the bar educated and willing and able to help at any moment, but you also have a community of people looking out for each other as well. I think that’s where the real ‘safer space’ comes from, is that you know the people next to you have your back. I think that’s a really special feeling that you can only get at events like that.”
Taking care of each other of course extends to all who attend their events. “We should all be working towards making safer spaces for everyone,” Adam concludes.
If you missed the boat on this weekend’s sold out Dessert events stay tuned to Adam and Steve’s Facebook page for more event listings including an appreciation dance party on February 2nd for everyone who has supported their events, plus a Queer Galentine’s Day party on February 16th. Both events take place at Absinthe.
Quotes are taken from my conversation with Adam and Steve on 93.3 CFMU.