It's no news that Portland has been attracting hordes of "young creatives" lately. Over the past few years, an influx of artists, musicians and crusty, bicycle-obsessed punks has broadcast the city's new reputation as an alternative mecca of San Franciscan proportions across the nation. At the forefront of the action is a high-profile queer culture that continues to attract scenesters from all over the country. With Olympia imports like the Gossip and Chainsaw Records, as well as a lesbian-friendly atmosphere of tolerance and lefty living, Portland has gained a national reputation as one of the best hometowns for dykes. But facing a lack of specifically lesbian venues—besides the city's longstanding Egyptian Club—P-town's ladies take cruising matters into their own hands, launching myriad new events and parties every week.
Liz Wallenberg, a local DJ known as L-Train, moved here from Brooklyn last December and noticed the high Sapphic ratio right away in the smaller city. "I've never seen so many lesbians. It's more dense here than New York," she says. She and Adriana Ruelas co-founded the local dance party Dynasty, which isn't advertised as queer but draws a gay crowd nonetheless: "Lesbians are less exclusive. We like to invite the boys and the trannies, too."
Maybe that explains why events at the forefront of this dyke underground have emerged as some of the hottest bar nights in town. And the unofficial hub of these sweaty events? Holocene, a sprawling, converted garage that opened as a nightclub in June 2003. Co-owner Jarkko Cain, 30, hosts at least five regular gay-themed events as well as a constant stream of rock, drag and performance art that appeals to a queer crowd. He credits the success of early club favorites like Tart with the loyalty that queer audiences bring to Holocene: "They were events we started doing early on, and now people tend to come to us first. It's an important part of our business staying power."
But the lesbian renaissance doesn't stop at bars. From women-only saunas to taco "munches," there's a plethora of alternative hotspots and events where the girls go to play. Check out our lezzie day planner and prepare to have your social calendar booked solid.
MON - On the third Monday of the month, roll gaily forward as same-sex singles and couples fill the rink for Just Out's Gay Skate. With DJs blasting queer music faves through the PA and a cafeteria serving up tater tots, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything more fun for the homo set. Oaks Amusement Park, off Southeast Spokane Street, 233-5777, oakspark.com. $5. All ages.
Monday nights are pretty dead for parties of all persuasions, but the queer crowd can head to lesbian-owned Middle Eastern bar Zaytoon for tasty hummus and the weekly free movie night at 8:30. On Feb. 27, smear some lipstick on your knuckles and gear up for a true femme-butch cinematic showdown as the Dolly Parton classic 9 to 5 is paired with Fight Club. Zaytoon, 2236 NE Alberta St., 284-1168. 8 pm. 21+.
TUE - Every Tuesday, ladies flock to Common Ground Wellness Center for women-only night at this holistic spa. On our last visit, we encountered some spooky group chanting in the sauna, but the outdoor hot tubs were full to the rims with dykes enjoying the pressurized water jets. Steamy! Common Ground Wellness Center, 2917 NE Everett St., 238-1065. 7-11 pm. $11 per hour. After 8 pm patrons under 18 years old welcome with adult supervision.
Rather get dirty than clean? Head to PDX Bad Girls' "Kinky Women's Munch" the second Tuesday of every month at—appropriately enough—Dingo's Taco Bar, and beg/scold your way into this social club for woman-to-woman BDSM lovers. Dingo's, 4612 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Call 972-BADD (2233) for details. 7 pm. Event 18+.
WED - You've gotta love an ass-shake party with no cover charge. Gaycation's January debut was packed enough to promise that Portland gal pals will be busy every first Wednesday for months to come. Fronted by hot lezzie pinup DJs Snowtiger, Hotpants and Automaton, this is one sweltering holiday. Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639. 21+.
THU - A night at Booty involves strutting through the door after midnight, wearing a lace thong (and that's just the guys), and slamming Jell-O shots before grinding a total stranger on the dance floor. Newcomers are called to the stage to flash a certain anatomical feature. Still the biggest pirate-themed raunchfest in Portland, Booty's dirty as ever—and we like it. Every Thursday at Porky's Pub, 835 N Lombard St., 283-9734. $3. 21+.
FRI - DJs L-Train and Synthetic, along with guests like electro performance artists Fleshtone, rock the hot-as-hell dancefest known as Dynasty. We think anything with "nasty" in the title has got to be good. But they can't seem to settle into one location, moving to Acme (1305 SE 8th Ave., 230-9020) on March 10 and then, on April 28, landing at the Towne Lounge (714 SW 20th Place, 241-8696). Follow the party train for updates: www.myspace.com/dynastyPDX.
Hetero meat markets are getting into the act, too. Due to its queer popularity, former sidewalk shooting gallery H2O's new hip-hop and R&B night, The Life, has moved from Sunday to Friday nights. Promoter La Tonya Terrell, formerly of PlayHers Club and Choices events, angles the party toward lesbians of color but calls the attendees "definitely mixed." Every first and third Friday at H2O, 204 SW Yamhill St., 478-7670. Cover. 21+.
SAT - At Double Down, a rotating cast of DJs playing anything from house to reggae draws a mixed batch of professional types and baby dykes, which means chances are good you'll find that sugar mama or sugar baby here. Last Saturday of the month at Holocene. $5. 21+.
SUN - Catch up on last week's episode of The L Word at the E-Room at 7 pm and stick around for the current one at 8:30 pm. Oh, the drama! Every Sunday at the Egyptian Club, 3701 SE Division St., 236-8689. 21+. Free.
Hungry for more action? With free cupcakes on every table and the city's most voluptuous go-go girls, FatGirl Speaks' lesbian-friendly frosting soiree, Cupcake, is not to be missed. Every fourth Sunday at Holocene, 4-10 pm. $5. 21+.
When this New Yorker had her first taste of Tart, it was so crowded she thought she'd stepped onto a plane and been delivered back to the East Village. It's definitely the busiest lezzie night in town, and widely diverse to boot. With DJ Beyonda's bass-heavy beat-matching skills thumping into dancers' skeletons, Tart gets our vote for "most likely place to get your ass grabbed within five minutes of walking through the door." Second Sunday of each month at Holocene. 4-11 pm. $5. 21+.