Bitter Half Booking hosts a Pride prom this June to kick off Pride month


Sydni Zidarevich, Justice, Equity and Diversity Beat Reporter

Have you been wanting an excuse to dress up? This year Corvallis will have a Pride Prom at the Chandler Ballroom on June 3 starting at 7 p.m.


Across Oregon and SW Washington, there are approximately 21 separate pride events occurring through Pride Northwest, Inc. in June, some as close as Albany and Monmouth; however, Corvallis itself does not have a parade of its own to kick-off or commemorate the month. 


This year Caitlin Garets and her partner, Indiana Laub took it upon themselves to change this. The Corvallis Community Center will be a partner in the upcoming Secret Garden Ball on June 3, which is being organized by Bitter Half Booking.  


Garets had been wanting to throw a prom, but needed a theme that would convince Laub to plan it with her and she knew a secret garden theme was the way to do it.


“It (the secret garden theme) relates to pride month in that I used it to persuade my girlfriend into throwing a plant-themed party, which is pretty gay,” Garets said.


Garets and Laub, have been organizing and setting up DIY shows independently for many years, and in 2014, after Laub moved to Corvallis and the two began working on projects together. In 2018, the couple renamed their brand to “Bitter Half Booking.” 


According to Parks & Recreation Director Meredith Petit, department staff does not typically organize events directly and it is most likely that any Pride festivals in neighboring communities are not organized by the cities themselves but are hosted in public spaces, such as the prom.


“We are an entirely DIY operation, which means that we are volunteers and our shows are not-for-profit,” Garets said.


The Secret Garden Ball will have free food, refreshments, a photobooth, small activities such as coloring pages, a photo scavenger hunt, and live music. Door’s will open at 7 p.m. and live music will start at 7:30 p.m.


The planning for this event began when one of the performers, Caleb Nichols, asked Bitter Half Booking to set up a show for them and another band, DoublePlusGood, as part of their joint PNW tour.


“I’ve wanted to set up a prom for years, and since both bands are queer, super danceable, and wanted to come through on the first Saturday of pride month it felt like a natural fit,” Garets said. 


The last band added to the bill was Jean Shorts Jesus, a local jazz-infused indie punk band from Corvallis.


“They’re wonderful people and great musicians so we’re excited to have them open the show,” Garets said.


Jean Shorts Jesus will play for 30 minutes, and then there will be three touring bands after that playing 30-40 minute sets each. The other bands to follow are Grave Saddles, Caleb Nichols and DoublePlusGood. 


According to Bitter Half Booking, Grave Saddles is a “countrygaze” band from California that plays a lo-fi mix of shoegaze, country, and emo. Caleb Nichols is a nonbinary poet and singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo who plays psychedelic, full-band indie pop, and has put out several records on the indie label Kill Rock Stars. DoublePlusGood is a romantic synth pop band from Portland that someone described as “Roy Orbison fronting the Smiths,” which Garets said “feels pretty spot-on.”


All of the bands have queer and trans members, which they deemed especially important as they put together the lineup.


In addition to creating safer spaces for people to come together and participate in underground music, the couple mentioned that it’s equally important to provide a platform for marginalized people to share their art. 


“The Secret Garden Ball is meant to be a celebration of queer community and expression and it’s important to us that the music reflects that,” Garets said.


This DIY show encourages goers to dress in formal and/or secret garden-themed attire, but it is not required. 


“We want folks to be comfortable, but we also want people to go for it if they want to dress up!” Garets said.


A few ideas presented by Laub in regards to attire were more secret garden-themed, such as garden gnomes or mushrooms.


According to Garets, all of their shows, including the prom, are donation-based. For this event, she reached out to local sponsors and hosted a fundraiser show. Parks & Recreation was the first to respond and donated the use of the community center.


“The donations that we get at the door always go to the touring bands, and when there isn’t a

touring band we find an organization to give the money to,” Garets said.


For the Secret Garden Ball in particular, the touring bands’ guarantees are covered by sponsorship funds. All the proceeds from the door will be donated to the Trevor Project. 


A $5-20 sliding scale donation is suggested, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. 


The Secret Garden Ball is a substance- free event, where masks are required as the couple noted is true for all of their shows. 


In addition to Parks & Recreation, other sponsors in the Corvallis community include the Raw Hair Society, Interzone and Greenhouse. The Raw Hair Society in downtown Corvallis will be providing gender-affirming hairstyling for $20.


The event will coincide with the Saturday of prom from 2-5 p.m. at the salon in downtown Corvallis. Appointments are not required, so individuals are encouraged to walk in anytime within that window and all proceeds will also be donated to the Trevor Project.


Garets and Laub discussed how their shows are specifically intended for marginalized people who feel unwelcome, uncomfortable or unsafe in mainstream music spaces, as well as many disabled and high-risk people who have been pushed out of public spaces since the pandemic.


“For a pride event, it feels especially important to take COVID precautions, since queer and trans people are at significantly higher risk of severe illness… and trans people’s access to healthcare is under attack,” Garets said. 


They also commented on how many individuals living with HIV are also disproportionately affected by COVID and it feels wrong to exclude those folks or unnecessarily risk their health at an event intended for the entire community. 


“It’s super important to us that anyone who wants to come to this event is able to. That’s also why we exclusively book all-ages shows, in non-traditional venues,” Garets said.  “You get to make up the rules, and we don’t want to reproduce conventional, exclusionary dynamics when we have the option to do things differently.”

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