It was the first Friday night of patio season and Uptown Tavern's rooftop was bumping. Not with the usual bros practicing their pickup lines on cute blondes but with a more colorful mix of twenty- and thirty-somethings kissed with rainbow stickers. It was the first-ever Queer Bomb event organized by LGBT party purveyor Chad Kampe.
Inspired by the East Coast campaign known as Guerrilla Queer Bars, the idea is for members of the LGBT community to swarm a straight bar revealed the night before. More than 250 people attended the inaugural mixer last weekend in south Minneapolis. The Uptown Tavern was the only bar out of six that responded to Kampe's proposal.
The party impresario hopes to stage Queer Bomb monthly, leveraging a diverse following of gay men, lesbians, transgendered and straight people he has built through his Flip Phone dance nights at Honey in northeast Minneapolis.
"We have the power of such a unique group," Kampe said. "Often there are parties for each section, but there's rarely times where everybody gets to come and be in a true mixing pot of the LGBT community."
Sarah Aune, 30, of Minneapolis echoed the melting-pot sentiment. She said the Uptown Tavern fete gave her the chance to meet people from various pockets of the community.
"It seems like when we meet up in other main queer events in other places, everybody kind of sticks to their own friend groups," she said. "But now that we are meeting in a place that's kind of new to all of us, it's like we want to all stick together and meet one another instead of sticking to our own friend groups — and that's fun."
Since launching Flip Phone — an LGBT dance party that highlights pop artists from the mid-'90s to mid-'00s and features drag performances — in 2012, Kampe has expanded his party-hatching repertoire. He throws the spinoff Basic party every second Thursday of the month at the Loring Pasta Bar, homaging more contemporary musicians (this week's was a Lady Gaga theme). In January, he started a brunch-party series, leading with a Dolly Parton/BBQ motif. Within six hours of announcing the second installment — a Beyoncé brunch in April — reservations were booked solid and a second day is filling fast.
Of all his social endeavors, Flip Phone holds a special place in the Massachusetts native's heart. The sweaty nostalgic nights were created to memorialize a friend who died of a head injury during a run in 2011. "We always loved dancing to cheesy pop music and music of that time," Kampe, 32, recalled. "I thought we should do a party based off that."
Kampe envisioned a place where the LGBT crowd could dance without "the extra stuff that goes on with gay bars" — and friends at Honey were sold. Initially the turnout was modest, but its popularity surged after Flip Phone's first Robyn-themed party in 2013.
At Flip Phone's onset, Kampe taught himself to DJ and donned his cheeky DJ Fancy Restaurant alias. Prior to that, he had DJ'ed at a summer program for eighth- and ninth-graders in 2002.
"During the flip-phone era is where I really got to hone my craft for middle-schoolers," he said wryly. "Those may be the same people that I'm DJ'ing for today, they're just older."
Runs tutoring group
These days, the former teacher daylights as the executive director of Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, a St. Paul nonprofit that helps students ages 6 to 18 with homework and writing skills. He also performs the occasional interactive comedy show as drag character Joy Veh, a failed Jewish matchmaker partly inspired by his grandmother.
The Macalester College grad has solved the equation for balancing his daytime and nightlife gigs, which his husband says he's a natural at.
"He's always been a social butterfly, so he just expanded his network," Matthew Felt said.
Queer Bomb's future remains to be seen (a second event is set for April 10), but Kampe hopes to expand the events to brewpubs, baseball games and other traditionally straight spaces. However it evolves, count Robert Smith, 28, as an early fan.
"I think we take for granted in the post-gay-marriage world that everybody feels comfortable everywhere," he said. "But I think pushing the envelope and being intentional about having LGBT people show up in a straight-identified space — even when same-sex marriage is legal, even when people feel relatively safe in the Twin Cities — it makes a difference. It's intentionally marking yourself as queer in a straight space, and that's different than blending in and just showing up."
At the very least, Kampe has no problem getting people to show up.
Michael Rietmulder, of Minneapolis, writes about nightlife.