Sashay — one of the few oases in Ottawa’s desert of a queer club scene — is about to celebrate a milestone.
It was one year ago that Ashley Gauthier and Chris Murray decided to try and revive the city’s nightlife. “It was a bit dry here,” Gauthier says. “People still go to Montreal and Toronto to party, but now at least there’s something where they don’t have to drive five hours away to let ’er rip.”
The intention was to start a party that took place only once each season (plus another party at Pride) so that they could really focus on putting together something special for Barrymore’s huge space and awesome sound system. They planned to bring in big name DJs, and include a little something for everyone.
Sashay debuted in April 2015 with Montreal’s DJ Stephan Grondin, a slew of drag performances, sexy go-go dancers and a big crowd. And things grew from there.
“The year was just amazing,” he says. “I’d been DJing in the scene in Ottawa for 10 years. I’d been working with Chris for those 10 years . . . and somehow we turned the event into magic. We have this awesome graphic designer, we have a great team, the heart’s there, the brains are there.”
After Grondin, they brought in DJ B’UGO and DJ/vocalist Sandy Duperval (both from Montreal) and New York City’s DJ Dawson. It is easily the largest recurring queer club night in Ottawa today (excluding Pride events).
Gauthier remembers the Halloween 2015 party fondly, when he joined the attendees in dressing up. “I was wearing a cowboy hat — you know, the real thing — had an actual whip from an equestrian store, and I had a leather harness and some cowboy boots,” he says, with a laugh. “I was Leather Jones, baby.” It’s a name he made up for the evening.
“I think that’s going to be my leather man name.”
For the anniversary party, they’re bringing back the DJ who helped launch it all, Stephan Grondin. Gauthier will spin the opening set, and it will include drag performances by Kiki Coe, Koko Shennel, Markida Brown and Jasmine Dymond. Ina will provide the projections.
“It’s celebrating a successful brand,” he says. “[For the coming year] we’re going to bring more interesting, higher-octane performances . . . also, the DJ acts we’re going to bring in are going to be solid.” He also hints at something special he and Murray are working on for Pride.
And who knows? Maybe Leather Jones will saunter into town again sometime in the future, a few sawbucks in his pocket and a mischievous glint in his eye.