Once a month, Brandon Gaukel flies across the country to Vancouver to promote and perform at the East Vancouver parties he helped launch.
Gaukel moved to Toronto for work and for his husband, but he can’t, or won’t, let go of Vancouver. He spends three weeks back East and one week in Vancouver each month.
“It allows me to see all the people I love in one evening when I’m back in Vancouver,” the 28-year-old says.
Five years ago, he and business partner Dave Deveau launched a series of queer events on the Eastside, starting at the ANZA Club with Queer Bash. As artists, they were looking to create affordable events for themselves and their friends closer to their neighbourhoods, as well as to help fundraise for their other art projects.
“We’re definitely more grassroots, but we try to work within our budget,” he says.
The dress-up party Queer Bash has now been scaled down to a yearly Pride event, but Gaukel and Deveau have continued their tradition with Apocalypstick and, now, the monthly hip-hop party Hustla.
“Queer Bash and Hustla have always been a mixed crowd, and it gives a place for all types of genders and sexualities to hang out and celebrate,” Gaukel says.
“Everyone can feel welcome there: gay, lesbian, trans or straight couples that just want to dance to homo hip hop and watch drag queens. It’s definitely a lot more inclusive.”
In addition to his promoting duties, he also performs in drag as Bambibot.
“In the early days, I was just a sad, tragic mess of a drag queen — I wouldn’t even call myself a drag queen two years ago,” he says, laughing.
“[Bambibot] performed at the ANZA Club, and it was awful. I looked like my grandmother in drag. I got nervous, drank too much and forgot my words.”
Now he feels like she's come into her own. “She’s fun, she's a little bit slutty. I love making people laugh, and now she's actually worth watching.”
Gaukel, who is also the founder and editor of the biannual arts and culture DIXX magazine and the founding creative director of Sad Mag, hopes to come back to Vancouver eventually on a more permanent basis.
“It’s my city; it’s my community. I fricking love it,” he says. “I see myself here in the future. I keep coming back because of the people.”