It’s hard to believe this all started as a party among friends.
It can be easy to forget, given the massive crowds and city-spanning events that now make up “Gay Mardi Gras,” but Southern Decadence started its life as an impromptu costumed bar crawl to break up the monotony of August.
The original Decadence party in 1972 was a going-away party thrown by a group of roommates who lived together in a dilapidated house in Treme. They were sending off a friend (and attempting to shut up a recent transplant who wouldn’t stop complaining about the heat) by dressing as “decadent” Southern characters.
The party moved to Matassa’s the next year, with the first impromptu parade being the partiers heading back to their house just outside the Quarter. The parade and the party grew in size with each passing year, becoming an LGBT-focused event in 1981 when it moved to the Golden Lantern bar.
Now in its 47th year, Decadence is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of revelers to the Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. The founding members of the party moved on early because they found it to be overwhelming and we can understand that. There’s a lot going on and it can freeze a person up.
So we’ve crafted a guide of official and unofficial events that you need to head to during Decadance to take the guess work out of what should be a celebration.
Decadence doesn’t officially start until midnight on Thursday (head to the Bourbon Pub/Parade if that’s what you’re after) but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things for visitors and locals alike to get into. As we said in our Best Bets, you’re going to want to see the final show of Creep Cuts in New Orleans. If you’ve seen this dadaist cabaret freakout before, you know you need to experience it one more time. If you haven’t, you can’t let it leave before you set your eyes upon it.
If you just want to dance, consider heading down Carondolet Street for HARD/soft. This black, femme-focused party by Edgeslayer at the Ace Hotel kicks off the hip chain’s annual CAKE series. It’s going to be a good time.
If you’re hungry or thirsty, the Renegade Bears of Louisiana will set up a special edition of their monthly beer and street food bash at The Phoenix. They’ll be there Thursday night as part of a larger kick-off party and Friday and Saturday night on their own.
Bearaccuda, the best-known bear dance party in the US, will be part of the masses converging on the city for Decadence. The furry friends will take over One Eye Jacks.
For the queer women and trans folks, GrrlSpot is throwing GrrlFest throughout Decadence Weekend. On Friday, they are bringing their roving parties to the Drifter for Wet! (A note of warning: if you’re a cis man, you need to be vouched for by a woman or person of trans experience. This is their space. Don’t just show up.)
There’s a lot going down at the Ace’s Crescendo party. But the main thing that you need to know is Cakes Da Killa is performing and tickets are only $8.
Decadence might be all about getting sweaty in the late August heat but we know you didn’t go into Decadence thinking about exercise. Still, the first-ever 5K Pride Run is for a great cause. Proceeds go to BreakOUT!, a charity looking to make New Orleans safer for queer youth. The run starts at 9 at Crescent Park.
The weekend will offer plenty of opportunities to take in a drag brunch. Why not go all out and hit of one of the grande dames? Decadence Saturday features a Drag Brunch at Brennan’s! You don’t want to miss the chance for some high-class drag n’ drinks.
NEW ORLEANS! We’ll be slutting it up at Southern Decadence with fellow LEGENDS @lgbtqpod, @ira, and Queen of the Bayou, @jakeshears! Pls send this to your Nola friends to spread the good Gospel of Thot. 🙏🏻🙏🏼🙏🏽🙏🏾 https://t.co/J0mUBrmI3W pic.twitter.com/ileEF98pZY
— Food 4 Thot (@food4thotpod) August 27, 2018
Big Queer Pod Fest will bring a bit of an early evening break. Hosts and stars of podcasts like LGBTQ&A, Keep It! and Food 4 Thot will welcome Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters for a live taping.
Of course, there are official Decadence events to think about. The Bourbon Street Extravaganza brings a free concert to the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann starting at 6:30 p.m.
GrrlSpot wasn’t done, by the way. The Drifter party was just them getting warmed up. They are hosting a massive bash at The Eiffel Society, with three DJs, two dancefloors, a silent disco and live burlesque. Risq will be the spot for any ladies and trans folks in town for Decadence.
Horse Meat Disco are world-renowned for their Italo-Disco nights and they’re bringing all that prestige into the Ace’s teeny 3 Keys.
You can bounce around the periphery all Decadence, but you’re going to want to be in the center of the action when the parade rolls out. That happens on Sunday at 2 p.m. sharpish. Expect costumed revelers to head out from the Golden Lantern. The route is largely a suggestion but the party shouldn’t be too hard to find.
The Queer As F*ck Dance Party was packed during Pride. Expect it to be just as wild for Decadence.
Close out your Decadence with the “Hung Over and Broke” party at The Bourbon Pub. It starts around 8 p.m. and if you did the weekend right, that’s around when you should be waking up.