An era will end May 25, when Snug Harbor’s weekly theme party – “Shiprocked!” – makes its final voyage after a decade-long run. Conceived by multi-hyphenate Scott Weaver as a weekly dance night, “Shiprocked!” grew into one of Charlotte’s signature LGBTQ-friendly events.
Its final circus-themed, big-top bow will include a little of everything Weaver has championed: drag queens and burlesque performers, rock and electronic bands, two alternating stages, resident go-go dancers, and crazy costumes and production. The music lineup features Atlanta-based, Israeli duo Hank & Cupcakes, Baltimore electronic act Chiffon, and Charlotte’s Paint Fumes and Your Fuzzy Friends.
We talked with Weaver about the idea, the execution and the legacy:
On its beginnings ...
“Nothing in my life has had a game plan,” says Weaver, sitting on the porch of his Plaza-Midwood quadplex, which is filled with vintage thrift store finds and retro kitsch. Shiprocked! evolved naturally, he says, as he added whatever kind of entertainment he liked and felt wasn’t getting a lot of attention locally.
“I’ve always appreciated the fringe element. My fascination with things and people who weren’t accepted came from maybe feeling that way myself.” Weaver grew up a gay punk-rock kid in Alabama during the ’80s AIDS epidemic, then worked at a conservative boutique until he got fired for booking a black drag queen for a fashion show. When Charlotte’s Hope Nichols asked him to housesit for her while her band toured, he packed up and moved. (The two had met when her band Sugarsmack played in Alabama; they would go on to be in two bands together.) That was August 1995. He never left.
On why it’s ending ...
At the five-year mark, Weaver decided to see if he could make the party last another five years. “Even in major cities, 10 years is uncommon,” he says, and he told himself, “If we get there, I’m done.” And time’s short these days: Now co-owner of Plaza-Midwood shop CLTCH, he’s also one-third of electronic trio Miami Dice, has interior design projects and is part of Condom Couture, an annual safe-sex fashion show that raises money for Planned Parenthood.
On why it worked ...
For all its freak flags flying, “Shiprocked!” wasn’t exclusive: “If someone who worked at NASCAR wanted somewhere to dance, ‘Shiprocked!’ was that safe place.” Different crowds enjoyed it for different reasons, he says, among them early birds who wanted to hear his rock DJ sets, people who only came for drag shows or obscure bands, the disco-funk crowd, and people who turned up at midnight just to dance.
On the need it filled...
“It planted a seed and gave birth to quite a few other things. A lot of performers gained confidence... (and) I feel a groundwork was laid for other venues to have alternative performance nights. You hear more about burlesque and drag (in other venues now). People on the business side didn’t get it at first. It proved you could take greater risks.”
On one remaining worry...
Ending Charlotte’s biggest weekly LGBTQ dance party in the wake of the HB2 debacle concerns him. “The current climate is the only thing that’s given me pause. It’s why I’m not ending it completely.” He plans to revive it for Pride Week.
On what he’ll miss most...
That’s the cast and crew who became like family, gathering at his house and sharing a crockpot of Mom’s cheese dip at monthly meetings. He usually did everyone’s makeup at his home, too, which left his apartment spackled in glitter. (He’s also sorry longtime supporter Kelly Call, who died in February, won’t see the finale.) Weaver watched an entire generation move into and on from “Shiprocked!” then saw their younger siblings and friends picking up where they left off. Kat (Shirley) Sweet started as a go-go dancer and is now a costume designer. Drag queens Bethann Phetamine and Lilith Deville took their act to their new home of Pittsburgh. Collette Ellis was a go-go dancer who went on to tour with Cavalia (equestrian productions), and is a sought-after fire performer.
“These kids became cult personalities. I just gave them a place.”
On what’s next for ‘Shiprocked!’
The Pride revival will be in August. “ ’‘Shiprocked!’ has become a bit of a kickoff for Pride and it’s important for Snug Harbor to have a presence there. A couple of times a year we might reunite (at the club).”
On what’s next for Snug ...
Although its post-“Shiprocked!” Thursday night schedule isn’t posted yet, Cody Hare – the DJ behind Dharma Lounge’s Le Bang dance parties – will host the new Thursdays at Snug. “His aesthetic is different, but he will carry the torch of being supportive of social minorities,” says Weaver. “Snug is owned and operated by people who have the same politics. (It remains) a place for people to feel safe and express themselves.”
WHEN: 10 p.m. Thursday; doors open at 8 May 25.
WHERE: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.
TICKETS: Free Thursday; $5 cover on May 25.
Pressed for some favorites, Weaver chose these five as the ones with the highest level of production, costumes, makeup and sets:
Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Included in the paean to Paul Reubens’ iconic children’s TV series were outrageous characters Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, Chairry, a go-go dancing Pterri the pterodactyl, and Jambi, the doorman.
Wizard of Oz: When his hometown near Muscle Shoals was hit by a tornado, Weaver staged an Oz-themed fundraiser. Snug hung a mangled Gordon Street sign, which had been hit by a car, from the ceiling, along with “flying” chairs and lamps. Glinda appeared in all her sparkling regalia and the Wicked Witch of the West arrived in a cloud of green smoke.
Studio 54: To pay tribute to history’s most notorious discoteque for a New Year’s Eve blowout, resident drag queen Bethann Phetamine was encrusted in mirror and hoisted to the ceiling where she spun as the clock struck midnight – a human disco ball.
John Waters: Celebrating the archduke of camp meant recreating over-the-top characters from his outrageous oeuvre, from “A Dirty Shame’s” Ursula Udders to “Cry Baby’s” Hatchet Face, whose contorted expression was recreated with makeup.
‘Shiprocked!’ on Mars: Weaver cites the B-movie sci-fi theme as one of the coolest looking. It included a DayGlo flying saucer, the stage transformed to the rocky surface of Mars, and the emcee in a space commander costume.