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“I Don’t Hide My Lesbianism. It Is Always A Kernel Of Everything I Do” (with Gretchen Phillips)

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Gretchen Phillips

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So, if you’ve ever listened to this show before you’ll know that I often talk to my guests about straight people in queer spaces… and, for the most part people are not exactly against the idea, but fear that it can compromise the integrity of a space, or… just make it a bit more boring…

Well, this week’s guest, Gretchen Phillips, has an entirely different view, and wants to see a world where there is more integration, and more ‘reaching across the aisle’, as she puts it…

Gretchen is an influential singer-songwriter, who currently lives in Ottawa, Canada, but spent a good proportion of her life in Austin, Texas, where she was involved in cult bands Meat Joy, Girls in the Nose, and Two Nice Girls. 

It was with Two Nice Girls that she released he best known compositions, ‘The Queer Song’, and ‘I Spent My Last $10 (on Birth Control and Beer)’, a song which sends up heterosexual relationships.

We got together to talk about Chances, a lesbian bar in Austin that Gretchen started visiting in the 80s, and the space where she first laid eyes on her partner of 30 years…. 

Gretchen Phillips  0:00 

I don’t hide my lesbianism. It is always a kernel of everything I do. But my musical ideas are around kinship with all in a kind of musical vibration.

K Anderson  0:15 

Hello, my name is K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. So if you have ever listened to this show before, you will know that I often talk to my guests about street people in queer spaces. And for the most part, people aren’t exactly against the idea, but fear that it can compromise the integrity of a space, or you know, just make it a little bit more boring. Well, this week’s guest Gretchen Phillips has an entirely different view and wants to see a world where there is more integration and more reaching across the aisle as she puts it. Gretchen is an influential singer songwriter who currently lives in Ottawa, Canada, but spent a good proportion of her life in Austin, Texas, where she was involved in cult bands meet joy, girls in the nerves, and two nice girls. It was with two nice girls that she released her best known compositions, the queer song, and I spent my last $10 on birth control, and B, a song which sends up heterosexual relationships. We got together to talk about chances, a lesbian bar in Austin that Gretchen started visiting in the 80s. And the space where she first laid eyes on her partner of the last 30 years. 30 years. Oh, and the question for this week is, what do you think about straight people in queer spaces? If you are listening on Spotify, you can answer this question in your app. But if you’re not on Spotify, reach out to me on social media. My username on most all platforms is lost spaces pod. Or you can email me via my website, la spaces podcast.com Right, shall we get into the episode?

Gretchen Phillips  2:52 

And there was a a gay man named Todd who was the head bartender who was whom everybody worship taught and loved taught so much. And he’s really important guy. Sometimes I had a one particular girlfriend with whom I had very bad lesbian bed death. And I was way way, way way. What’s was it sneak out at night and go to chances lesbian

K Anderson  3:15 

bed death. Lesbian bed death. Yeah,

Gretchen Phillips  3:18 

you’ve never heard of LBD I mean, I think straight people have it too. Straight people have lesbian but it’s just where you start off hot and heavy bed. Straight bed where they you start out doing it all the time. That’s how you got together, and then goes away. LBD Oh, okay.

K Anderson  3:38 

So you have had good sexual experiences, and then just over time it gets bad. Yes. Okay, cool.

Gretchen Phillips  3:45 

Or just ceases? No, it doesn’t go bad. It just ceases to exist. Oh, you

K Anderson  3:50 

just get into that. You’re still

Gretchen Phillips  3:51 

but you’re still but you’re still a cancer. So you’re still emotionally your own cat together or whatever the fuck you know, something? Something keeps you tethered. But But pussying what’s keeping you tethered any longer. So I would go dry, I would go to chances in the middle of the night and drown my sorrows. You know, she wouldn’t even know I was going Oh, no. Complaint and go complain to Todd. Wait,

K Anderson  4:15 

so you would wait until she was asleep and then go out.

Gretchen Phillips  4:19 

Gretchen would wait until she was asleep and I would go out and I go to chances you know, and have a drink and enlike how wonderful Todd was he would be a listening ear at the at the bar as I drink my gin and tonics and complained about my personal life.

K Anderson  4:36 

What kind of things were you saying? Should we do some roleplay where I pretend to be tired and you pretend to be Gretchen from from?

Gretchen Phillips  4:45 

It’s so hard to recall. I just I remember how upset she was when she found out I was doing this.

K Anderson  4:51 

But just a general like I’m not sure what I’m doing. Is this the right thing? Should we be together? Yes, exactly.

Gretchen Phillips  4:59 

Oh, Exactly, so chances was chances was really an important emotional space. Also inside they had a jukebox. And they had good stuff on the jukebox. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Donna Summer has on the live album, a 17 minute version at MacArthur Park 17 minutes apart morphin part. So for your 25 cents,

K Anderson  5:22 

you are getting your money, got your disco money’s worth.

Gretchen Phillips  5:25 

So I had another girlfriend and we would just be like, Hey, you want to go we lived real near chances you want to go to chances and dance. And we knew on like a Tuesday night or Wednesday night or Thursday night. There wouldn’t be anybody in there, but it would be open and we would, you know, have some cocktails and we would just put five bucks in the jukebox and dance our butts off to the music that we wanted to play. It was heaven.

K Anderson  5:48 

And so like, just to clarify you are a MacArthur Park fan. Huge. But Did anyone want to throttle you when you picked that song in the jukebox? And they knew that the next 20 minutes

Gretchen Phillips  5:59 

I’m gonna try to throw but like,

K Anderson  6:03 

just imagine like, Ah, I used to go to this bar and they had this Kylie Minogue mega mix that was like, Yeah, around the same length. Every time when it started. It’s just like, dammit, dammit. What am I gonna do?

Gretchen Phillips  6:16 

No, no. Oh my god. Do you know the new the new one. What is your new one called? Disco? Maybe? Yeah, disco? Yeah.

K Anderson  6:23 

Oh, it’s so good. i Okay, so for me, like I’m not I’m not a hater. Okay. Yeah, it’s just like, there are some songs of hers that I’m just like, yes. And then they’re like albums. I can’t sit through. Like I love say something from that new album. I think that sounds amazing. And then everything else I’m like,

Gretchen Phillips  6:43 

really? Oh, no, we we Oh, I really love the new one. I there’s there’s one song that’s kind of the thematic. Like, why can’t we all live together in peace? That one is banal and stupid. Oh, but otherwise, I think it’s just really good.

K Anderson  7:01 

I do like the one real group. Is that what it’s called?

Gretchen Phillips  7:07 

I’m looking at it right now to see because I you know cuz I’m streaming. What do I freaking know about the name of

K Anderson  7:13 

ISIS? So weird how you just don’t know anything anymore. Like you used to you don’t

Gretchen Phillips  7:17 

have a you can’t picture an album cover. You can’t picture anything. Magic is great. Miss a Thing. Real groove? Something then and then and then and then. And then a Monday. So good. Oh, yeah. I love disco. I love

K Anderson  7:35 

all right. Well, Sarah, are you okay? The point I’m trying to make is think of a song that you really can’t stand. And then that song blank for 20 minutes? No. Yeah,

Gretchen Phillips  7:45 

no, I’m familiar with the concept. And I’m, I’m probably pushing it. We you know, I was probably pushing it. But it was. It’s a fond memory. And my memory is not that I was irritating to others. Getting down with my girlfriend to something that I love. Although I like how you’re speaking it

K Anderson  8:04 

just said no, I’m just you know, like, Well, I mean, again, the Cancerian. I’m just really empathetic to everyone around me. So I’m thinking of everyone in that.

Gretchen Phillips  8:13 

Well, it wasn’t the venue was not that packed on the inside, by when we would be going there.

K Anderson  8:17 

I love that. I love going to a bar that’s like in the middle of the week when it’s empty, and you’ve got the whole dance floor and you’re not like

Gretchen Phillips  8:26 

so, so good. Yes.

K Anderson  8:29 

You know that tentative first few minutes when you and your friend are like, oh, let’s go on the dance floor. And then you’re like the only ones on the dance floor. And at first you’re like, embarrassed and you’re like, and then you get into it. And you’re just like, no one else come on the dance floor because I don’t want you taking up my space. Absolutely. So if we circle back to the beginning, so you moved to Austin in 1981. Was that you escaping a small town?

Gretchen Phillips  8:58 

No. I mean, it was moving to a small town. It was a escaping Houston, which is larger than Austin. Okay, but which Austin was more famous for its music scene. And I didn’t expect to stay in Austin for so long. But I it ended up working out well for me. So, yeah.

K Anderson  9:21 

So what was the plan that you were going to go there? And then I

Gretchen Phillips  9:24 

was going to maybe go to craft? Well, I was going to maybe go to Berklee College of Music in Boston. So I, you know, was deferring? I had gone to a performing Visual Arts High School, and I liked the intense study, but I also by the time I was 17, almost 18 and graduating. I was really interested in sex and drugs and making music and so I didn’t want to study but I figured I’d give myself a couple of years and then I would want to study composition. and more intensely and stuff. But my career took off when I was young. So Austin just kept being a great payoff for me. And I didn’t leave

K Anderson  10:11 

so But hang on, you didn’t move to Austin for sex. Surely there are better places to move.

Gretchen Phillips  10:17 

moved with my sex. I’m moved with my sex partner to Austin.

K Anderson  10:21 

Oh, okay. Okay. So there’s more room for having sex.

Gretchen Phillips  10:26 

Oh, whatever. The point that I was making was I wanted to, I knew I wasn’t going to be a particularly good student, if I went from high school, straight to college.

K Anderson  10:37 

And so what were those first days in Austin? Like, like, what was what was the city like at that time?

Gretchen Phillips  10:43 

Oh, God, it was so wonderful. No traffic is very inexpensive. I could be full for 99 cents. Hippies. Crazy rent crazy rent, like, our apartment was 232 divided by, you know, divided in half. And then we, we were tired of paying that much. So we move to what was a lesbian shared house where we shared a room that was that room was 80 a month. So our rent was 40. And then after that, I moved to many a time I lived in a house with other lesbians for 400 a month divided by however many of us there were. I also live with one girlfriend in a warehouse downtown, where our rent was 70. So that was 35 a month. So I have listened to your podcast before where people are talking about like, what the cost of living and certainly what the cost of rent, the effect that it has on being an artist. And it has an enormous effect. Because we all were capable of having an expensive rent that then meant that we could really devote our time to our art. So those were fantastic days in Austin, the punk scene was incredibly vibrant and good. With these gay boy bands being really the leaders of the scene, the big boys, the dicks. And so it opened up space in this really beautiful way for me to be able to imagine being completely out. And that not being necessarily a death sentence.

K Anderson  12:29 

Well, yeah, cuz that’s the thing like so in all of your music, you’ve always been out, was there ever that kind of, like, inner dialogue or conversations with other people? Like, should I do that there was a week, a whole week? Well,

Gretchen Phillips  12:42 

I spent every minute of a week in the summer of, of 81, really thinking about putting a target on my back by being out, versus the work that it would entail to keep a secret. And I thought, you know, what, I would rather live and live well and die, and also, but the but the fear, you know, there’s a very specific fear that I’m sure that that gay men can relate to that is, that is a constant fear for all women, I think, which is I’m going to be attacked. You know, that’s just your raised knowing that you are vulnerable to attack. And certainly, you know, at one was an incredibly different time, in terms of social views of, you know, homosexuality. My week that I spent was pre aids scare. Certainly AIDS was around, but it wasn’t being defined as such the gay cancer yet yeah, so that added a whole nother level of vilification, sadly, with with AIDS in the 80s, but just by nature of being a lesbian, who was going to be singing about being queer, but that said, I was going to punk shows all the time, were folks were loved for being themselves. And also there’s women’s music, where there were women who are being out and you know, they hadn’t been murdered yet. So certainly, there was a, I was emboldened, given given hope, and some courage by those who came before,

K Anderson  14:25 

but it’s like, yeah, talking about being attacked, totally resonates with me. But there’s also just this whole making your art your living, and that how that just takes opportunities away from you if you are out. Well,

Gretchen Phillips  14:41 

I will never know the gigs I didn’t get. Yeah. I mean, I was also out because I wanted to help create a culture of our business. You know, I wanted to have there, one could say in the 1981 I mean, I don’t have anything against gays. I just don’t even know any. I mean, I don’t have a problem with lesbians. I don’t actually know any lesbians. I think that my mom’s hairdresser might be a gay guy, but I don’t know any. That was just the truth in 1981. And what in my dreams, what is happening now would happen, which is that everybody would know, a queer and that that within possibly open up inside their own selves? Possibly. I’m unclear.

K Anderson  15:31 

Hmm. Okay, so after this weekend, when you, you have this tussle and you decide, you know, I’m gonna, I’m going to be myself, I’m going to like, go down this path. Do you remember the first time you performed a song where you had pronouns of your lover? Or where you had a complete statement about being queer?

Gretchen Phillips  15:53 

Oh, okay, let’s see. Well, I wrote the queer song in the summer of 1982. Ah, that was a year later. So queer song is Summer of 82. I think queer song is the proclamation.

K Anderson  16:09 

I mean, it’s a bit subtle, though, isn’t it?

Gretchen Phillips  16:11 

Yeah. I mean, you have to listen closely. So yes, I think that I think that that’s the the answer is that it was, I think that might have been the first song I wrote in Austin.

K Anderson  16:27 

So then having written the queer song, do you remember the first time that you were like, right, I’m going to get on stage and I’m going to perform this and what were you thinking? Well,

Gretchen Phillips  16:36 

you know, I don’t I don’t remember. You know, it’s funny. I don’t I mean, what was interesting about me, Joy was the initially, it was me and my girlfriend. So that’s two lesbians out of five humans, everyone else being straight, two straight guys, and straight women. And then she left. And then I was the only lesbian but there was a lot of encouragement from my bandmates for my queer expression. They never ever, sort of tamp down on it. Oh, it’s interesting, because what we were all working on politically, was for folks to be able to think for themselves, you know, the political agenda underneath the music was, Think for Yourself live free, you know, live, live fully, you know, be yourself. Don’t be afraid.

K Anderson  17:34 

Fantastic now. So going back to Austin at that time, Austin now has quite a reputation for being a bit of a liberal hub within Texas. Was it already that way? In the 80s?

Gretchen Phillips  17:46 

Yes, yes. But the thing is, is that Houston is is Houston has a gay area that Montrose when I was in high school, I could go to men’s bars, women’s bars, there were a number of them. There was a women’s music show on the Public Radio. There were gay bookstores okay. You know Houston is not this is the thing is that Texas is gay. Okay, so gay gay it is Texas is really

K Anderson  18:22 

gay. Just express it with Hi reform

Gretchen Phillips  18:26 

here in Dallas is so gay with with with Jr. and Sue Ellen’s the men’s bar and a women’s bar named after the television show Dallas credible have been around forever. The drug scene of Galveston is very famous. It’s in Texas is get.

K Anderson  18:42 

So then what was the theme like in Austin specifically then at that time,

Gretchen Phillips  18:46 

punk son, hippies, and the University of Texas so you know, students who were working hard or barely working, and then folks who worked for the state. So it was much more white in a bad way than Houston had been. That was a culture shock for me. And it was the original site of Whole Foods Market. But Whole Foods was competing with the food Co Op. very gorgeous, really nice trees, still beautiful, beautiful trees, or river that runs through the city. It was quiet. I mean, downtown, nothing was going on. Nothing much was going on downtown. And the ranch lands had not been turned into, you know, tract housing yet. So you were in a kind of small town. I mean, when I moved in 81 between 81 and like, 87 the population really exploded, but it was a very lesbian. It wasn’t just like a gay man’s thing. The lesbians were very powerful in the town creatively. There was Red River women’s press release. Politics, John Brown, any clan, and feminism coming all over the place women’s space right there on the drag. It was the difference for me between Austin and Houston was that it was just a smaller geography. So it was easier for me to get around to everything will. Houston is quite sprawling. So I didn’t have a car. And so it was easier for me to bike everywhere in the more manageable size of Austin, Texas at that time.

K Anderson  20:33 

And were there distinct, like lesbian and gay things? Oh,

Gretchen Phillips  20:37 

yes. If you wanted to go to a men’s bar, they would be mean and asked for three forms of picture ID, which no one has. Oh, wow. So there was a lot of discrimination against the bars were very separate.

K Anderson  20:54 

Oh, that’s Oh, that’s really fascinating. Yeah. So

Gretchen Phillips  20:56 

there’s a very famous bar in Houston called numbers, which is a club dance club, but also lots and lots of shows SLCC there in 1982, or 81. And that was a, that was a fact bar that was definitely not asking for three forms of ID. But once I hit Austin, and would try to go you know, dancing at the men’s bar, or whatever, it depended, but there were definitely could be a lot of negative attitude just walking up and, and I usually wouldn’t go with a group of women, I might go with like a gay boyfriend or something. And they would just suddenly the bouncer would be like, ‘I smell fish’. Where’s three? So that’s that happened? On definitely on more than one occasion. And I wouldn’t I don’t even think that the men were coming to the lesbian bars because I don’t think so. I don’t know if I don’t know if the opposite was true that the the facts were trying to come to I don’t know if there was any interest. Oh, no.

K Anderson  22:01 

Ah, so then did the scenes kind of evolve in those very stereotypical ways that people have come to expect of gay men spaces and lesbian women’s spaces, like folk songs and herbal tea in the women’s spaces? And then dance music and poppers in the gay spaces?

Gretchen Phillips  22:21 

Um, no, the Hollywood was a women’s bar. That was a dance. That was a dance space. I mean, when I moved to Austin, there was the Hollywood, there was a country western, sort of Latina bar down south. In the olden days, there would be a number of lesbian bars. And they would probably have different personalities in regard to you know, in terms of who their constituents would be. So if it was choice, no, I wouldn’t. There was absolutely choice. Yes. And there would be a choice in terms of vibe. And depending on how much real estate, the lesbian bar might have, be divided into sections. Oftentimes, that would be the case in Austin, where there would be a big patio for the hangout space outside. And that would have one kind of music. And then inside, there would be a room or other rooms that had different kinds of music. There was a bar in Houston, in the I don’t remember when, but it was called the ranch. It was an entire strip mall. I mean, it was so huge. And there was this, the one that was kind of like, chill, loungey cruise ship vibe, and then you went to the big country part where there’ll be line dancing and stuff. And then you go to the big dance space and another room. That was dance music, hip hop.

K Anderson  23:54 

And that’s all on one admission price for all of that.

Gretchen Phillips  23:56 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that was epic. You can

K Anderson  24:01 

borrow up without barhopping? Yes, exactly. Which brings us then I suppose to chances. So when I got in touch, and I was like, Hey, let’s get together and have a chat. Why? Why did you land on chances?

Gretchen Phillips  24:14 

Well, it was amazing. I mean, it was an amazing space. And it exemplifies, for me a transformation that I wanted to see happen in terms of integration, because of my experience with meet joy, where here I am being my lesbian self. And I’m also kind of moving it to the next level, in terms of my aspirations, which were and I love these straight guys. And I love being in playing music with you and I love you as friends. Come, let’s be together. So there was a transition that took place with chances from its very humble beginnings, which it had pretty previously been a different gay bar, probably a men’s bar, I think there were a number of men’s bars on that street on Red River. And Sandra and I tried to remember what her girlfriend’s name was, I think it might have been Jill, who was also a sort of singer songwriter type. And maybe someone else, they opened this bar that had a really nice patio. Unlike the Hollywood, this, the patio was always very attractive about chances. And it, it just was a bit of a different clientele. Once I first started going there, there was rarely a cover. And it had a jukebox, not a DJ inside. And the outdoor space was just really pleasant. And they put they paid attention to it. And there was a phenomenon back in the day that I don’t know if it exists anymore. And it would be what I call the lesbian bar band. Have you ever heard of those?

K Anderson  26:01 

Yeah, like a house band? Well,

Gretchen Phillips  26:05 

it? No, I mean, there would be a number of them. This was a sort of a musical, somebody different towns in my life. I have played with local lesbian bar bands on tour, you know, from Lexington to Salt Lake City, where they are often to be you know, this is very sort of stereotypical, but they would have a mixture of originals and covers. They might be quite large, quite a large band, including someone’s girlfriend playing tambourine trick trading off vocals, everybody loves to drink they’re getting you know, it’s a, it’s a party, and

K Anderson  26:44 

more like a cooperative than a traditional band.

Gretchen Phillips  26:46 

Well, it’s just it’s a it’s a lesbian bar band. You know, and I mean, lesbians, you know, lesbians love to drink, except for the ones that don’t, but who do so chances was able to when when they started doing like music, which kind of my recollection, I feel like the first thing I ever saw there was one of the owners. Again, I think her name was Jill, of being a singer songwriter, earnestly strumming away on her acoustic guitar. But then I couldn’t tell you what the first band was I saw playing there. But then it it really focused on live music out on the patio, and they got a better sound system over time. And then my band started playing there over time. And I don’t recall my first gig at chances. But girls in the nose played there. A tonne, a tonne. And then two nice girls played there all the time. And there would be all these different kinds of nights, Austin used to have what were called hoot nights, which would be thematically Madonna hoot night, Cher hoot night, and everybody is performing a Madonna song or a cheer song. And it would be a showcase of all these different bands, not necessarily a band behind the like a house band. But because it’s such a music town. So there was a lot of punk prom was there. It just was an image. It grew over time, because they spent money on the sound system. And we had like these incredible local favourites Nancy Scott therapy sisters. And so there wasn’t really a house band, there were just there was sort of the stable of artists, some of whom toured, some of whom, mostly just played locally, but they played frequently enough that you really had a lot of opportunity to go here. You know, let’s be in live music.

K Anderson  28:47 

And what would you say is the main difference between performing for a lesbian audience or a predominantly lesbian audience? And one that isn’t?

Gretchen Phillips  28:58 

Oh, God. Well, when was the last time I played for predominantly lesbian audience? I mean, what we were trying to do with Meat Joy, which was to sing about sexual politics, which also included heterosexual politics, but to include my version of lesbian politics in order to reach as many people as possible. And that has really always been my goal. It is It was thrilling to me to play two nice girls shows, with plenty of, you know, straight people and men in the audience. That’s a real win to me. Because of imagining that these these lyrics and this show could possibly, hopefully change something for straight people in a way that would be for good So that kind of integration is just always important to me. So the place that I’m now gigging at in Ottawa is owned by a lesbian and a straight guy. And he loves my music so much. He comes up to me after each show going chills, chills my arm, my arm has chills. And I mean, I’m delighted for lesbians to come up to me and say chills chills Maher has. But it is, it is it is, it has always been very important to me, this version of, you know, quote, unquote, reaching across the aisle, because of how I feel about music, which is that it has magical power. And if there’s a way that I can be an ambassador for lesbian point of view, but let the music be the magical penetrating power. That’s super important to me. So I’m not gonna really be able to answer that good question, because I don’t actually think in those terms. But what I’m trying to say about chances Is that what happened with chances is you’ve heard at South by Southwest, yes.

Gretchen Phillips  31:24 

Well, the beginning of South by Southwest, that started when I was in two nice girls, it was just an experiment where the local weekly newspaper wanted to put on a festival kind of modelled after CMJ. And tennis girls was used to making money, we did quite well. And South by Southwest asked us to play for free for quote, exposure, because they were having a music festival where people from, because you have to understand Austin was not on the map. Sometimes bands played at Austin, but many times we would have to go to see shows in Houston or San Antonio, because they would bypass Austin because it was small. And the idea for South by Southwest was to put us on the map as a destination. And so Turner schools was quite grumpy that first year about playing for free. But in fact, it was a really good gig. It got us at the hole in the wall, it got us our manager, Jim for at and he got us our deal with Rough Trade. It was it was the best case scenario for the kind of networking that that the festival said that it was going to be. But a couple of years later, it’s still in its very beginning stages. And what the festival asked venues was quite a bit, which was you won’t really be making that much money, you can have your bar, but you won’t be getting your cover because it’s going to be badge holders, blah, blah, blah. So there were plenty of venues that were like, Fuck you, we’re not going to be a South by Southwest venue. And for whatever reason, I wish I could remember what year it was. It might have been 90 or something, chances decided to be an official South by Southwest venue. So I straddled the lesbian world and like regular music scene, you know, dude, band guy band, you know the scene. So all these all these, you know, all my boyfriend’s come to concrete chances. And they’re like, What is this place? Golly, this patio was awesome. Oh, my cook. The stage is beautiful. Wow, the sound system is great. Okay, what is this place? I’m like, it’s the lazy bar, just chances. Okay, well, can we get a gig here when South by Southwest is over, because I love this space. So what happened is, is that it opened up but because of South by Southwest and those showcases, during the course of that week, all these people saw what an amazing venue it was, and started gigging there. And my dream came true of this cross pollination, lesbians own it, lesbians are running it. And you’re welcome to come in here. And, you know, brother, rock me out. And so it’s really cool. How that kind of integration transpired at chances that has gone on over the course since 92. Now, I mean, 31 years later, you could just take it for granted that that is true. That’s what happens. We’re going to go to here a really great show. It’s at the queer bar, but I promise you stuff was so reviled and hated prior to that. That that was for the most brave of heart and Intrepid. That was not a commonplace thing for frat boys to do. Yeah,

K Anderson  34:53 

yeah. Well, even now, like there is still that attitude in certain circles isn’t there? But so when that happened, and When people started to when non regular started to go to the bar, was there like a pushback? Was there? No, no. Okay, that’s interesting. No, it wasn’t no one was worried about their space being taken over.

Gretchen Phillips  35:13 

I mean, I mean, I don’t know that no one was. But that wasn’t. That was not what was in the air. You know, it the venue, sort of did this shift from our great lesbian little secret, kick ass venue to. I mean, it was cool bands that played there. It wasn’t just anybody, it was definitely really cool bands. But there were just so many very good nights of really interesting programming, you know, and it still would be very queer programming as well. But there would be different sort of just the regular folks from the music scene as well. showcasing their their art there.

K Anderson  36:00 

Oh, that’s really exciting. Yeah, so in going out to chances and going out to the scene, once you’d started to get a bit of kind of celebrity and infamy behind yourself as a performer, did that change the way people maybe flirted with you?

Gretchen Phillips  36:20 

It’s funny, I would have a sort of stage persona. That is very sexual. But I’m not comfortable with flirting because of my directness. And I also am, like many before me pretty much a serial monogamist. And so, in fact, this is potentially the most boring answer that you’ll get. But I, you know, I mean, for almost 30 years, I’ve just, well, it is 30 years, for 30 years, I’ve slept with just one person. And before when I was younger, absolutely, I would use being on stage as a way to try to get girls. Absolutely. And in fact, I was on stage, the first at chances the first time I saw and in the audience, you know, and that was the prerogative of the performer to gaze about the audience and pick up cute girls. So I’m certain when I was in my 20s I just You’re making me have to remember back to the bigness time. I that is so, so many decades removed, I definitely use the stage as a as a way to present myself so that the brave ones might want to come forward. But I there, there are ways that flirting can just really shut me down. And I’ve never been, I’ve never been much of a hoe at all. I just have too much cancer. I have a lot of feelings. I my feelings get attached with kit. I mean, I am just like that, you know, there’s not like a long line of girls who’ve, you know, had Gretchen Phillips at all. So and

K Anderson  38:17 

Okay, so first of all, first of all, I’m a fellow Cancerian. So just just just recognition, a second of all, so you never initiated anything. You just waited for people to come to you.

Gretchen Phillips  38:32 

No, that can’t be true. That’s not my that’s not my style. Okay. It’s not my style at all that trying to remember my 20s I was, you know, flirtatious babe up on stage. I can. I don’t I mean, I know that that’s true. And that there would have been whatever there was, you know, but it didn’t culminate in many a makeout session and sort of coming to in the morning with somebody that was not really my experience. The bars are for me, we’re about dancing really hard, certainly about drinking. About being exposed to new music. I’ll never forget a gay bar in Santa Cruz listening to that first Nine Inch Nails for the first time just losing my mind over you know. So dancing was very very important to me big light shows kind of versions of partying but but not necessarily like a discourse around sex and a discourse around flirting But literally, you know, getting it on me not not so much truly because of having a girl back home waiting for me.

K Anderson  39:43 

Are you comfortable talking about when you met?

Gretchen Phillips  39:47 

Yeah, I was on stage with girls in a nose. I looked out. She’s tall. So she was tall in the crowd. And I was like, Who is that? She was completely to my liking and And afterwards I asked our bandleader Kay Turner who is that, and she said, Oh, that’s Anne Specovic. She’s a new professor at UT. And I was like, Damn, she’s hot. But we got together in 91, which easily 88 was when I first laid eyes on her was probably 88. But I had a, I had a girlfriend then. And then when I was single I was looking for and but she was away for a year on fellowship at Westland. And so she wasn’t around. And then by the time she came back, I was in another serial monogamous relationship with someone. And I never spoke with and I never, I would never talk to her. If I was at a party and she came in, I would leave because I could, I was so attracted to her that I was certain that I would want to step out. And on my girlfriend, and I didn’t want to even be as tempted as how tempting that woman is. And I was correct. Because once we did start talking after a girls in a nutshell, and 1991 once we started talking, we just never stopped. Wow. And that girl left me the one I was with, she left me very suddenly, after a highly successful concert. Very big concert, opening for listen to Williams, we did so well. We’re in the front page of the paper the next day. And that chick left me and freed me up freed me up to go pursue and which wasn’t that hard.

K Anderson  41:47 

So in all of these years, when it when they were kind of all of these, like near misses, or you, either of you were tied up in different ways. Like, did you both know? Have you since talked about it? Like, did you both, like have a sense that this was gonna happen at some point?

Gretchen Phillips  42:03 

Um, I think we had a sense that we wanted it to happen. Yes. Because once we started talking, after years of being around each other, but never speaking a single word, I would say that the attraction was immediately very apparent. And we started talking in March, but I was in two nice girls and I toured a lot. So I would be gone for long periods of time. We started talking in March. And then we got together in September. And I could tell that she really liked me when we would talk. Yes, we argued a bunch at first about philosophical concerns. I mean, we’ve been you know, conversing nonstop since then.

K Anderson  42:49 

Oh, wow. So like, This truly is an example of love at first sight, then.

Gretchen Phillips  42:55 

Oh, well, I’m certainly attraction, profound attraction at first sight, I would say that. I wanted to play it a little differently with her and not be a serial monogamist. But after a few months of being with her, I was afraid if I didn’t make a commitment, I might lose her. And I really didn’t want to do that, because she was clearly so wonderful. I kept looking for the catch it first because she’s so great. I was like, There’s got to be a catch. I mean, she’s just so hot and smart and sweet and sexy and good. There’s got to be a giant catch. But now, there’s not so we went to the MLA and San Francisco and I saw how everybody looked all their cohort, all professorial cohorts looked at her and I was like, damn, I better ask her to be my girlfriend and stop going on and on about how important it is for me to finally be non monogamous. I think I better I think I better go ahead and try to nail this one down. And I’m very grateful that I did

K Anderson  43:57 

this is the Yeah, this is what making me feel a little sick. So we should maybe move on.

Do you have any memories of chances or clubbing from your own queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you do, please get in touch. I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories. Go to law spaces podcast.com and find the section share a lost space and tell me all about what you got up to. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as lost spaces pod. Find out more about Gretchen through her website Gretchen dash phillips.com. Lots of ACES is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I have been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there and we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single well groomed boys which is also playing underneath my talking right now on All streaming platforms. If you liked this episode I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on your podcast platform or just told people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces