Chappell Roan brings queer joy to Portland

Roan tilts a mic stand and sings into it with guitarist behind her, while audience members lean into the stage with adoring looks on their faces
Adelaide Kaiser / The Mossy Log

Indie-Pop artist Chappell Roan played to a packed audience at the Doug Fir Lounge on March 12 as part of her “Naked in North America” tour. Portland was one of twenty sold-out stops across the US and Canada.

According to Roan’s Instagram, the tour is “about creating the safest space we can for people to dress up and be supported by their local queer community.” At each stop, she  handpicked three local drag entertainers to open for her, and chose an outfit theme for the audience. 

Portland’s theme was “homecoming queen” and according to Roan’s Instagram, the assignment was to wear an old prom dress, bridesmaid dress, or anything else that was too fancy to wear anywhere else. The audience did not disappoint, with a large majority wearing fancy outfits, complete with sashes and tiaras, one of which Roan put on during her set.

The opening set ran as a typical drag show would, with one of the performers, AJ Nox, hosting and introducing the two other queens. The first entertainer to perform was Henny, who performed Rihanna’s Superbowl mashup to the crowd’s delight. Madam Florence Jane Parker made her Portland debut, performing Lana Del Rey’s “The Other Woman” and Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary,” while Nox closed out with an epic Lady Gaga mashup with iconic quotes such as “bus, club, another club…” interspersed.

After their performances, all three performers took the stage to thank the crowd and say a few words. Henny emphasized how important drag is, especially in today’s political climate, noting that this kind of show would not be safe to attend everywhere. In the wake of anti-trans and anti-drag bills being proposed and passed in multiple states, the energy in the room was palpable. Throughout the night, the performers emphasized that the joyous, queer space that we were occupying was special and vitally important.

After the drag performers, Roan took the stage, opening with her hit “Naked in Manhattan,” a song about her first queer experience. Both she and her band were rocking homecoming attire, complete with sequined sets and sneakers. Roan interspersed new music with older hits and played two unreleased songs:, “After Midnight” and “Red Wine Supernova.” When introducing the latter song, Roan, who is from Missouri, said it was a country song, but not to worry, it was also gay. 

Roan also performed the track “Bitter” from her 2017 EP “School Nights,” which she said was about being depressed in high school and though it is hard to sing now, she finds it important to honor her younger self. Roan has a beautiful, unique voice — especially well-suited to her cover of Alanis Morrissette’s “You Oughta Know” — and her live vocals did not disappoint.

As Roan worked her way through the setlist, the sold-out crowd danced and screamed along, especially during songs like “Femininomenon,” which had a dance that the crowd caught on to and her most recent release, “Casual,” whose music video features Roan falling in love with a mermaid. 

However, no song could have compared to the closing song, Roan’s biggest hit to date, “Pink Pony Club.” As Roan sang the ending words, “I’m gonna keep on dancing,” the crowd danced and sang along the loudest they had all night. I am sure we all would have kept dancing if we could have, but by the end of the night my voice was shot and my feet hurt — the sign of a great show.

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