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How The Back Lot Bash Became Pride Weekend's Ultimate Lesbian Destination

By Josh McGhee | June 16, 2017 9:48am | Updated on June 19, 2017 10:04am
 Christina Wiesmore (top left) and Amie Klujian (lower left) founded the Back Lot Bash in 2004.
Christina Wiesmore (top left) and Amie Klujian (lower left) founded the Back Lot Bash in 2004.
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Courtesy of Backlot Bash

ANDERSONVILLE — When Amie Klujian was attending Pride festivities years ago, she didn't see a space specifically for lesbian women. So she decided to create one.

Back Lot Bash, which she co-founded in 2004 with her business partner, Christina Wiesmore, has become a destination for women during Pride.

"It wasn't so much that we didn't feel welcomed, but it was carving out a space for our community. It wasn't really about feeling left out, but building a space," Klujian said.

While the bars and people were accommodating in Boystown. where Pride tends to be centered, women-oriented live performers were sometimes an afterthought, Klujian said. But not at Back Lot.

This year Catfight, Kiyomi Valentine, JD Samson, DJ Goodboy, Tori Whodat, Fembot, Dev, Daniela Sea, Gunn Lundemo and Bria & Chrissy will all perform in the lot behind Cheetah Gym, 5238 N. Clark St. Tickets to the festival are available here.

"We founded the festival because we wanted to provide a platform for women in music during Pride," said Klujian, adding they believed the music helped women "feel inspired, comfortable [and] provided a voice to empower them."

When they began planning the festival, an early priority was to find an alternate location, away from the mainstream celebration, she said.

And what better place to celebrate women during Pride than Andersonville, which both organizers called home? 

"Andersonville has always been a neighborhood lesbians have gravitated toward," Klujian said. "We wanted to bring it closer to that hub. My first apartment in Chicago was in Andersonville, right around the corner from the venue."

The Back Lot site, an enclosed parking lot with a "really cool vibe" and an exposed brick backdrop, was the inspiration for the name "Back Lot Bash." The name was dreamed up by a copywriter at the Tribune, a co-worker of Klujian at the time, she said.

The bash began as a one-day festival showcasing female performers before the Pride Parade, then later added a full day of performances after the parade. This year's bash includes: Girls Night Out at Lark, 3441 N. Halsted St. at 10 p.m. Friday and a tasting event called Whiskey, Wine and Women at Reza's, 5255 N. Clark St. at 7 p.m. June 23.

But the addition Klujian is most proud of is the Family Fun Fest, a free event that began in 2013 as a place for children of same-sex parents and their parents.

The event allows families to meet each other, build relationships with each other, share events and learn from each other, Klujian said.

"It's a chance for the children to know they're special and loved. All families are welcome, but we think it's especially important to acknowledge families in the LGBTQ community," she said.

Family Fun Fest features face-painting, puppets, kids activities and family photos. The event, which features performances by Laura Doherty and the Heartbeats and Jaclyn Rada with Girlband, will be held from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. June 24 at 5238 N. Clark St.

While the Back Lot Bash is for all folks who respect it, it can provide an especially liberating place for women "who may not be out" to be themselves, she said.

"It's a place where they can feel 100 percent welcomed. For people who may not live in a community where they can be out, it's a place to have the weight lighter off their shoulders," Klujian said.

A full schedule of Back Lot Bash events is available here.