Evolution Wonderlounge is your gay bar, and the best place to be when Pride kicks off this weekend
By Liam Newbigging | June 1, 2023
I recall being at one of Evolution Wonderlounge’s (EVO) infamous dance parties in April this year. I was with a group of friends and was pretty sober, having a wicked time. At EVO, everyone just feels like they’re having fun.
As a pillar of the queer community for nearly 10 years, it makes sense that EVO would be the No. 1 choice to start off pride month, and this year it’s cracking things open with an explosive Pageantinta featuring a Lipsynch Lollapalooza with some of the best lip-syncing drag queens and kings in the city.
“We’ve got kings, queens and people playing in all parts of the gender sandbox,” says EVO’s co-owner and operator Robert Browatzke. Also, if you’ve never had the chance to see LaDonna Stone, June 2 will be a great introduction. The night continues after the show with late-night dancing from D.J. Lady Luck. And this only starts a pride season that’s going to sashay across the whole summer.
“We’re kind of billing it as the summer of pride,” says Browatzke, who says there are so many pride events happening across the city this year that they cannot be contained within the typical month of June. Some events will take place in July, and the annual Pride Festival will now occupy August.
This is going to be Browatzke’s ninth pride with EVO, but he still remembers what the first was like and how the city has changed since then. “It was the last time that there was a parade downtown,” he says, remembering how it used to go right to the front of the EVO location. “That first Pride, the city was very different. It was still very much gay-bar driven and less straight bar participation.”
But, this year, the month of June will see seven different drag brunches throughout the whole month and a frenzy of pride events from small community halls to neighbourhood block parties like the one at Grindstone Theatre. “I think it [Edmonton] was pretty progressive in 2014. But that progression has just evolved, and we certainly expanded out of gay bars into all corners of the city.”
Browatzke says it’s still important to remember that pride is a protest. Even though the city has grown in its broad acceptance of queer people, there is hate and bigotry that still affect the community every day. “We’re still standing firm, standing proud as a community against very real enemies,” says Browatzke. “But at the end of the day, I look at it as a celebration, an affirmation and an opportunity to be ourselves.”
“There’s a whole community of people that have your back,” he says. “There’s going to be more people waving a rainbow than not.”