In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic locked down the world. As a result, eight months later on Nov. 28, I found myself standing alone in my room and being sworn into the COVEN by two drag queens on Twitch.
“We are a coven. We are here to support each other, and you’re part of the coven with us. Now, repeat: I solemnly swear to use my power to fuck with the patriarchy,” hosts Selma Gahd and Uma Gahd said.
This delightful induction introduced the intimate audience of approximately 60 Twitch users to the second anniversary of the COVEN Drag Show, an evening of drag performances hosted by the ladies of the House of Gahd—Uma Gahd and Selma Gahd, the show’s producer, who had a few words of warning for the audience.
“This show can be a little intense,” Selma said. “This show is meant to freak you out!”
Selma Gahd went on to describe the potentially triggering imagery that would appear in the evening’s performances, including, but not limited to, blood, gore, flashing lights, and clowns. Yet, despite the show’s creepy and supposedly scary premise, the two Ms. Gahds maintained a morbidly humourous tone throughout.
“Assume someone might get bloodied up and murdered by the end of the night, and it might even be part of the show,” Uma joked.
The show was structured around pre-recorded, home-made videos of Montreal’s biggest drag names lip syncing to various songs, with the common denominator appearing to be, just how creepy of a music video can I make for this show? Opener and chat moderator Sierra Myst performed a visually jarring rendition of Röyksopp’s “Running to the Sea,” writhing on the floor, the combination of her KISS-esque makeup and an edited doubling of her body creating a spooky, psychedelic effect. Myst set the mood for the show, which escalated with every performance: Anaconda Lasabrosa lip-synced to Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life,” waking up in a bathtub as a rotting zombie. Demone Lastrange donned a Beetlejuice-green wig as she danced in a kitchen with a knife and pretended to kill someone on what looked like the world’s most violent cooking show.
Gore and lip-syncing aside, the diversity of COVEN’s performances helped maintain a momentum that ensured minimal boredom amongst the audience. Matante Alex’s unique video editing paid homage to the 8-bit Mario format of the 1980s, depicting a miniature Alex dodging fireballs in Bowser’s castle. Drag King Charli Deville, in turn, presented a montage of himself dressed in different costumes, ranging from a freshly-shaven, winged-eye-liner clad man to a creepy, murderous clown. Without fail, every performer throughout the night brought a fiery dedication to appear as freaky as possible, whether it was through costume, choreography, editing, or bloody props.
Despite the daunting online format, COVEN was a success, spotlighting Montreal’s spookiest drag art. Prior to the pandemic, COVEN took place on Halloween at the Diving Bell Social Club. Yet, like many shows, COVEN had to migrate to the COVID-friendly medium of online live streaming. Twitch, a popular streaming platform, proved to be a phenomenal substitute venue, replicating a pre-COVID drag show with banter between the two hosts and audience crowd work via the chat. Even the act of tipping performers translated into a convenient tip button, a bot that would announce the latest tip in a British female accent—dubbed by the Gahds as “Elizabeth.”
Undeterred by the change of performance venue, producer Selma Gahd adapted to public health restrictions, creating a memorable and delightfully spooky evening. Performing Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” Gahd ensured that every performer and every virtual audience member felt the resilience and creativity of Montreal’s queer artists. COVEN was not just an entertaining evening of drag; it was a celebration of adapting to calamity and a welcome invitation to the COVEN for anyone who feels like a fellow weirdo.