A place where all are accepted and any kind of hate is turned away at the door may sound like a fairy tale, but partners Tyler Shepherd and Gannon Baxter are trying to make their club going experience a judgment-free reality.
Shepherd and Baxter wanted to create a safe and entertaining space for anyone and everyone who felt like they didn’t belong anywhere else. They then decided to create a subculture party dedicated to those who want to show off their outlandish, extravagant outfits and dance like nobody’s watching without having to travel all the way to Los Angeles for the full-blown experience.
“There were so many things going on in LA and we always felt like we had to drive 30 miles to go somewhere so we could have fun and wear a really extravagant outfit and feel like a star,” says Baxter. “We wanted to bring that type of atmosphere down to Orange County.”
Even though the Subculture Party is an event that mostly draws the attention of outcasts, it is for anyone who wants to experience and experiment that side of Orange County and themselves.
“Subculture describes the miniature cultures inside of the larger culture that have found something in common. They aren’t apart of the main flow or the normal crowd but they all have that in common so it brings all of them together and creates a community,” Shepherd says.
Both Baxter and Shepherd have been in the Orange County and Los Angeles nightlife scene for over five years. They started their career with putting on events at gay clubs where Shepherd noticed that the scene in OC was starting to die down and all the parties were starting to blend together.
“All of the interesting and cool people that we met in LA were actually traveling there from Orange County,” says Shepherd. “It made me wonder why we didn’t have anything here and why we were all traveling.”
After realizing that Orange County was in need of getting its nightlife revived, the Subculture Party was born. Their first party was on Oct. 12 and they received over 180 RSVPs with a turnout that was so much more than they could have imagined.
Since the first party, they have been seeing recurring faces of people that they don’t even know but are now regular Subculture Party attendees, according to Baxter and Shepherd.
“The response from our very first party was just so overwhelmingly and tremendously positive,” says Shepherd. “A lot of people that were at that party told us that that was the most fun they ever had at that venue.”
They decided to make the parties 18 and over because they didn’t want to limit who could come and express themselves. Shepherd decided he did not want to make the parties 21 and over because he knows there are many creative and aspiring young adults in Orange County.
Baxter and Shepherd also decided to make sure every party that they throw has a unique and interactive theme that would allow those who attend to dress accordingly. A theme from one of the earlier parties was, “Sunday Mass” and it had people arriving dressed in all black and some were wearing red, fuzzy, headband devil horns.
“We don’t define the parties as being a themed event but we like to give people something to go off of,” says Shepherd. “At one party we had that was themed “Toxic Future,” we had people showing up in gas masks and some were in neon green, tight snakeskin bodysuits.”
The people that attend vary from all types of scenes. Some people go to get out of the house and others go to create a whole new persona that they usually don’t let out in public. No matter if you are a wallflower or someone who will dance until they can’t feel their feet, all are welcome.
Since their first party, the Subculture Parties have found a home at El Rincon Mexicano, a Mexican restaurant in Santa Ana. The venue was found through a friend of Shepherd and Baxter who played some punk shows at that restaurant. When walking into a Subculture Party, the heart-pounding music and the occasionally blinding vibrant lights make you forget that you walked into a Mexican restaurant in the first place.
The most recent party that was thrown and hosted by Shepherd and Baxter was on Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, with the theme, “Heart Destroyers.”
At every Subculture Party, there is a themed, interactive and vibrant art installation for the photo op section provided by a friend of Baxter and Shepherd, Four Ricin. Four Ricin is also the photographer for the parties and is the one who captures images of those using the photo op.
“A really big part of what makes our party special is the art installation that our friend Four Ricin puts on,” says Shepherd. “He is another brilliant and creative person behind this project.”
Shepherd and Baxter are also two of the DJs for the party along with The Aquadolls band member, Melissa Brooks. On top of providing a DJ set, planning the parties and setting everything up, Baxter and Shepherd walk around the venue all night and engage in conversations to make sure everyone is having a good time.
According to Shepherd, those who feel intimidated shouldn’t because when you do go you will realize that everyone is just there to have a good time.
“We also just want to create an inclusive atmosphere to where it’s not just a gay safe space, it’s just a safe space in general for people to go when they need a place to go,” Baxter says.
The next Subculture Party will be tonight (Friday, March 22) with a theme of “Dungeons and Dragons.”