Indie Queer Interview: Liz Tymus, Founder

Liz Tymus- at play

Liz Tymus

As Madison celebrates Pride Week 2008 and its valued LGBTQA community, we took some time out from our crazy live music schedule to check in with one of Madison’s own scenestresses Liz Tymus. Liz is the founder of the ever growing iQ dance party phenomenon.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I grew up in WI and have lived in Madison since 2000. I received my degree in Women’s Studies from the UW. I Spent some time living in Prague in 2004 and 2005. I Planned to move to a big city to pursue a career in media production. Proximity to my family and strong community ties have kept me here. I manage a coffee shop on State Street. My partner just gave birth to our first daughter Joella this year and we are committed to raising her in Madison. I started iQ as a fun project, it has now become a 2nd full-time job.  However, it is one that I am very committed to and passionate about!

You have done an incredible job building the iQ party reputation in Madison, what have been your biggest obstacles and most pleasant surprises along the way?

Obstacles: staying true to my vision and my community. iQ really took off this past year and became something entirely different than it was in 2007. We lost the King Club, we lost Tizzy, but we gained a whole lot. Being able to book a monthly party at a 600 capacity venue is amazing. Booking DJs with regional recognition like Diamonds has brought a new vibe to iQ. Justifying this new vibe is challenging at times. iQ used to be the main event. It was a totally new and unusual 150+ dance party full of queers and queer minded allies dancing until sweat poured down their bodies. Now the street talk is about Discotech. There are sometimes folks who don’t know what iQ is but they know that Discotech is the best dance party in Madison. So I’m learning to take pride in what iQ has become and not what it has ‘not’ become.

Why do you think iQ parties have taken off in Madison with such fervor, what need do they meet for the community?

I remember being 18, 20, 22 in Madison and wanting to dance. Growing up I went to Milwaukee for underage nights at MadPlanet. It was all I thought about all week. Madison is lacking dance clubs with good reputations in a major way. I remember hearing a silly rumor that dance floors are banned on state street and emphasis is put on ‘gathering’ and thus, drinking a silly amount of liquor. The only places I remember dancing before iQ were either at house parties or driving to Club 5. Ten Percent Society used to have their infamous TPS dances, but have lost their reputation as dance parties over the last eight years. There is so much music out there that is dance provoking. If you’re not of the Madison Avenue persuasion your outlets are few to none. iQ was my way of promoting dance parties as well as providing a social outlet for the 20-something queer-minded community who had no outlet in the Madison nightlife.

What were your main goals when you started iQ? Have they shifted over time?

iQ was inspired by Drink to the Ban, a DIY effort to bring queer business to bars suffering from the smoking ban. It turned into a gathering event for queer folks and as it slowly fizzled out I realized there was no regular place or event where queers would meet and hang out. iQ was a night originally for queers to come together and socialize, and then it was about a dance party. For a while it was about queer live music and that failed miserably, I don’t even want to go there. But now iQ is about growth and expansion of this marketable concept, of this ‘indieQueer’ demographic. iQ now is about promoting parties for anyone looking to connect on the level of queer identity or their love for rockin’ dance parties and hipster DJs.

What other types of queer space is Madison in need of? Describe your vision of the perfect Q friendly Madison…

Madison could use a solid venue to offer itself to queer artists & queer folks wanting to gather. I would like to see a more involved Madison LGBTQ community center. No offense to Outreach, but my 8 years in Madison have not seen enough involvement or improvement from the resources they have access to. Madison is stuck in a ‘lame duck’ era. The leading community members of the late 80’s are holding on tightly to their rank in local orgs. They have lost the desire to connect with the spectrum of queer Madisonians, and our cross-community organizing is suffering. I would like to see a coffee shop/performance venue/night spot that is queer owned and targets all queer Madisonians, as well as a Pride Fest weekend that people travel for. I want to see more support for Our Lives Magazine, it is an amazing resource. Also more q voices in the Isthmus would harbor community.

What does the name iQ mean to you?

iQ is like a lovechild for me. It was an idea I spent a lot of time pitching to the community and it caught on. Now it’s an awesome convergence of indie party kids & queer identified folks coming together for various parties to celebrate a vibe. The iQ vibe is this feeling of ‘freedom’ and ‘youth’. Quickly this vibe is being branded as ‘iQ’.

Tell us something about yourself we may not know:

I used to be a regular ‘lesbian with a guitar’ on the terrace for open mics. My favorite song to sing was ‘Romeo & Juliet’ by the Dire Straights, but I’d do the Indigo Girls version- ha ha!

Describe an iQ party for those who haven’t gone..yet

An iQ Discotech party starts out slow but confident. Everyone shows up in their favorite hipster outfit or their newest screen printed t-shirt. The kids who know the DJs start dancing first. Slowly the queers arrive, looking their best for the months iQ Discotech. Around 10:30pm the dance floor is a wave of iQ kids moving to the music. By 11:30 it takes a bit longer to get a drink at the crowded bar. By 12:30 the headlining DJ takes over the party and people are dancing their hearts out. Some folks chose to stay away from the dance floor and hang in the upstairs bar taking breaks to look over the balcony at the sea of dancers below. It’s a pulsating view if you stand there for a minute or so. People are so happy, it’s really the best night of my month- to watch so many people have such a pure and aerobic evening. It’s a mix of 18-40 year olds, queers, hipsters, city kids, country folks, straight couples, gay couples, friends, singles, Madison celebrities, local business owners, lawyers, doctors, students, old school and new school iQ folk….It’s really the coolest collection of Madison folks from a queer perspective.

iQ offers a full schedule of events which you can check out at their website. Additional Pride Week events as well as relevant editorial content can also be found at the Our Lives website.

-MJ Hecox

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