Maltese bar champions one of Chico’s most diverse drag shows

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Hana Beaty

A performer at the drag show made sure to entertain the audiences in a fun sexy way.

Drag kings and queens from all over northern California gathered at the Maltese Bar, Saturday night for the venues monthly Drag Show.

The show began at 10:30 p.m., but most of the crowd and a few of the performers were there much earlier to chat and drink on the bar’s back patio. Performers of all different shapes, sizes and styles began to trickle into the changing rooms as the inside of the bar became more and more crowded. 

Host Millian, a drag queen who has performed at the Maltese for over eight years, introduced the first acts of the night. 

An array of incredibly diverse performances ensued, with some queens choosing to lip sync to songs that would make any diva proud and others choosing to dance to more interpretive or throw-back styles of music. 

At one point, one of the performers lost their wig while executing a powerful hair flip, and the crowd went wild as they continued to rock the song in an edgy pixie-cut. 

“There’s no judgement here. This, here, is what you call a safe space,” Millian said. “This is where we have fun. This is where we accept everybody and we love everyone. That’s why I love drag. I love being an entertainer.” 

A few drag kings also took to the stage for solo acts or couple collaborations with other queens. Some sets included a Magic Mike-style performance by Will Ryder, one of the Malteses’ resident drag kings. 

Originally a performer from Salinas, Ryder became part of the show shortly after moving to Chico. Ryder, as well as all of the other performers, create their own sets for each show. 

“The creative aspect of it all comes from each individual performer,” Ryder said when asked about the stylistic inspiration behind the show. “Sometimes we do group collaborations. You might see a few tonight or if we do our solo stuff, it gives us an opportunity to use the stage to tell a story to others who may not otherwise hear it.” 

The talent and creativity of the performers did not disappoint, especially as performers returned for the second half of the night. Under a cosmic display of swirling lights, the audience experienced a sassy techno routine, a burlesque show, rave costumes and rap acts. One queen dropped into the splits during a performance of “Candy Man” and threw heart-shaped lollipops out to the crowd. 

“It’s the kind of performance that you won’t get anywhere in Chico. Like you’re not going to see a drag show once a month anywhere else in town,” Producer Brandon Hilty said. “We’re really lucky that we have this place and that we have people willing to do it.”

Maltese Bar hosts drag shows every third Saturday of the month with an $8 entry fee.

 Kirstin Joyce can be reached at [email protected] or @joyce_kirstin on Twitter.