#Bend Is a Drag, in C Minor | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

#Bend Is a Drag, in C Minor

After a recent show had locals in awed silence, I caught up with one talented drag piano player

I had the privilege of stumbling upon some of the most unrecognizable local talent in December at Midtown Ballroom. It was at the first of its kind, the 2022 "Winter Gala," put on by the Queer Creators' Collective, a new creative collective founded by local drag queen, Caressa Banana.

click to enlarge #Bend Is a Drag, in C Minor
Photo courtesy of Joy Reyneke photography
Amber Tingle struts down the runway in all or her winter queen glory at the Queer Creators’ Collective’s 2022 Winter Gala.

Minus the packed house, impeccable costumes, a Mean Girls "Jingle Bell Rock" ensemble and Oscar-worthy makeup art, the Gala also served as a fashion and talent show (as well as a benefit for Toys 4 Tots). The show was nothing but lively, the music was loud and every Bendite in the audience was hootin' and hollerin' like they haven't been out of the house since pre-pandemic. I mean, a drag fashion show?! What can get more fun?

Based off the turnout, Bend does love drag. Once a few of the queens did their runway struts (and absolutely slayed), it was time for the first talent act, featuring Charlie Davis — drag name: Amber Tingle — who turned what previously was a roaring crowd into a whisper-less room. It was just us, Amber Tingle and her electric Korg piano.

Tingle performed three jaw-dropping piano compositions that compiled an original score, "Andare" by Ludovico Einaudi and "Cornfield Chase" by Hans Zimmer. And not just anyone can pull this off in one sock and one stiletto I might add. I was immediately inspired, so I checked in with Amber Tingle about the show.

Source Weekly: Where are you from?

Amber Tingle: Jackson, Mississippi. I moved to Bend a little over three years ago.

SW: Where did you begin your start performing in drag?

AT: I had my first drag brunch at 10 Barrel East a year and a half ago, and the next day, my first night show at the Volcanic Theatre Pub with some of my lovely brothers and sisters in the Cult of Tuck.

SW: When did you start getting into drag?

AT: In Mississippi, drag was definitely not an option for me. I'm not even openly gay back home. I always loved makeup though, and every Halloween I went full-out. Halloween was and still is my favorite holiday. But it wasn't until I moved to Bend that this turned into drag. I was raised in a conservative, Christian home, and I wasn't ever safe or supported in my queerness. I didn't have any of the tools to cope with a world that told me I was wrong for existing, so I was very depressed and an alcoholic in my late teens. I started getting in drag in treatment because I was in such a supportive environment and could safely explore my queerness without judgement. And I desperately felt the need for a creative outlet. Looking back at what my drag has become, I feel my work has paid off.

SW: How long have you been playing piano?

AT: Since I was about 4.

SW: What has been your experience doing drag in Bend?

AT: I love doing drag in Bend because I don't feel too much pressure. Bend's drag scene is still relatively small. I feel like I know many of the audience members here which makes it easier and more fun to engage with them while performing. My first public appearance in drag was at a Trump rally on Peace Corner, where I showed up with a speaker, my hips and two middle fingers. I didn't get paid of course, but I made a lot of people uncomfortable, so I felt fulfilled.

SW: When did drag and playing piano intertwine?

AT: I was staying at a friend's house with some of the other queens, and they had a piano at their house, so naturally we all put on wigs and sat around the living room while I played the piano. D'Auntie Carol suggested I start doing piano shows in drag. Probably the best suggestion I've been told.

SW: Do you mainly perform your own musical compositions?

AT: I'd say a little over a third of the songs I play are original compositions. The rest is a mix of classical and contemporary music from other artists.

SW: Have you played at any venues in town?

AT: I had my first ever piano gig a few months back at The Canteen/the Campfire Hotel, which was a personal milestone for me as a pianist.

SW: What is #BendIsADrag and what does it mean to the drag community here in Bend?

AT: Basically it means that Bend needs some spicing up! It needs more queerness and creative genius. Bend is a wonderful and beautiful place filled with wonderful and beautiful people, but it could always be gayer.

A video of the Winter Gala performance is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_jrWN6nhO8

Watch more of Amber Tingle's performances on her socials: @theambertingle

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