The Peach stage has gone through a lot in the last five years. From floor shows on the raw cement of the club dance floor, through multiple renovations, address changes, venue shutdowns, heel-flying incidents, and more, Hanoi’s longest running drag show slowly but surely found a home by building up a community in the process.

I wasn’t around during the earliest days of Peach, but for a solid three years, I can count on one hand the number of shows I missed. I’ve been participant to performances with aggressive vegetable innuendo, dripping hot wax, ventilation-clogging confetti, and low-key fire code violations; I’ve witnessed vampiric parodies about menstruation, mother-daughter lip sync duets, jump splits off ceiling pipes, Brokeback drag kings lassoing cowgirls, otherworldly alien invaders, fashionista punks, and plenty other shocking, hilarious, messy moments and scandalous sketches at Peach, featuring a talented cast of local artists. If you’re expecting something ordinary, tame, or palatable, you’re better off staying at home.

Peach isn’t there to make you feel comfortable. In fact, it’s pretty uncomfortable. It’s the only time I ever see the Anteroom at Savage elbow-to-elbow, knee-to-knee packed with people standing on chairs and benches just to get a better view. There’s barely any wiggle-room to edge over to the bar for a drink. People are decked out in character-revealing clothes, flashy jewelry, glamorous kitsch, and expressive style. There’s a playful sense of camaraderie and joy. For a couple hours of raucous entertainment, the club is filled with cheesy music, hollering, and laughter that spills over into the energy of the night. Although you can count on a fun time, Peach always comes with something unexpected. It’s an honest celebration and unfiltered display of Hanoi’s local queer scene.

On May 20, 2023, join this extra juicy Peach night celebrating the crew’s 5th anniversary along with a signature Snug all-nighter from 6 PM to 8 AM the next day.

We caught up with Peach founders Annie, Kate, and Gia to talk about the upcoming party as well as look back at their journey so far.

What were the very first days of Peach like?

Chaos and excitement. Every show was our big chance to make it to the next show. We were all learning as we went and trying to establish what Peach was. The first year, a lot of people at Savage wouldn’t even realize there was a show going on and would walk right through performances.

The first performance we thought was a huge success with about 40 people. We say 40 but we really don’t know. We weren’t trying to build a show, but just have a place to perform. There were no lights, the host had to shout because the microphone was stuck in the DJ booth, the photos are dark and grainy, someone shot whipped cream into places whipped cream shouldn’t go, everyone had a blast, and we danced until the sun came up.

What were your goals in establishing Peach? Have they changed since then?

The original goal was to give ourselves and other queer artists a place to perform on our own terms. And we achieved those goals. Peach has always been open to all queer artists (even though 99% of the queer artists who book through us are drag performers), and we’ve had performers from every continent and dozens of different countries.

Peach itself is the accomplishment we never set out to do. At the time, we were a few misfit drag queens. Nobody was interested in booking us, and we wanted to goof off. We thought we’d get two, maybe three months to have our fun and then return to our normal lives and show people photos of “that summer I did drag” years later. But every month we realized the next show was going to happen, and here we are now.

As for future goals, we want to bring more performers from outside Hanoi and Vietnam to share with the audience. We’ve brought in performers from Taipei and Bangkok and it’s always been a great experience for the audience, performers, and our special guests who have always adored our audiences and how electric they are.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in putting together a monthly show?

Improving the show is a slow process. You only get one show a month to try something new. The process of “Get feedback and come up with a solution → screw it up the first time → get it right” seems simple, but takes an entire summer.

Add to the fact that drag really doesn’t make that much money, meaning getting something as simple as a stage light (or a stage) is a multi-month long ordeal. And then when you finally get a stage that makes it 35% easier to see, you’re doting on it to your friends who are just nodding their head and saying, “Oh, yeah, it’s nice,” but they don’t realize you spent seven months saving and shopping and meeting with carpenters and painters and negotiating prices. Then, someone death drops on it and it breaks.

It’s a rewarding process, but it’s slow.

How has the local scene changed in 5 years?

From the audience perspective: it’s much larger and much more Vietnamese. Originally, the audience was almost entirely foreigners. The shows were hosted exclusively in English. In the last three years and post-covid lockdowns in particular, it’s become much more mainstream with younger Vietnamese crowds. We’re particularly excited by how many Vietnamese performers have been embracing Vietnamese music in the last few years, which was always a rare treat when the scene was younger.

What are some of your favorite moments from Peach in the past 5 years?

Kate: When Quest [Festival] was canceled and hundreds of party people were left going back to Hanoi with nothing to do for the weekend, and performers were in town with no gigs anymore. We got a hold of Savage while driving back from Ba Vi. Within an hour, we had a show booked with performers who were meant for Quest. Peach, along with several other organizations and bars, set Hanoi on fire that weekend, giving all of the festival goers the party they deserved. It was our largest show ever at the time, and the energy there was just so appreciative and supportive of everyone—that this big weekend that people invested a lot of money into got ruined and we were all there to come together and make the best of it. It was hard not to smile.

Also… performing “Nothing Compares 2 U” on the phone to “someone” while undressing for them. The person on the phone was a pizza, which was delivered to me onstage. I sat in the middle of the dance floor in my underwear and ate it. People were applauding me and I got paid, which never happens when I eat pizza in my underwear. That’s the only time in my life where I thought, “I made it, I really made it.”

Gia: It’s hard to pick a single favorite memory from Peach. It could be my very last performance back in 2019, right before Zazazellia disappeared for the longest time. But it could also be those moments in the cave [at Equation Festival,] where I could totally see the pride on all our performer’s faces, and how everyone cheered them on. Or it might as well be one particular night where I could not remember the exact date but I remember crying the whole show because of how excellent everyone is.

Annie: My most memorable moments of Peach are always the ones where I feel most vulnerable and supported. One in particular was at Peach’s 1-Year Anniversary. I had a performance where I removed my clothing and stood in front of the audience in only my bra and underwear. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my body, but the overwhelming support I received from the audience that night brought me to tears and was another step in loving my body.

What should we look forward to during the 5th Anniversary?

Snug—Savage’s gay night and our monthly party bedfellow—is throwing us a big 24-hour party and opening up extra dance floors, including in their pool!

As for us, we’ve got a couple of new elements and performance styles we’ve never done before that we’re bringing to the show. We don’t want to give it away but you’ll know what it is when you walk in and see it! And keeping with our birthday tradition, we’ve invited some drag royalty from our sister scene in Saigon to spice up our stage and celebrate with us.

Sweet. Any closing words?

We mentioned above that we accept all queer art, not just drag. While we love drag, we’ve always been on the lookout for more types of performances. We get them sometimes: singers, burlesque, we even had a show choir once! If you do queer art, we want you on our stage! Everyone has a place at Peach!

We want to talk about “the Nicole.” It’s our headless golden Barbie that we give as an award to our favorite audience member. She was based on the golden headless mannequin we used at the beginning of Peach as our door greeter (our original founders splurged on mannequins and busts which were kind of synonymous with us for a while.) She got lost in the move to the new Savage. We bought a bunch of headless Barbies on Shopee and it started as a joke, something that we forced onto the audience whether they liked it or not because we thought it was cute. It took two years, but people actually want the Nicole now, and aren’t confused by it or leave it in the bathroom.

Also: our audience. The culture of our audience has been aggressively supportive. All performers who come from other scenes or who have had performing experience before mention this pretty much all the time. They are phenomenal. I tell nervous newbies to not worry, that no matter what they do, the audience is going to love them. I’ve seen backup dancers hired by queens start feeling our crowd and go from “I’m here for a gig” to “I’m having a blast” right in front of me. Our guest DJs have commented on how they normally don’t have so many people dancing and reacting to decisions they’ve made. They’re a really receptive audience. Sometimes I worry what will happen to performers who started at Peach when they go out and meet audiences who aren’t as constantly excited and loud as ours are. I have been singing and performing in front of people for over 25 years now (don’t mention how old I am please) and they really are particularly invested.

Photo credit: Tonya Dzyubenko @ya.neon