Ask a Queer: Uncovering the 4th of July Magic at Daddy’s Grotto


There wasn’t much red, white, and blue at Daddy’s Grotto on the 4th of July, but there were plenty of cool queer people in bathing suits. The elusive backyard space offered the following to partygoers: a small but mighty above-ground pool, stir-fry meals, quality company, free alcohol on tap, and music from a range of different artists.

The party was advertised on a digital flyer that made its rounds on social media. Need the address? “Ask a queer,” it instructed.

In spite of its mystique, Daddy’s Grotto isn’t some manufactured underground venue — it’s literally just the backyard of the lovely Brad Kutner and his husband, Marcus. “Be safe, have fun, look out for one another, and don’t go in the house,” were the only rules verbally recited at the door.

Kutner’s backyard became Daddy’s Grotto in 2019 when he started throwing these 4th of July parties for his friends, most of whom were in the service industry.

“It was a good day to get all of the restaurant folks together and have a good, old-fashioned, scummy Richmond party,” he said.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Brandon Day
Brad (second from left) and his husband Marcus (left) with friends, photo by Brandon Day

Scummy is a stretch though — Daddy’s Grotto parties double as fundraisers. Last year, they donated $1000 to Nationz Foundation, a Richmond-based nonprofit organization that connects LGBT+ community members to access vital health services. Kutner plans on doing the same this year, as well.

I couldn’t help at first but wander around in a state of awe, accompanied by the sounds of DJs Aaron and Lucid. The above ground pool, coolers, kegs, tents, chairs, towels — I saw all the trademarks of a typical American backyard party.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Backyard party goers, photo by Haley Bartel

What differentiated it was the “Come as you are,” vibe the party guests gave off. In its infancy, the party was small and intimate, mostly close friends greeting one another, the first round of artists preparing for their sets. There was a sense of close friendship among the people there, but they still seemed welcoming. The interactions I had were lovely across the board.

Though Daddy’s Grotto had opened for business at noon, the music didn’t start until 1pm, when singer-songwriter Jason Jamal reminded me why I was there. His R&B sound and queer loverboy-like lyrics resonated quickly, and the energy of the backyard focused on him at once.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Jason Jamal, photo by Haley Bartel

Accompanied by a band of guitar, drums, saxophone, bass, and keys, Jamal sang soulful originals inspired by common queer experiences. 

A seated crowd began to form around the stage; those that continued to socialize started to filter out towards the outskirts of the yard. 

Once Jamal’s set had ended, there was a sense of anticipation for the next performer. Folks who had come in during his performance were looking around them, getting their bearings. 

A performer in iridescent shorts and a green bikini top then stepped out onto the grass, crooning into a Y2K bedroom style telephone attached by a chord. On the synthesizer was a person wearing a bobcat mask

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Stephanie, photo by Haley Bartel

The duo performed a siren song of electronic dark wave, musicmaker and vocals connected by a chord. The connection broke only for the singer to run into the crowd, weaving her way through the amalgamation of chairs and blankets.

Immersed in the performance, I barely realized how much the crowd was growing in size.  When late afternoon rolled around Camp Werewolf took the stage, and the backyard came alive with sounds of sweet angst. I praised the emo band for their set here, and they delivered again at Daddy’s Grotto. 

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Camp Werewolf, photo by Haley Bartel

Their set marked a turning point in the day, as more and more people squeezed in shoulder to shoulder, and sets began fading into one another a lot quicker.

Glop was next to go on, the stage pivoting from a full rock band to one guy in braids making psychedelic, ambient noise. The crowd shifted, changed around a little bit, but it remained just as lively. More people were dancing freely and hugging one another.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Glop, photo by Haley Bartel

At this point, the backyard was absolutely packed, the pool filled to the brim. Before the next performance, Kutner got on the microphone and let everyone know they were at capacity.

Then Cassidy Snider & the Wranglers took the stage, the former wearing a bright red corset and matching bathing suit bottoms. Their music was upbeat and fun, with a strong folk influence.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Cassidy Snider & the Wranglers, photo by Haley Bartel

Cassidy was a natural performer and the full band behind her only solidified her stage presence. Her powerful voice was complemented by heavenly violin sounds.

Next to take the stage was Trapcry, whose sexy pop music indicated another shift in party atmosphere. 

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Brandon Day
Trapcry, photo by Brandon Day

They stood on a chair as they performed, looking out and making eye contact with the audience. It was notably the only set that had audience members shaking ass. 

By then, the day had faded well into the evening, and those that danced hard to Cassidy and Trapcry began to tire out. A new crowd started forming in the center of the yard when punk band Destructo Disk came on.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Destructo Disk, photo by Haley Bartel

With the first whine of their guitar, the moshing started. A few audience members started flailing themselves around within the half-circle of bodies that formed at the front of the stage. Folks that did not wish to participate stepped back; those that did moved forward.

The moshpit grew even stronger during the day’s last set — metalcore band Gif from God brought the whole day home as its guitarists and vocalist stepped out from under the tent into the pit.

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Gif from God, photo by Haley Bartel

This is how the show ended, with the performance and audience becoming one big bundle of frenetic energy.

“My friend called it Richmond’s home of the t-girl bikini moshpit,” Kutner proudly told me when I ran into him on my way out.

Guests that preferred not to mosh either hung out around the outskirts of the yard, drinking, smoking, and talking to friends, or ran around the pool in circles trying to create a whirlpool. 

Daddy's Grotto 2023, photo by Haley Bartel
Enjoying the whirlpool, photo by Haley Bartel

The party ended before sundown so neighbors could enjoy their evenings. The fireworks didn’t seem so loud that night with a day’s worth of stellar local music ringing in my ears.


Haley Bartel

Haley Bartel

After going to school for journalism in New York, I somehow landed in Richmond. I enjoy music, and I like to write about it and dance to it.

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