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The Unshakeable Legacy of James Bondage


The bass thumps through the walls of The Howe Sound Inn as we wait in the cold to get inside. We’re dressed as warmly as possible.

But underneath all those layers, the ones that make us presentable to the outside world, we’re dressed for the 6th annual James Bondage party.James Bondage Poster

I’d been invited the year before, regaled by Squamptonians with tales of the “best party of the year”. But my mind was too closed—scared away by the idea of a sex dungeon in the same room that housed a few of my Small Business classes—and I stayed at home, judging the party from afar.

Photo: Matt Walker

But this year’s different. My girlfriend bought me a ticket and she and her friends have outfitted me in what can best be described as a “pantless pilot” costume.

Strict Dress Code

There’s a dress code, and I’m haphazardly adhering to it. But the guy in front of me isn’t quite so lucky. Flat-brim cap, baggy jeans and a T-shirt, he’s dressed like he would for a normal night at the bar.

But this ain’t no normal night at the bar. He’s politely informed that unless he loses the jeans, he’s not allowed in. He gives in after a moment or two of protest, revealing an absolutely blinding set of tightey whities.

JAmes Bondage Party Squamish
Photo: Matt Walker

And just like that he’s good to go, disappearing from the world outside and crossing the threshold into a pulsating den of hedonism.

We’re next so we check our coats, revealing a collective assortment of leather, fishnets, high heels and skin. I’m still apprehensive, but my intrigue grows with every step I take towards the bass.

We’re reminded that personal cameras aren’t allowed in the venue, not that we’d have anywhere to put them. But with social media stripping our lives of so much privacy, the policy makes perfect sense.

Finally, after all sorts of build-up, we walk through the doors and step into the space that normally houses the Brew Pub.

Expectation vs. Reality

Expectations clash with reality and the latter manifestation is beyond anything that I could have envisioned from my throne of judgment (couch) back at home.

James Bondage Party Squamish
Photo: Matt Walker

Go-go dancers do high kicks on the stage, playing off one another with seamless professionalism; I see my dentist, clad in leather shorts and a spiked collar, grooving hard in the middle of the dance floor; I get a kiss on both cheeks from a (wo)man who’s at least six inches taller than me; and I get a polite wave from a man in a black leather mask before his leash catches and his partner, also masked, gently drags him away to the other side of the bar.

Squamish’s Favourite Party

It’s clear that I haven’t just walked into a party, but a legacy – an environment devoid of pretense and ego carefully cultivated by some of the Sea to Sky’s most loveable weirdos.

The inaugural party happened in 2005, recalls Eric Armour, owner of The Trinity Romance Shop and James Bondage mastermind.

James Bondage Party
Photo: Matt Walker

Back then Squamish had a brilliant house party scene with a really tight crew of amazing people. Folks were psyched on the town, life, and doing really cool things,” he explains.

“All I did was help channel it a little, and give the space it needed to grow.  Once that seed was sowed it took off like wildfire, and everyone wanted to be a part,” he adds.

“It should be noted that even though the concept bubbled up through my grey matter it could never have been pulled off without the amazing team/family that helped to pull it together year after year.”

JAmes BOndage PArty Squamish
Photo: Matt Walker

The end result could be described as an introductory fetish party. But that hasty explanation does little to describe what it’s like when the LBGT, Straight and Fetish communities all shake their booties under the same roof.

“Nudity,” says Armour when asked what kinda vibe he and his helpers were striving to create. “Not in the literal sense, though some of that did occur.  

Nudity in the sense of creating a space where the vulnerable could be celebrated, the closeted empowered, and everyone’s egos got left at the door so a night of true magic could be embarked upon.”

A Fundraising Machine

But perhaps the best part of the event is that its nine year legacy of party rockin’ raised over $50,000 for The Howe Sound Women’s Centre and art installations around town (The side of Field’s, for instance).

What appeared from the outside to be a freaky-deaky sex fiesta was actually an open-arms, community-minded affair on the inside.

And I think the thing that resonated with me the most was the collective feeling of freedom that the party brought out in its attendees. Personalities, traits and behaviours judged too harshly by society at large were displayed with pride:

We’re all a bunch of fuckin’ weirdos, so let’s get fuckin’ weird kinda mentality.

James BOndage PArty Squamish
Photo: Matt Walker

The Howe Sound Inn transformed into the best house party you’ve ever been to, with a series of both private and public rooms that let you determine just how weird you wanted to get.

It’s a beautiful thing when all the bullshit gets checked alongside your coat. You feel like your true self at a party, maybe for the first time in your life.

“Party in truth, and truth in party,” explains Armour.

I’m just glad that a would-be poser like myself was living in Squamish at the time and got to see first-hand exactly what he means by that.

James Bondage PArty
Deviant Fairytale Poster

The final James Bondage went down on February 16th, 2013, leaving a legacy of looseness and leading the likes of The Two Acre Shaker and The Squamish Festival into the radness of yesteryear.

“It’s time for new art, on a new canvas, with new sculptors shaping the Squamish party scene,” says Armour.

“That’s my polite way of saying to the youthful masses ‘step it up, embrace your inner kamiwaza, choose yourselves, and make something beautiful.’”


Feeling nostalgic? Here’s Dj Just Sheila’s mix from one of the events.

 


Mikey Nixon

The author Mikey Nixon

Mikey Nixon has done a good job convincing the world that he’s a “writer”. The majority of his assignments are actually just copy and pasted (drunkenly) from Wikipedia where A cornered sloth may swipe at its attackers in an effort to scare them away or wound them.
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