As a longtime rave enthusiast, I’m used to commands to throw my hands up. But that’s usually on the buildup to a break, not in the midst of another pandemic wave.
And yet that’s what I feel we’re being told to do right now, as the mayor says we’re supposed to just shrug ourselves along and “learn to live with” COVID—without much immediate guidance (or emergency funds) coming from the administration as to how that’s supposed to work, exactly.
This is an especially sensitive topic for nightlife, because, as our frisky and fancy-free mayor well knows, it can be a crapshoot whether mask mandates and other protections are being enforced inside some venues, where people from all over congregate and let loose. As she’s said, nobody wants the government “fun police” stationed everywhere (although that is literally the definition of most city agencies?) and I’m grateful to those valiant venues and beleaguered staff who do try to tackle this often impossible task on their own.
So now, with COVID infections currently at record level, however mild for much of the boosted, we’re caught in this weird limbo of “personal responsibility”—hello, Zombie Reagan—where we get to decide completely on our own if we want to risk getting something that may just put us on a ventilator or out of work and/or kill our grandparents or foodworkers or disabled friends in order to party. All this and no readily available tests, huh?
While I know the “lockdowns”—we were never really locked down—were frustrating, this moment of the supposedly new normal is forcing venues and promoters to make some crushingly difficult decisions on their own. As an arts editor, I’m really torn between supporting in-person events and telling people to stay home. I applaud clubs who are playing it safe by closing or postponing things right now, but I don’t want them to go bankrupt either. Really, I just don’t know!
Case in point: Public Works has just made the decision to shut down for two weeks, until January 28. General Manager Rob Casanovas told me over email:
Whelp, good ol’ Covid decided to throw another curve ball and the numbers were trending upward. Something that has been going on longer than these past couple weeks is the market has been cut in half, and with low attendances it’s a struggle to even break even. It’s not anyones fault, people are just being cautious. Thankfully there has been government assistance that has help us stay afloat, but we’re going to be approaching do-or-die circumstances again. So every loss that we take we see our life bar go down a little more. It’s getting to the point where we really have to look at the financial risk of throwing a show and decide wether it’s better to not make a profit or end up bleeding and losing even more money for trying to be open. It’s a lose-lose situation. All that being said, we’re weathering the storm and are determined to make it out and celebrate with everyone again once the “chill” in the world comes back.
So I think for right now I’m going to suggest some nightlife things you can do online with maybe a couple of real things thrown in for those who wish to partake (we’re all going back to Twitch! lol)—I’d love any feedback from you all about what you think a nightlife columnist should be highlighting these days! (email@example.com)
UPCOMING NIGHTLIFE EVENTS
FRI/14 RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE WITH LADY CAMDEN You know, once I would rather be caught dead than recommend this, but I guess I’m dead now! Also, that snobbery was mostly due to the show’s continued snub of San Francisco legends-in-the-making. It’s season 14,000 now, and we’re only up to our third SF queen in the competition. (They even have a straight guy on there now, which is fine, but…). Yet the regal Lady Camden, formerly of Smuin Ballet, is giving me hope. Why not pour yourself a cool one and tune into VH1 for the onscreen drama—and possible fracking commercials. 8pm, VH1.
FRI/14 CATENA: SOUND/IMAGE THROUGH A HYBRID NETWORK This now-online dance-performance-tech piece has me hella intrigued. “Dilate Ensemble has been developing a local network linking different spaces within the CounterPulse building with electronic musician Scott Miller, based remotely in Minnesota. Sonically-speaking, variables such as amplitude, frequency, physical characteristics of the room, speaker placement or microphones can impact simple behaviors that result in complex layered outcomes. CounterPulse’s upstairs studio and project basement will be animated by audio-reactive video projection installations by Carole Kim.” 8pm, online, more info here.
SAT/15 BEATPIG Two of my favorite young queer techno DJs, Chuck Gunn and Likeholywine, will have you squealing for more at this monthly oinkfest, hosted by Juanita More. Benefits TransYouth. 9pm, Powerhouse, SF. More info here.
SAT/15 FRINGE This party, featuring indie dance anthems from the 2000s and beyond, is pure, unironic, singalong joy. DJs Blondie K & subOctave go all out to create a sweet party atmosphere. 9pm, Madrone. More info here.
SAT/15 NOISE FROM THE VOID Wicked crew legend Jenö hits Mixlr every Saturday to bring us amazing old school wiggy beats and kaleidoscopic textures. He’s a terrific DJ, of course, but I am absolutely blown away every week by his selections—where on earth does he get these versions? Crying. 6pm, www.mixlr.com/noise-from-the-void
SUN/16 WERD: MLK SUNDAY WITH SEVEN DAVIS JR. The local production-songwriter-DJ wiz continues to break house boundaries—a perfect choice to celebrate MLK Day with the Werd crew. 9pm, Monarch, SF. More info here.
SUN/16 MEDIA MELTDOWN: RETROSPECTIVE – A DRAG SHOW! Tune into Twitch for a look back at all the insane drag numbers this wonderful local collective cooked up over the pandemic. Better yet, tip the gals! We’re all trying to make it through this, honey. 7:30pm, www.twitch.tv/mediameltdown
SUN/16 AMBIENT MAFIA: SUNDAY SUNDOWNS This local ambient crew (with a bit of dub thrown in) has definitely kept me going throughout the pandemic, with its Sunday Twitch streams featuring a wonderful array of talent I’m becoming freshly aware of. 5pm-10pm, www.twitch.tv/theambientmafia
SOMETHING TO EASE YOUR ANXIETY DJ royalty François K just uploaded to YouTube one of the first streaming shows he did near the beginning of this mess, and it’s a real treat—a musical history of the brief, wildly influential Sheffield Bleep scene and the birth of Warp Records. It will help you forget the real world for a bit.
François told me over Twitter about the mix, “This was done 18 months ago during the height of the first wave of lockdowns, my apologizies for any omissions or oversights but I was streaming every other day and there was no time to plan and research this, paramount in my mind was to entertain people with something special.” Enjoy! (And for a deeper history of the scene, check out Join The Future: Bleep Techno & the Birth of British Bass Music by Matt Anniss.)