Music + Nightlife

PARTY RADAR: Fly Your Freak Flag Edition

Choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, July 2-4. Plus: the annual “We Survived Pride” prize list!

Do you like messy drag? Do you like sexy America? Then hit up the wildly entertaining Independent Woman party Sat/4.

By Marke B

PARTY RADAR My annual Pride prize list! Most stamina: Miss Rahni –from high-class drag to outdoor go-go dancing, she was at 1000 events, including the 10-hour drag performance marathon Some Thing party. Most looks: Krylon Superstar — 100 fierce and fancy-free looks in 100 hours, including at the record release party for his act Double DuchessBest accessories: Golden laurel crowns, neon butterflies, filthy wedding dresses left over from the anti-Prop 8 celebrations two years ago, humans dressed as dogs, all the jewelry from Juanita More’s annual glamour-drenched Pride party. Best single look: Performance artist Fauxnique slowly rolling down the stairs at City Hall, unravelling yards upon yards of gorgeous fabric.

Fauxnique performs at City Hall, bringing some thought-provoking poignance to the celebration.
Fauxnique performs at City Hall, bringing some thought-provoking poignance to the celebration.

Best overall moment: The Dyke March breaches the 18th street barriers and floods onto its original route to “Take Back the Dyke.” Best moment runner up: When activists hijacked the rainbow flagpole to raise a QITPOC resistance flag. Best ecstatically surreal moment: Extra Action Marching Band crashing onto the dance floor at Sunday’s massive daytime Hard French party at Mezzanine.

Extra Action Marching Band at Hard French. Photo by Ruha Devanesan
Extra Action Marching Band at Hard French. Photo by Ruha Devanesan

Best emotional musical moment: DJ Bus Station John climaxing his outdoor Pink Party set with 10 delirious minutes of Sylvester, and watching 70-year-olds and 17-year-olds alike jumping for joy. Most heard voice: Maya Angelou’s inaugural poem for Clinton “On the Pulse of Morning,” which I heard sampled in at least four DJ sets. (Including that of Miami’s DJ Mystic Bill who with drag queen Noel Leon leading the Pride main stage in a good ol’ fashioned house diva anthem bounce-a-thon — watch for some extra magic around the 3:30 mark). The rock, the river, the tree … indeed.

Our police state, staged and sung in ‘Freedomland’

56th annual SF Mime Troupe show tours the Bay Area, coming to Dolores Park July 3-5.

48 Hills: SF Mime Troupe's 'Freedomland'
Michael Gene Sullivan (Malcolm Haywood), George P. Scott (Nathaniel Haywood), Lisa Hori-Garcia (Cop), and Hugo E Carbajal (Cop) in SF Mime Troupe’s ‘Freedomland.’ Photo by

By Marke B

ONSTAGE “The Mime Troupe has always used art as a way to get people to see the issues in a different way, and to engage them. Sometimes political theater is all about anger, frustration, venting, and endless ‘hey hey, ho ho’ chants. The Mime Troupe has always wanted to entertain and activate the audience. We want to rouse people’s passion for justice, while giving them some hummable tunes, and maybe a good dance number. We want revolutionary change, but there’s no reason a damn good show can’t help get it!”

Michael Gene Sullivan, thrillingly outspoken playwright and actor, is describing to me the potential power of art to change the world. His latest show (with music and lyrics by Ira Marlowe, directed by Andrea Snow), the 56th for the Bay Area’s essential, thriving SF Mime Troupe, is called Freedomland. Its topics — police militarization and overreach, the black community’s vulnerability, the plight of returning veterans — couldn’t be more timely or, depressingly, relevant.

But leave it to the musical Mime Troupe, our dedicated, Tony-winning gaggle of commedia dell’arte enthusiasts with deep hippie roots, to transform those topics into a singing, talking, fast-moving theatrical extravaganza, playing free in parks around the Bay through September 7. The season officially kicks off with the Troupe’s traditional annual Dolores Park debut, July 3-5 at 2pm.

48 Hills: SF Mime Troupe's 'Freedomland'

Freedomland, in another Mime Troupe tradition, tells a twisty tale that touches on all manner of headline-grabbing subjects: “A door is blown off its hinges! Into a blasted room of scarred walls and shattered windows, armed with M-16s, America’s bravest duck and dodge for cover, finally training their deadly gunsights on… an old black man watching TV on his couch? This isn’t Baghdad or Kandahar – it’s home, and for ex-Black Panther Malcolm Haywood it’s just another wrong-door police raid in the War on Drugs. So of course Malcolm is horrified when the grandson he’s tried to protect, Nathaniel, returns from serving in Afghanistan only to find another war zone at home – and one where young black men like Nathaniel are in the crosshairs!”

If anyone can make that a laugh-a-minute riot, it’s our dear Mimes. I spoke with Sullivan about inspirations behind show, his own experiences living as a black man in the Bay Area, and the message behind the Mime Troupe magic.

Castro celebration set for same-sex marriage victory

Join thousands in celebration of Supreme Court ruling, 6pm-9pm in the Castro, Fri/26. 


By Marke B. 

PARTY RADAR Good lord, now that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage across the USA, we have yet another party to add to the already overwhelming rainbow-unicorn-Liberace celebration.

Tonight 6pm-9pm, there will be a huge celebration in the Castro. Maybe you’ll find someone to marry! Your mother would be so proud.

Of course, for those who realize there’s still a ton more work to do to achieve equality (you know we can still be fired in 29 states for being gay, yes?), options abound for supporting the community in its continued fight.


All-night drag-a-thons, cheap disco man-a-thons, queer prom, neon fairies, a mustache party, Lexington Club and Cookie Dough tributes, Horsemeat Disco, Pound Puppy, Hard French, Honey Soundsystem, and (Juanita) more, more, more, June 24-28.

48 Hills Ultimate Pride Guide: Juanita More
Drag goddess Juanita More’s annual Pride Sunday fundraiser — this year benefitting Y.E.S. Youth Empowerment Summit — is a major SF tradition. Art by Tennessee Loveless

By Marke B

PARTY RADAR Here are some essential things to know about this year’s Pride, now in its 45th year. The incredible Dyke March on Sat/27 is starting early (3:30pm instead of 5pm) and taking a slightly different path, so that it can dovetail with the new Castro “Pink Party,” which is what happened to Pink Saturday after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stopped hosting it, due to violence. (The Pink Party takes place on the Castro streets much earlier than Pink Saturday did and is sponsored by the LGBT Community Center, but still boasts some really fun-looking talent.)

Despite cracking down on people whose names don’t conform with their government documents (something many drag queens, trans people, porn and other performers, professional writers and actors, victims of stalking and abuse, Native Americans, and people who want to lead private lives all have in common), Facebook will be marching in the parade. Hurray for San Francisco, there will also be a colorful protest, featuring many of our most-recognizable drag queens.

Things to especially celebrate this year: The city’s first homeless shelter dedicated to LGBT people opened last week, and LGBT history is finally going to be taught in SF public schools this summer. And then, of course, the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage is expected to be handed down any minute, so there’s that as well.

But mostly there’s an overwhelming rainbow panoply of events, actions, parties, and more. Here are the ones we’re all in for:

Join 48 Hills for a festive Pride kickoff happy hour, Wed/24

48 Hills teams up with Harvey Milk Democratic Club to bring back popular “Pullin’ Pork for Pride” party.


PARTY RADAR IT’S BACK! The notoriously fun “Pullin’ Pork for Pride” happy hour returns to the Pilsner Inn to kick off Pride 2015.

Join the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and 48 Hills Wed/24, 6:30-9:30pm, for a free party, featuring:

***$15 all you can drink Miller beer (three full hours for $15!)

***Complimentary carnitas tacos from Casa Sanchez (Veggie snacks as well)


PARTY RADAR: Soulstice, Big Momma, Dimitri from Paris, Kafana Balkan, Turkish Divas, more

Choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, Fri/19-Sun/21

48 Hills, Party Radar: Big Momma
Surreal Florida rapper Big Momma appears at Swagger Like Us, Fri/19

By Marke B. 

PARTY RADAR Sooooo, Cafe Du Nord reopened after a too-long absence on Wednesday, and although I just got a swift peek inside, I’m not sure much of the 109-year-old’s lush-yet-scruffy underground speakeasy vibe survived the new owners’ “reinvention.”

Make no mistake — it’s gorgeous down there. And as much as I like to buck trends, I have yet to find fault with truly inventive cocktails from the Bon Vivants team, who have taken over the space. But the new “focus on food and drink” (bar bites by the Flour + Water folks, also cool) relegates music to to handful of genres like jazz, lounge, blues. That’s bad news for the live rock and oldies scene that used to hold Du Nord (and that whole stretch of Market up into the Castro) down. We need more live rock and performance venues!

For now though, let’s just savor the fact that Du Nord is still a bar, rather than the basement of some tacky condo building.  And hey, we need more jazz venue, too — so there’s that.

OK let’s party:

The week ACT UP shut SF down

25th anniversary events commemorate historic Sixth International Conference on AIDS protests — and reunite seminal local activists, Fri/19-Sun/21.

48 Hills: ACT UP protest. Photo by Dan Nicoletta.
ACT UP members staged a sit-in on Market Street in 1990 to protest the Sixth International AIDS Conference. Photo by Dan Nicoletta

By Marke B.

JUNE 16, 2015 — “We were fraught, frustrated, enraged, and with very little hope. But we were also determined, and with all of us together there was a feeling of strength and even festivity.”

Journalist Tim Kingston is telling me over the phone what it felt like to be in San Francisco from June 20-24 in 1990, when the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) staged historic protests during the Sixth International Conference on AIDS. Kingston, a self-described “fellow traveller,” was both a journalist and and activist at the time, a unique position which allowed him to cover the conference from inside the Moscone Center for the Bay Times, while still participating in protests throughout the city.

48 Hills: ACT UP reunion. Photo by Dan Nicoletta
Jason Bishop at the demonstration on women’s AIDS issues at the Sixth International AIDS Conference in SF, June 22, 1990. Photo by Dan Nicoletta

Now, Kingston and several others are hosting a series of commemorative events Fri/19-Sun/21 that address the historical legacy of the protests, reunite key members of the Bay Area ACT UP movement, and hopefully help educate a new generation about a key period in queer history. There will be panels, a march to honor the dead, and, of course, a party.

Why were AIDS activists protesting an international medical conference on AIDS, one designed ostensibly to help them? Several reasons: to bring attention to things the conference wasn’t sufficiently addressing, like the infection rate and treatment of women, people of color, and intravenous drug users, and to protest draconian laws against needle exchanges and a new law forbidding HIV-positive people from entering the country. (George Bush notoriously declined an invitation to the conference in order to attend a fundraiser for Jesse Helms, who had sponsored the HIV travel ban bill).

48 Hills: ACT UP reunion. Photo by Dan Nicoletta
Demonstration on women’s AIDS issues at the Sixth International AIDS Conference in SF, June 22, 1990. Photo by Dan Nicoletta

But most of all, the demonstrations were meant give those actually affected by the disease a voice, and to combat “this attitude from the government that was like, ‘yeah, yeah we’ll solve AIDS eventually, but let’s let those faggot queers die off first,” as Kingston put it.

PARTY RADAR: Black Coffee, Antacid, queer punks… and a bit about that Ten Walls mess

Choice nightlife dance floor affairs (and opinions!), Fri/12 and Sat/13

Black Coffee
Incredible South African house DJ Black Coffee comes to Public Works, Fri/12.

By Marke B

PARTY RADAR Is electronic dance music still really gay, or is it now just a big business whose success partly relies on hiding its gay roots? This week saw a major international dust-up about homophobia in the techno community, the first of its kind: One that revealed some of the unaddressed ideological fissures that have cracked open, now that electronic dance music has been enshrined as a global commercial concern. It wasn’t pretty, but in the end it could be beautiful. And it made me question how far away from contemporary dance music’s origins we may have drifted.

Popular Lithuanian producer Ten Walls — whose easily digestible, often pleasant music is not quite experimental or unique enough to be called “underground,” yet doesn’t exactly pander to the pop-EDM demographic for easy popularity, either — posted a disjointed homophobic rant on his Facebook page, which, among other things, called homosexuals “a different breed” that was once “fixed” and drew surreal comparison to pedophiliac priests. (The words “browny” and “baby shoes” were involved.)

He later replaced the post with a robotic-sounding apology, but it was too late. An English-language gay news outlet had picked it up and it became an international uproar. Festivals, agents, and promoters dropped Ten Walls like a shit-filled Hot Pocket, effectively eviscerating his upcoming global tour. (Our own lovely Lights Down Low crew say he will be replaced at their July 31 party with “a bottle of Rush and a copy of Ramrod Magazine.”) A huge mass of other DJs and producers posted their condemnation. Ten Walls issued an apology statement (again, too late and anodyne) and said he was taking a break, canceling all further gigs that hadn’t been cancelled for him. Even the Lithuanian president addressed the situation.

PARTY RADAR: Wicked, Soundwave, Traxx, Polyglamorous, Grime City, Go Bang!, more

Choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, Fri/5 and Sat/6.

Party Radar: Wicked
A Wicked full moon beach rave from back in the day … relive the glory at the crew’s 24th reunion, Sat/6

By Marke B. 

I just got back from three weeks in Turkey, where all the men look like hot bearded gay artisanal bartenders from Brooklyn in 2013. Yet most emphatically ARE NOT any of those things (except hot and bearded). So… awkward. I had absolutely no idea how not to flirt! Good thing the pop music was as gay as could be.

I’ll tell you all about my adventures with my Hunky Beau and international party crew once I sort through 4000 pictures and Turkish delight receipts. But the clubs, including the pretty great gay clubs, were popping in Izmir and Istanbul — things get going there around 2am — and all night up and down the city’s gorgeous main pedestrian thoroughfare, Istiklal, people were partying, showing off their global looks, and having a great time. Why can’t we have that here, please?

Megapolis Audio Festival builds a sonic wonderland

Perpetual sound machines, stimulating hip-hop, light theremins, Fantastic Negrito, rapid prototyping, brain-wave encephalophones, and more, June 5-7  

Fantastic Negrito, whose NPR Tiny Desk concert blew everyone away last year, performs at a block party, as part of Megapolis Audio Festival.
Fantastic Negrito, whose NPR Tiny Desk concert blew everyone away last year, performs at a block party, as part of Megapolis Audio Festival.

By Marke B.

ALL EARS Somebody may have built this city on rock and/or roll, but this weekend the wonderfully sprawling Megapolis Audio Festival plans to stretch its borders into truly mind-expanding territory, with a lineup that includes everything from block parties, experimental sound installations, potluck dinners, and wild afterparties to truly creative demonstrations of cutting edge technology and live performances from the likes of rapper Doseone, beloved sound collagists Matmos + Kevin Blechdom, soul powerhouse Fantastic Negrito, violinist Mia Zabelka, hypnotic ensemble Gamelan X, and more.

“We put a call out to basically anybody who had a good idea,” Managing Director Justin Grotelueschen told me. “We wanted to see what the Bay Area would come up with — and, as expected in a place as creative as this in terms of music and technology, things blew up from there.” Grotelueschen, along with creative director Nick van der Kolk and a team of  10 set to work trying to include as much as they could in the fest.

Kevin Blechdom at Megapolis Festival: 48 Hills
Kevin Blechdom performs with Drew of Matmos at the Megapolis Festival.

That means the opportunity to experience dozens of local musicians, engineers, scientists, inventors, and artists pushing the boundaries of sonic possibilities (and charming you with sweet performances). Experience an encephalophone that makes music from your brain waves! Make your own perpetual sound machine! Take an “unsettling audio walk” through the Omni Commons! Or just dance and eat a bunch of food at a really cool block party.