Music + Nightlife

Elbo Room elbowed out

Beloved Mission club will close in November to make way for condos.


By Marke B

APRIL 23, 2015 — The owners of storied Mission hangout Elbo Room — which hosts/has hosted some of my favorite parties, concerts, and reading nights, including Dub Mission, 120 Minutes, Afrolicious, Literary Death Match, Tormenta Tropical, Body Shock, and Sweater Funk — are going ahead with their questionable plan to convert the building into condos so they can have a place to retire. (They currently live across the street.)

Thus, they are not renewing the Elbo Room’s lease, which runs out in November. Many of the parties — and even the owners of the Elbo Room itself (the club, not the building) — have started the scramble to find a new home. DJ Sep of reggae mainstay Dub Mission on Sundays, one of the city’s longest-running weekly parties, wrote last night in a Facebook post:

“It’s not what any of us wanted to hear. Elbo is much more than just a venue. It’s where Dub Mission started more than 18 and a half years ago. We consider it home. Matt Shapiro, Erik Cantu, and the club’s supportive staff are all part of the reason for Dub Mission’s longevity and success. 

Party Radar, Nightlife SF: Dub Mission by Alex Grande
DJ Sep of Dub Mission Sundays at the Elbo Room. Photo by Alex Grande.

“Dub Mission WILL continue at the club until its lease runs out in November and we‘re very happy to hear that they’re committed to finding a new spot. If you have any ideas (it doesn’t have to be a bar/club, it can just be a great spot), please contact [email protected] Long live Elbo Room!”

Here’s the official announcement from the Elbo Room:

Party Radar: Joshua Light Show, Gay of Thrones Tiger & Woods, MOM DJs, Detroit Love, more

Only the choicest nightlife and dance floor affairs, April 16-19.

Party Radar, Sf Nightlife: The Joshua Light Show
The Joshua Light Show, from a performance last year at the Exploratorium featuring Moon Duo. This year’s lighted performance features Linda Perhacs and Julia Holter.

By Marke B. 

When the Exploratorium sends one a heads-up about a big event it’s throwing featuring the original lighting wizards of the Fillmore, one definitely sits up, takes notice, and prepares to be dazzled:

The Joshua Light Show was established in 1967  – when they were the house light show at the Fillmore East – and reimagined in the early aughts to incorporate analog and digital elements, as well as an intergenerational group of artists.

The Light Show will create an immersive environment of light in our theater to accompany a collaborative set from Linda Perhacs and Julia Holter, Sat/18 and Sun/19

Light shows have a huge and wonderful history in Bay Area clubs, from Michael Maletta’s disco-era Creative Power Foundation and underground DIY wizard Donovan on through to our current special effects leader, Future Weapons, which just got tapped to do the Youtube Music Awards.

Party Radar: Devotion, Yuri’s Night, Studio 5’4″, Daniele Baldelli, Erol Alkan, Tale of Us, more

This weekend’s choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, April 10-11

SF Nightlife, Party Radar: Hello Kitty

By Marke B.

PARTY RADAR Let me tell you of a magical palace, once located just off Union Square, called the Sanrio store. There, on two stories, one could commune with all manner of adorable, stuffed Japanese royalty: Kero Kero Keroppi, Bad-Batzmaru, Corocorokuririn, Monkichi — even Hello Kitty, flying a life-size biplane! (Some us got a lot of our club clothes there, as well.)

Alas, this happy-happy-happy paradise never served food. How cute that would have been. But girl, it wasn’t Ikea. They didn’t serve Hello Kitty meatballs there.

Well, rejoice — our Fluffy Topkapi may have vanished into the mist of skyrocketing commercial rents, like some irresistibly mewling Brigadoon, but there will be a Hello Kitty Cafe Truck coming to Japantown’s Cherry Blossom Festival Sat/11 and Sun/12, 10am-5pm. I will let you longingly linger over possible oh-so-delightful, pastel-colored menu items that they serve in Hello Kitty Cafes in Japan.

I mean, sure, here are some great parties, listed below. But come on — Hello Kitty Cafe Truck!

Party Radar: Sisters’ Easter, Debaser, Gui Boratto, Jay Tripwire, Countessa Stuto, Honey + Hard French, more

This weekend’s choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, April 3-6.

If anything with help us all rise up, it's Easter with the Sisters. Photo by Gareth Gooch.
If anything with help us all rise up, it’s Easter with the Sisters. Photo by Gareth Gooch.

By Marke B.

PARTY RADAR The Orbit Room has closed. Capp’s Corner is closing. Everyone’s favorite gay intellectual cruising spot, Jumpin’ Java, is gone. The future of Club Deluxe is in doubt (RIP Jay). Pink Saturday is being taken over by some strange new players, who think sexual orientation is “irrelevant” to producing the enormous LGBT street fair.

OK, enough with the bad news! Are your picnic baskets packed? Have you sniffed out your neon eggs? Where’s your Hunky Jesus? Do you feel sufficiently Passed Over? Roll back the stone! Let’s get some lift on Easter/Passover Weekend and hit the dance floors.

8th Annual Switchboard Festival dials in new sounds

Eight-hour sonic cornucopia attracts a local community of contemporary musical adventurers and longtime groundbreakers, Sat/4.

Age of discovery: Real Vocal Quartet plays the Switchboard Festival, Sat/4
Age of discovery: Real Vocal String Quartet brings its unique sing-and-string sound the Switchboard Festival, Sat/4

By Marke B.

ALL EARS One possible positive about the so-called tech boom? Truly culturally curious newcomers to the Bay Area may have spurred another boom — one in contemporary music. And not just the electronic music kind, as one one might expect of computer geeks (although edgy techno has been doing very well). Fresh, genre-hopping compositions and good ol’ experimental music are having another heyday. Shows by obscure recent composers, diverse ensembles, and longtime apostles of oddball sounds are regularly packed by young people eager to hear the next new thing first.

From the SF Symphony’s recently opened, cavernous Soundbox to performances of Steve Reich by the SF Contemporary Music Players and the SF Conservatory of Music (and supercool, smaller productions from Wild Rumpus, The Living Earth Show, the San Francisco Tape Music Festival, Soundwave, and many, many more), a thirst for complex aural landscapes and beautiful-strange ideas has come upon us to match our current drought.

Percussive duo Black Spirituals play the Switchboard Fest.
Percussive duo Black Spirituals play the Switchboard Fest.

“Especially over the last couple of years, I think audiences are starting to explore and look for something new,” Annie Phillips, co-director of the thrilling, marathon Switchboard Festival, which takes over Brava Theater Sat/4, told me. “That’s always been a very Bay Area thing, but actually the tech industry boom may have helped a little — everyone’s in a constant pursuit of newness.”

Newness is definitely on the menu on Saturday — the sonic palette ranges from lovely leftfield indie and folky strings to jazz-inflected electronic and full vocal chorus (listen to most of the artists here)  — when Switchboard, also directed by Ryan Brown and Jeff Anderle, features Brass Magic, Kitka, Powerdove,  Black Spirituals, Friction Quartet, Random House, Nathan Clevenger Group, and many more contemporary acts. Honestly, you will hear the world here in eight hours, for only $20 dollars! Get on it.

Party Radar: Margaret Cho, Soiree, 6AM Sessions, Siouxsie, Bodyshock, Disco Daddy, more

This weekend’s choice SF nightlife and dance floor affairs, March 26-28, 2015

Party Radar: SF Nightlife Siouxsie Tribute  at Dark Room
Eternally gorgeous Siouxsie Sioux gets a tribute night from our favorite freaky queer New Wave-punk club Dark Room, Sat/28.

 By Marke B.

PARTY RADAR Sometimes it can seem like we’re spending so much energy fighting to keep nightlife alive and flourishing in this city that we hardly have any time left for partying, n’est-ce pas?

Welp, I vote we open a real bar in City Hall. (Hello, extra revenue!) Call it, I don’t know, Willie’s Fandango, install a couple Technics up in there, and carry on like the dance floor champions we are — while waiting for the next hearing or protest or action about the latest venue to be shut down or redeveloped or rezoned or what have you.

Proposed cocktails: Vodka Wienertuni, Jane’s Cup, Malia on the Rocks, The Ed Lee (flat soda water and a straw), London Gin Straight Up, Rose Pak-a-Punch (with a little umbrella), Campos and Bacardi, Avalos on a Beach, Bloody Feinstein, Newsom with a Twist …

OK, maybe not then. Here are some fun parties:

33rd SF Jazz Fest buzzes with diverse styles, global sounds

Ambitious sonic reach includes multicultural soul, rollicking boogie-woogie, experimental R&B, country crossovers, big brass, and Cuban classics. 

SF Jazzfest welcomes Ethiopian-Israeli singer and instrumentalist Ester Rada
SF Jazzfest welcomes Ethiopian-Israeli singer and instrumentalist Ester Rada, June 18

By Marke B.

ALL EARS  The 33rd annual installment of the SF Jazz Fest doesn’t hit until June, but the recently announced lineup — as well as a feast of a summer season — already has me slavering. Tickets go on sale for members April 1, with more released for everyone on April 15, but it’s good to go in with a well-prepped game plan, especially if you love discovering new music.

The Jazz Fest has always been a magnet for varied sound, but this year seems especially wide-eared and youthful. That may just be a result of the globalized musical times we’re living in, and the renewed interest in experimental genre explorations — and I’m all for it.

Hammond B-3 organ genius Dr. Lonnie Smith comes to SF Jazz Fest, June 20 and 21
Hammond B-3 organ genius Dr. Lonnie Smith comes to SF Jazz Fest, June 20 and 21

June 9-21 sees 43 SF Jazz Fest concerts at the SFJazz homebase and various venues. After that, the SFJazz Summer Sessions brings dozens and dozens more to the SFJazz center. Jazz Fest highlights for me include Ethiopian/Israeli singer Ester Rada, epic R&B experimentalists Robert Glasper Trio, Hammond B-3 organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith, groovy young Texans Snarky Puppy, local pop-soul sensation Goapele, percussion wizard Pedrito Martinez, and a tribute to legendary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecouno.

Party Radar: Salsa Sundays, Abdu Ali, Lilith Bear, Clan of Xymox, Sunset Picnic, Katabatik, more

This week’s choice SF nightlife and dance floor affairs, March 19-25, 2015

Baltimorean rapper Abdu Ali comes to queer hip-hop throwdoan Swagger Like Us, Fri/20. Photo by Olivia Obineme
Baltimorean rapper Abdu Ali comes to queer hip-hop throwdown Swagger Like Us, Fri/20. Photo by Olivia Obineme

By Marke B

PARTY RADAR OF COURSE, the biggest party this week is 48 Hills’ own Salsa Sundays fundraiser on the El Rio patio this Sunday afternoon! Danilo y Su Orquesta Universal play live tunes, DJ Emotions brings the sunny vibes, Tim Redmond and I and the whole 48 Hills crew will be on hand to socialize in that great Mission space.

Drink, dance, snack, and help us keep Bay Area independent media going. It’s $10 at the door, and we’ll have a raffle full of cool stuff like Bay Guardian commemorative t-shirts and yummy bottles of wine. We really rely on you for this whole thing! Let’s party!

(If you can’t make it but still want to help us out, just click on that convenient little “Donate” button on the right hand side of this page. Thank you!)

Oh, and there are some other amazing things going on this weekend as well:

Party Radar: Hard French, Mazel Top, Tiga, Big Freedia, Beats in Space, Steffi, more

The week’s choice SF nightlife and dance floor affairs, March 5-12, 2015

Hard French: Party Radar
Old school soul sunshine: Hard French is back for its fifth season on the El Rio patio. Photo by Cabure A. Bonugli/Shot in the City

By Marke B

PARTY RADAR So, Red Bull Music Academy has basically taken over SF nightlife this month so far — with live radio shows, a bunch of parties, a lot of canned energy.  It’s become a bi-annual (or so) tradition. Does it give us wings? Methinks RBMA is in actuality kind of riding our already elevated appendages, but it’s nice for the Bay Area scene to get some wider recognition.


And in turn, we’re helping Red Bull spread its own feathers a bit: This time the energy drink juggernaut is getting schooled in our brand of Hi-NRG, with a direct look at SF’s gay nightlife past. I’m going to be on Red Bull Music Academy Radio Mon/9-Wed/11, 3pm-4pm interviewing three integral DJs from the End Up’s 42 year history — Steve Fabus, David Harness, and Doc Martin — in anticipation of of a party called “Honey Soundsystem Presents: The EndUp: Evolution of a Queer Dancefloor,” Wednesday, March 11, 9pm at, yes, the End Up. Craziness!

The best new nightclub in SF? Sneak behind the symphony

Cavernous Soundbox presents cutting-edge music in a stunning lounge setting. 

SF Soundbox: new performing venue in San Francisco
Applause, applause for new, state-of-the-art Soundbox performance space (complete with big-screen visuals for “Clapping Music”). Photo by Marke B.

By Marke B.

February 24, 2015 — For years I’ve lamented our lack of a performance space on par with NYC’s (Le) Poisson Rouge, the “multimedia art cabaret” (with great drinks!) that’s a strong contender for the hippest spot in the nightlife world. Where could you go hear unabashed yet accessible experimental music, dazzling feats of ensemble performance, or seminal modern composers like John Cage or Steve Reich — all in a nightclub setting with a welcoming, indie sensibility, a full bar, and a flash of avant-garde?

In SF you’d have to dash here and there, mostly. Well, no more. Soundbox has arrived. Located at the rear-end of the Davies Symphony Hall, in the cavernous, wonderfully retooled SF Symphony rehearsal space, this new venue might easily be counted as one of the best dance clubs in the city (complete with speakeasy-like backdoor entrance) — except it devotes itself to forward-thinking live musical performances, aka “contemporary classical”, with a bunch of surprises thrown in.

SF Soundbox Nightlife performance
Roostock Percussion performs Wenjing Guo’s “Parade” at Soundbox’s “Sticks and Stones” night. Photo by Kristen Loken

And it’s a hit. With a custom drink menu, low-slung padded seats, state-of-the-art multimedia (hello, “uniquely designed Meyer Sound Constellation system” and huge, cleverly utilised digital screens), multiple stages, and an afterhours vibe, Soundbox has been packing people in since it opened a couple months ago — and has yet to stray from its heady yet accessible music programming. Plus there was a really cool instrument petting zoo. Can you tell I’m freaking out about it? I am freaking out about it. I want to live there.