Music + Nightlife

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.

PARTY RADAR: Two weeks of wow edition

A fortnight’s worth of choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, Feb. 19-March 2, 2015 

Party Radar: SF Nightlife Dulce de leche
Dulce de Leche is “Big, Bad, and Beautiful” with a bevy of fellow drag queens at the The Stud’s Some Thing party, Fri/20

By Marke B. 

PARTY RADAR Aloha! I’m off to Honolulu to swim with the fabled humuhumu-nukunuku-apua’a fishes (and drink at famously shabby gay bar Hula’s, goddess help me). So you get a doubleshot of Party Radar: two weeks of dance floor WTF picks.

Go forth in your festive muumuu and get lei’d.

Party Radar: Wild Hearts Edition

The week’s choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, Feb. 12-18, 2015

Lovesick: Party Radar SF Nightlife
Fashion for the over it: “Lovesick” takes over the runway with local styles, Sat/14 at Empire Room.

By Marke B.

PARTY RADAR I don’t know when Valentine’s Day turned into New Year’s Eve, but it seems like errrbody’s having a party about it. Also it is Presidents’ Day Weekend. So let’s get laid! Or drunken nuzzle or whatever.

This weekend’s full of heart-pumping action. But first, let’s ameliorate (or augment?) all that 50 Shades of Grey trussed-up heteronormativity with filmmaker Leo Herrera’s new vid “3 Eras of Gay Sex in 3 Minutes.” It’s a gas:

The Black Madonna speaks!

Before her appearance at the As You Like It party, Sat/7, the outspoken Chicago DJ talks about house legends, Quebecois disco, true Menergy, and the permanence of women in electronic music. 


By Marke B. 

PARTY RADAR Marea Stamper was born in Appalachian Kentucky, raised on rave (her first was at age 14), and all-in for dance music from the very beginning. In the past decade, she’s made her home in Chicago and become a supernova on the dance scene — rising to become the talent buyer at Smart Bar, the legendary 30+-year-old club, putting out a string of acclaimed records, and traveling the world with her unique blend of curveball beats. She’s always down to drop slow funk, leftfield electro, jazzy rants, lost disco, hypnotic Afrobeat, or even cutting edge techno bangers into her sets, her impeccable ear guiding everyone to a higher state.

She chose the name The Black Madonna, she told techno site Resident Advisor, because “The Black Madonna is an interesting figure, and an idea my mom was really interested in when I was growing up. She really loved her, and we had both read a book about the Black Madonna when I was a teenager. I always felt really close to some of the ideas in the book, and I think one of the things that I feel is a vacuum of femininity in dance music.”

One of my favorite aspects of the Black Madonna’s approach is her refreshing honesty and outspokenness when it comes to political issues — things that have sadly fallen by the wayside in this age of bland, business-y DJ personalities. She’s let her thoughts be known on subjects like Ferguson, immigration, healthcare, the Republican party, and especially issues concerning women. She’s also a sparkling presence in any conversation. Her words inform her music and vice versa.

Party Radar: Catz ‘n Dogs, Sun Ra, Polyglamorous, Loveworks, Popscene 2004, more

The week’s choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, Feb. 4-11, 2015

Party Radar: SF Nightlife 48 HIlls
Sun Ra’s film “Space is the Place” plays at the Contemporary jewish Museum

By Marke B.

PARTY RADAR  Just gonna jump in here and toot my own horn a minute, hold my earrings. Thank you.

Many of you know I am older than dirt — precious, precious dirt. Well I’m finally putting all that filthy wisdom to work, by telling the story of my big queer nightlife out loud. Local boys Honey Soundsystem  have a new art/music/club project called “Generators,” which is  bringing to life several generations’ tales of discovering gay nightlife, through a yearlong series of podcasts and themed parties at Chicago’s invaluable Smart Bar danceria.

Naturally, grandma (that’s me) gets things rollin’ — but thankfully I’ll be joined by a chorus of others soon. Click “play” below for some crazy queer Ira Glassiness with a very cool score by Bezier. There’s gay ghosts, Cocteau Twins, Trinitron TVs, and Cruising all in there. And if you’re in Chicago, don’t miss the party accompanying this podcast Sat/7. The music, lighting, and decor will be based in themes touched on below.

PARTY RADAR: Drumming, Kittens, Dick Slap, Cub Scout, Dark Room, Pink Mammoth, more

The week’s choice nightlife and dance floor affairs, Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2015

Party Radar: SF Nightlife
German artist Martin Klimas visualized Steve Reich’s minimal composition “Drumming” with paint on a translucent sheet stretched across a speaker. See:

By Marke B. 

PARTY RADAR Gonna start off this week’s nightlife picks with something that isn’t quite a party — but provides invigorating and essential listening for anyone interested in contemporary dance music’s origins. Minimalist composer Steve Reich’s kaleido-rhythmic masterpiece “Drumming” is being performed by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Sat/31, and you don’t want to miss this rare treat.

Party Radar: SF Nightlife
Reich, drumming (1971)

In 1971, Reich’s piece insured the triumphant rise of minimalism, which relied on hypnotic patterns and minuscule shifts in tempo and melody to express some beautiful, meditative psychological — and, for folks like me, spiritual — truths. “Drumming” was based on Reich’s researches in Africa and helped clear the way for equally hypnotic forms like acid house techno, whose founders readily admit their admiration.  Legendary moments in techno: originator Derrick May dropping all 16 minutes of Reich’s “Octet” in a Detroit basement in the early ’90s, causing a rave frenzy.