If you could pick up The Retox Lounge and set it down in, say, Hayes Valley, and you had Low End Saturday as your main draw, you'd have a club night that would be so crowded you probably couldn't get through the doors. As it is, the remote location of the club, along with its somewhat schizophrenic approach to music booking, keeps a night that has everything going for it - nice ambience, good music, strong drinks - from blowing up the way it should.
After our terrible Friday night experience the boyfriend and I really wanted to just go out, have some drinks with friends, and chill. Since we were able to convince our friend J and his boyfriend to come out with us, we had access to a car, so we elected to check out the Low End Saturday monthly thrown by the Bay Area Beat Drop kids at The Retox, which is waaaaaay out at the end of 20th Street at the corner of 20th and Illinois. Don't be suprised that you don't know where this is, because there is absolutely nothing in the vicinity, though it's only two blocks from the new T-Third rail line.
The Retox is a pretty basic box of a bar, though it's furnished with comfy seating up front - during weekdays I'm sure it must do pretty well with a happy hour crowd from surrounding businesses. To our surprise it also has a downstairs, where we found a blues band in full sweat, but we had to pay a $5 cover if we wanted to hang out down there. Instead we got drinks upstairs and perched ourselves on some lounge seating. For the better part of an hour we seemed to be the only patrons who weren't somehow associated with BABD, aside from the folks who went straight down to the blues room. Kontakt was on the decks and I really enjoyed his set of deep, occasionally dark, minimal techno - the boyfriend found it a bit too abstract at times for his taste, but every time I came to a pause in my conversation I found myself being drawn back into listening to the music, and I would have happily sat at the bar all by my lonesome for a couple hours and have done just that.
We hung out for about two hours, and though there were a few more folks who came in, I don't think there were ever more than about twenty people in the whole upstairs. By booking in bands for the basement that have absolutely nothing in common with techno, the bar management is effectively dooming this night for BABD - they need to get their sound exposed to a larger group of people who will appreciate it, and that sure isn't going to be the kind of crowd that worships bands with three guitarists. And, unfortunately, with so many other things going on in places that are more easily accessed by those without motor vehicles, it's hard to make the case for schlepping out to a bar in the hinterlands - the music is great, but there needs to be more energy to make this a worthwhile evening's destination. If BABD could join forces with another techno or electro group that could take over the basement space for the evening, I think they could have a killer upstairs chill/downstairs dance party that would bring out a bigger crowd, get them more of the exposure that they deserve, and maybe make the case that it's worth taking the trouble to go off the beaten path every now and then to discover something new and innovative. I wish BABD good luck with Low End Saturdays, they certainly deserve it, but I don't fancy their chances with the current situation.