This past Friday the boyfriend and I went down to The Stud for the Shadowplay reunion party, which also served as the ending party for Lucky Pierre and Heat, which had previously occupied two of the The Stud’s Friday night slots. We had a good time, but I wound up spending most of my mental energy running through the catalog of other nights that have ended this year, and what this might mean for the current shape of our scene.
So far this year I’ve seen the end of The Workout, Frisco Disco, and (though they’re not officially done yet) Lights Down Low for the indie/electro/bloghouse scene; The Grind, Fag Fridays, Big Top, Drunk and Horny, Lucky Pierre, Basket, and Trannyshack for the gay scene; Heat, and (again, looking ahead to the closing of Club 222), Techno Tuesdays, and the end of the regular Dirty Bird parties at Anu among the more music-centered nights.
Of course everything is cyclical, the club industry is founded on whim and trend, and eventually more nights will come forth to replace the ones that have passed (it looks like Richard Oh?! and Sleazemore are just moving their scene to Vessel, for example, but on a Wednesday night). But it does give one pause when you look at the present state of things. The gay scene is looking increasingly like the same thing being iterated over and over again; bear party, circuit party, top 40/hip hop night, neo disco party, drag cabaret, lather rinse repeat. And while it’s gratifying to see techno, or at least tech-house, gaining in popularity among the straight set, it’s also difficult to rouse any sense of excitement for heading to yet another party at Mighty or Mezzanine.
There are certainly people doing interesting things within their own scenes; Kontrol, Auralism, and Staple are helping build the techno/tech-house scenes, Honey Sound System has brought underground energy back to the gay scene, and even the couple times I’ve been to Bearracuda the DJs showed a musically adventurous streak. But it feels like San Francisco nightlife is contracting, rather than growing, with a limited number of event producers taking the same ideas around to the increasingly limited number of venues that are available. When I first started this blog it was with a sense of excitement about what I would find as I prowled the clubs and bars of San Francisco. Now, as I put together the weekend events calendars, I find it very difficult to work up enthusiasm for much of anything; the word that comes to mind most often is “stale.”
I’ve devoted endless conversations to this topic, trying to put my finger on what combination of factors has led to this situation, trying to determine if my own jadedness has finally taken over completely, if we are truly in the midst of shift in San Francisco culture, or some combination of both. I don’t doubt that my own experiences in clubland have had an impact on me over the past year, nor do I doubt that the economy has had an impact as well. I also don’t know if I really have enough breadth of experience to talk about San Francisco nightlife as a whole, since I know that there are some clubs and scenes, like drum’n’bass nights at Underground SF, and dub nights at Club 6, that seem to be doing quite well. I do know that at the meeting of the Entertainment Commission to discuss the promoter permits I heard promoters from across the spectrum express the sentiment that San Francisco nightlife is in trouble, but the very circumstances of that gathering might have prompted the participants to paint a picture of the club scene in gloomy tones.
So gang, tell me what you think: is the scene slowing down, or is it just me? Are there things you get excited about, or do you also find yourself thinking that drinking at home with friends is more appealing than dashing off to the club? When you go out, what are you looking for, and what do you find? I really want to know, cuz I need some inspiration.