Night Crawler

It's 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning. The fog has already burned away, and the morning air is surprisingly warm, a token Indian summer before the chill of fall takes permanent hold. The sun slides over a freshly painted building on the corner of Sixth Street and Harrison. It's a solid, formidable, fuck-with-me-not beige without trim or variation. An open door on one corner gapes wide and black. A man sporting a buzzed head and multiple earrings stands there smiling and nodding, checking IDs as well-dressed young people amble up to his side. A wooden sign hangs above his head: The End Up, it reads.

The appropriately named End Up Sunday Tea Dance is the place to go when Saturday's after-hours events let out and all that's awaiting still-revved-up clubbers are piles of laundry and a messy apartment. Although San Francisco plays host to a slew of Sunday tea dances (see The Cafe for a lesbian and gay crowd, Jelly's for a hot international scene, and the Avenue Ballroom for Latin and swing), the End Up is the only club to open for dancing at 6 o'clock in the morning. It is also the longest tradition-bearer, the first dances taking place in '75 when they were still considered gay in orientation. Since, the End Up Sunday tea dance has become the meeting place for any and everybody.

We pass through the heavy black-vinyl curtains at the front entrance. In contrast to the bright glare outside, the interior feels cool and dark. People lounge in the shadows wearing sunglasses. Reclining figures cover the platforms by the bar, bobbing their heads as electronic argyle patterns flicker down from monitors bolted to the ceiling. As DJ Jimmy Rogers spins hi-NRG house, a ray of light filters through the sliding glass wall lining the center dance floor, illuminating the twitching throngs. No one is talking. One spectator calls it a "trance space."

But on the outside patio, decorated with a fountain and two waterfalls, the crowd is chattering away. Percussion instruments litter the floor. A musician wearing overalls and a bluejean top hat sits on the deck, hammering a beat on the house drum kit ("You Are Here -- End Up" the bass reads), while another fellow perches atop a bongo and pounds on a different skin. A muscular, bald man named Chill rises from his seat and begins dancing. Soon the deck is transformed into a makeshift dance floor. A woman waving a large fan flits around the drums like a geisha, joined by a friend in a pastel sweater-vest and skirt ensemble who chops at theair with minute thrusts of her hands.

Cheerful spectators smoke joints and cigarettes and sip cocktails that resemble watery Kool-Aid (they're called Purple Hooters). I'm struck by how fresh-faced and attractive everyone is. Remember, it's not even 11 a.m. yet.

"They couldn't have been up all night," I whisper to a friend who, like me, looks like death warmed over.

I approach a couple sharing a bowl.
"Did you come here right from somewhere else?" I ask.
"Pleasuredome," the male says, beaming.
I look to his companion.
"Release," she chimes.

"It must be good drugs," my friend comments as we slink into the shade. "Or good water."

Near the waterfall, a middle-aged shoeshine man does steady business. He tries, unsuccessfully, to joke with a tense, goateed customer as he works on his combat boots.

"Bad trip," one guy says, shaking his head. "He should just relax."
That couldn't be too hard. Sunshine, fruity drinks, bongo drums, and self-satisfied, overindulged people? It's like a vacation at some crazy resort with SOMA right outside the door.

By Silke Tudor

 
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