Night Crawler

The giant paid to guard the entrance of the Endup blockades the entire door with only a slight pivot of his tremendous form. An unexpectedly warm smile and a beckoning paw later, a second hulking form steps out of the shadows and parts the black curtain. The dance floor is a picture of vicissitude: Two lovers move in a fluid embrace near the back wall; a bounding blonde dances in ever-widening circles; a heavy-lidded man stands off to the side bobbing his head to the skanky beat. This is "Club Dread." When it comes to reggae dancing, "Club Dread" 's Monday night at the Endup is the longest-running event in the city. Last Friday, partners Kerstin Haavimb and Corben H. Bowers I celebrated "Club Dread" 's two-year anniversary with a special party that drew over 400 fans and an array of DJs, including Toks, General Patton, Polo Mo'xquuz, Peja Peja, Megatone Sounds, Clique International, Brixton Hitman, and Massive Sounds International. Although "Club Dread" recently picked up an additional Saturday night at the Maritime Hall, the Endup remains the hands-down favorite among both promoters and reggae aficionados.

"The Endup definitely draws a really good mix of people," Haavimb says as she surveys the crowd gathered in the darkness of the garden. "Gay, straight, all nationalities. It's really good for the vibe."

Clad in her signature red leather biker jacket, red shoes, and long, dangling earrings, the Swedish-born Haavimb looks more like an early '80s rocker chick than a reggae promoter. "I love all kinds of music," she smiles, "but when the time came and I looked around town, there was absolutely nothing going on reggaewise. I already knew Corben, so when a free night opened up here it all fell into place." Bowers ran a reggae night for nearly five years at the old Firehouse (now the Kilowatt) where Haavimb was a bartender.

"Corben handles the music and DJs," Haavimb explains. "I do the promotion, the staff, the bar, and security. It's been really perfect. It's like finally finding a good roommate -- you know how difficult that can be."

After midnight, small groups of people chatting on the patio give way to lovers trying to escape the crush of bodies on the dance floor and find a place to, er, groove more privately. Illuminated from behind, the waterfall complements the tropical feel of the music, and the mouthwatering fragrance of Jamaican food wafts out from the pool room.

Inside, a DJ brings the dance floor to full capacity with Shaggy's "Boombastic." "OK, ladies only," he laughs. The dancers, who seem to carry on a constant dialogue of whoops and whistles with the DJs, answer with reassuring cat calls.

"It's crucial," beams Damon, who along with his wife, Collette, has been keeping his spot on the dance floor for two straight hours. "We both have to get up for work at 6 every morning so we don't get to come down as often as we would like, but the energy tonight is so high. We may even last past 2."

"We have a really late crowd," Bowers explains. "That's the problem with the Maritime -- it doesn't have after-hours listening." Evident by the number of people who pour into the club after 2 a.m., it's obvious that "Club Dread" usually goes on past 3 and that tonight's crew may well be blinking into the morning sun when stragglers finally head for home.

In the pool room, Ras Skeet and Yahmani tend to their crafts table, which bears jewelry, "One Love" stickers, and Bob Marley paraphernalia. "No one else sells crafts in a club," Ras Skeet says with a swagger and an award-winning smile. When asked where he's from, he reprimands, "Don't ask a black man where he is from. All black men are from Africa. That's all we're dealing with now."

"He's from New Jersey," an eavesdropper whispers as soon as Ras Skeet moves out of earshot.

A group of Belgian women sitting by the fireplace watches a dreadlocked man with sunglasses swaying in the corner. Eyes closed, oblivious to the world, he smiles contentedly and gives a small nod as if acknowledging the fine mixing talents of the DJ.

"He looks like he is praying," a Belgian observes.
"He is," a passer-by remarks.
The Belgians, like many of the foreigners who pass through "Club Dread," heard about the nightspot through a listing in the airport club directory, a service -- which when added to the nationwide attention given by the Reggae Report in Miami, Clublife in L.A., and the Village Voice in New York -- has been key in shaping the diversity of "Club Dread."

"Wesley Snipes and Robert De Niro were in here in November," boasts Bowers. "We've had Ice-T -- all sorts of people. I like to think that if someone comes to San Francisco looking for reggae, they will automatically think 'Club Dread.' "

Send comments, quips, and tips to crawler@sfweekly.co.
By Silke Tudor

 
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