The Mix

Night Tripping

The Lower Haight is a come-as-you-are kind of neighborhood, a place where locals play dominoes on foldout tables as young bohemians in faux fur coats or incredibly spacious pants roam the streets in search of adventure. It's a neighborhood of sidewalk parking, tarot readings, natural foods, indie record stores, hemp clothing, fliers, and cheap pizza -- a place where people of all races, ages, and levels of urban hipness line up night after night outside Indian Oven. In other words, it has all the ingredients for a top-notch bar neighborhood. Fortunately, plenty of establishments have stepped up to the plate: You can practice your Irish at An Bodhran, slum it industrial-style at Molotov's, or tip a pint (or four) at such beer-friendly venues as Noc Noc, Toronado, Movida Lounge, or the soccer pub known as the Mad Dog in the Fog.

Though the name might imply otherwise, Mad Dog patrons tend to practice a friendly form of hooliganism. "Oh, it's a nice place," says a Saturday night ale-swiller named Eric. "Comfortable, pleasant -- I probably won't get stabbed nor shot here." Throw in a live show by a reasonably good facsimile of the Beatles, aka Ticket to Ride, and a warm, sweaty, yesterday kind of feeling overtakes the all-ages crowd replete with air drummers, sing-alongers, a few simulated groupies, and no shortage of shoulder-shaking twisters and shouters.

In fact, it feels like the real deal, with a few exceptions: Young blond women probably didn't make out with one another at early Beatles shows, and the original Fab Four never ended a song with the words, "Because I told you before/ Your ass is faaaaat." Between sets, vocalist Chad (John Lennon) LaBrosse explains another discrepancy: "Well, the true die-hards are like, "Hey, what's this fifth guy doing?'" LaBrosse shrugs. "Four-piece, five-piece, he's a great addition. You need to use your imagination."

A second set begins, the dance floor erupts, and people start getting closer. Of course, the proximity is nothing compared to that at Nickie's, where a righteously packed house results in elbow-to-elbow, shoulder-to-shoulder, even stomach-to-stomach frottage. You may never see the actual dance floor at Nickie's on a Saturday, but it's down there, and the place hosts a throng of young, not entirely unattractive bodies charmed by Donna Summer and the oily-smooth tunes of Rick James. Smooching becomes rampant by 12:30, while down the street, a more 21st-century, drum 'n' bass kind of ass-shaking is taking place, courtesy of Bottom Heavy at the Top.

Pay the doorman with the black fingernails five bucks, and this is what you get: approximately 888,000 beats per minute, bass so deep it feels like true love, and a disco ball that peppers the far wall of the tiny dance floor with what appear to be bright electric kisses. The floor can get sticky at the Top, but the bathrooms smell great. If anything, folks here lean toward the freakier end of casual: a woman in arm-length patent leather gloves, a man wearing a lobster bib like a cape, the guy in yellow sunglasses who wraps his arm around a speaker as if it were an old friend, the smile on his face reminiscent of the bliss that stems from good music, strong gin, excellent drugs, perfect contentedness, or some unknown combination of the above.

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