Soul of the Tenderloin

Hubba Hubba Club and the Hop inject classic oldies into the queer dance scene.

To the city's young gays looking for something outside the "superthumpy, Vocoder-Cher-style music" to dance to, Seth Bogart promises "You'll never hear that shit at my club." Indeed, Bogart's alternative to the Top 40-heavy Castro scene is the Hubba Hubba Club, on the third Tuesday of every month at Aunt Charlie's in the Tenderloin. The Hubba Hubba Club is one of San Francisco's distinctively edgy queer dance nights, along with Aunt Charlie's other popular clubs Tube Steak Connection (Thursdays with DJ Bus Station John) and Brontez Purnell's the Hop (first Tuesdays of the month).

Purnell and Bogart share roots in the San Francisco music scene that go beyond club promotion. They're members of the punk-dance foursome Gravy Train!!!, and Bogart has recently launched a solo project, Hunx and His Punx. Purnell is also an intrepid dance performer who ran the wildly hilarious gay testimonial zine Fag School. Together, the two have helped carve out a fresh scene for San Francisco's savvy crate-diggers.

Bogart and Purnell admit that the general "weirdos" at Aunt Charlie's have fostered the momentum behind their nights. The trashy Turk Street location means the dive bar is off the beaten track, and Aunt Charlie's enthusiasts have cultivated an instinctively outsider quality to their events. That underground aesthetic, combined with classic and rare oldies offered at the Hubba Hubba Club and the Hop, invites both patrons with an appreciation for archetypal queer flavor and those with selective taste in dance tracks.

Bogart's Hubba Hubba Club promotes the Ronettes and Plastic Bertrand over the tired monotony of Kylie Minogue. He dedicates his turntables to anything but "gay bar music," making hip-shaking an uncontrollable urge with a mix of early punk rock and new wave singles and the soul 45s he and his DJs pick up at the city's finest oldies shop, Rooky Ricardo's in the Lower Haight. The Hubba Hubba Club is something of a baton passed down from the Clap, whose Gary Fembot asked Bogart to continue with the dance night in mid-2007. Bogart has since expanded its concept beyond turntables. He hosts an intermission of local bands on the dime-sized dancefloor, asserting that live music, along with a female- and lesbian-oriented presence, is an important part of what makes the club both successful and fun. Bogart has plans for wet T-shirt contests, eating contests, theme nights with prizes, and a lip-synch contest that "isn't a straight-up drag show, but just like a funny comedy routine kind of deal."

Similarly, Purnell inherited the underwear dance club, Pussy Boy, from a friend and reassigned its name and theme last year. Purnell confesses that he had stopped going to punk shows and was looking for something more dance and gay-oriented. Aunt Charlie's dedication to a broad spectrum of music in a queer atmosphere seemed to be the perfect extension of the punk-rock spirit. He keeps the kids moving at the Hop by spinning oldies, deep funk, and vintage disco, and provides atmosphere with cupcakes and party decorations — and hopes to expand into a chicken-and-waffles theme. While the Hop and the Hubba Hubba Club accessorize Aunt Charlie's, their hosts focus on the music first and foremost, with songs fostering a distinctively nonmainstream focus.

It's a fact: Sometimes jumping around to Jay-Z hits the spot, but if seriously cutting a rug is your weeknight priority, there are times when only Martha and the Vandellas can truly deliver. Thankfully, the gifted boys at Aunt Charlie's have recognized this law of danceability and made San Francisco's thriving gay scene all the more extraordinary because of it.

Read more articles in Listen Up 2008

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