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Drink: Beat Happening: A Guide to the S.F. Nightlife Renaissance 

Wednesday, Mar 7 2012
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The last couple years have seen San Francisco nightlife reborn. Amid a recovering economy, with yet another tech boom looming, the city has exploded with new venues and massive big-budget parties, the likes of which haven't been since the '90s. Accordingly, the rest of the city's club infrastructure has launched into an upgrade cycle, with savvy venue owners rapidly remodeling and rebranding to keep up. Add it all together, and you can see a promising future for clubland in San Francisco. Here are some of the places and parties bringing it to life.

The current upswing began in 2010 with the official opening of Public Works (161 Eerie (at Mission), www.publicsf.com). With its custom-built Funktion One sound system, and stylish, unfinished decor, the airy space set a new standard for large-capacity clubs. In 2011, the venue turned up the volume by installing a new sound system in its Oddjob Loft, transforming the upper level into a destination in its own right. Swing by on fourth Saturdays to catch the XLR8R magazine-sponsored Icee Hot party, where residents Shawn Reynaldo, Ghosts on Tape, and Rollie Fingers curate an evening that goes deep into U.K. bass and Detroit techno while also blending in buzzworthy artists like Ben UFO, Omar S., and Balam Acab.

BeatBox (314 11th St. (at Folsom), www.beatboxsf.com) arrived on the scene in 2011 as the latest incarnation of the venue formerly known as Siberia and Fat City. With its raw interior and Danley Sound Labs installation — the only one on the West Coast — the club has won favor with discerning house and techno heads. Jeremy Bispo's nomadic As You Like It parties have utilized the space to showcase a cast of characters that's so far included shadowy re-edit gurus Tiger & Woods, revered German techno DJ Koze, and the deeply soulful Slow Hands. Similarly, Housepitality has commandeered the club for blistering sets by NYC disco original Danny Krivit and Detroit beatdown mastermind Mike "Agent X" Clark.

The building that once housed the Trocadero Transfer was recently reborn as the Grand (520 Fourth St. (at Welsh), www.grandnightclub.com). With its Funktion One sound system and state-of-the art visual effects, the Grand is poised to bring lavish Las Vegas-style clubbing to the city by the Bay. Check out its infamous Friday night T.G.I.F. parties for an evening spent in luxury with the young and beautiful.

Speaking of legendary SOMA clubs, 2011 also brought the occasional return of the Factory (525 Harrison (at First St.), www.sfclubs.com), a location that grew to infamy in the '90s as the Sound Factory. In 2011, the club found new life in the hands of promoters Jeffrey Paradise and Ava Berlin, with their two epic Blow Up Forever parties. Combining an 18+ crowd with eclectic disco-infused music usually reserved for a more mature audience, they've since established a foothold every Friday night at DNA Lounge (375 11th St. (at Harrison), www.dnalounge.com).

Take a peek down the street from DNA, and you'll notice that 1015 Folsom (1015 Folsom (at Sixth St.), www.1015.com) has been given a makeover. Last year saw the venue become ground zero for the city's U.K. bass and left-field beats scenes. Check out Low End Theory SF on first Fridays for a dose of mind-expanding hip-hop from heavy-hitting residents and guests like Flying Lotus, Eprom, and Daedelus.

On a smaller scale is Monarch (101 Sixth St. (at Mission), www.monarchsf.com), a new subterranean space whose VOID sound system has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best in the city. Starting with a debauched 2012 New Year's Day party that began at 6 a.m., the club has since attracted legendary figures from all over the dance music universe, and boasts regular appearances by Beats in Space's Tim Sweeney and techno pioneer Carl Craig. It's a good bet on the weekends, but to avoid the crowds, visit its Mishka-sponsored Future Perfect parties on Thursday nights for a descent into forward-thinking bass music, dark hip-hop, and other freaky genres designed to keep the stilettos-and-streetwear crowd moving.

Not one to be outdone is 222 Hyde (222 Hyde (at Turk), www.222hyde.com). The onetime cornerstone of the dance community just recently reopened with a larger dancefloor and an intimate outside area. Still sporting its NASA-approved rotary mixer and audiophile Turbosound system, the club comes alive on first Saturdays for a trip through dance music's deep and ravey underbelly with Jenö, Andre, and Danja's Cult of the Acid House. There, as with many other outposts of San Francisco's nightlife renaissance, positive vibes are guaranteed.

About The Author

Derek Opperman

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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
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    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
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    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

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