Sex Cells, L.A.’s Party for Sexy Weirdos, Makes Its S.F. Debut at Mezzanine

Who's DJing at this thing, you ask? Hercules & Love Affair, that's who.

Danny at Sex Cells at the Echoplex in L.A. (Levan TK)

Danny Lethal of Lethal Amounts sometimes has a tough time explaining the vibe at Sex Cells, the party he throws that’s reminiscent of old-school (read: mid-1980s) New York. 

“I’ll have gay people ask me, ‘So is this like a straight night?’ No. And I’ll have straight people ask me, ‘Is this like a gay night?’ No,” Fuentes tells SF Weekly. “We’re confusing everybody and I think we’re doing a good job.”

This glorious confusion afflicts everybody, apparently, with an atmosphere like the old Danceteria that Lethal calls a “mishmash of weirdness.”

(Levan TK/LA Weekly)

“Drag queens will be like, ‘There’s a lot of metalheads here. Am I going to get beat up?’ And I’m like, ‘No! You’re fine,” he adds. “You’ll see industrial-type people and metalheads and punk rockers and fashion kids and these glamourpuss girls and club kids and goths — it’s such a melting pot of good weirdos that you don’t know what to make of it.”

As he celebrates Sex Cells’ second anniversary, Fuentes & co. have brought the party to Mezzanine, the fated SoMa venue that’s destined to close at some point later this year. They’ve gotten offers to come to other spaces around the Bay Area, he says, but he was afraid that people might polish up something that he preferred to keep just the way it is, to have “a little grime and rawness to it.” So on Saturday, Feb. 16, S.F. weirdos will get a nice treat: a Hercules & Love Affair DJ set along with live performances by Light Asylum, Sateen, and others.

Among the demimonde figures who’ve dropped by are Amanda Lepore, Sylvain Sylvain, and Traci Lords. But the name Sex Cells comes from the New Wave band Soft Cell and one of its signature songs, “Sex Dwarf.” Lethal had gotten the stamp of approval from none other than Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, whom he says “set the pace for modern dance music.”

Admitting that he quasi-sorta stalked Almond for awhile, Lethal says he introduced himself, mentioned their mutual friends, and gave Almond a brief description of what Sex Cells was all about. 

“I said, ‘We loosely named the club after you, it’s called Sex Cells,” Lethal recalls. “He’s like ‘Really?’ He knew where I was coming from but I said, ‘I’m going to have a really hard time describing this to you. It’s not a retro night, and it’s more modern stuff, but I do feel like it something that if you, Marc Almond, were imagining a nightclub, it would look like this, so I’m just going to show you a video.’ So we’re watching a video on my phone and he looks at me like, ‘This is … now? In Los Angeles?”

So Almond was in, giving what is perhaps the highest possible compliment in comparing it to a night Leigh Bowery might throw. Sadly, the Soft Cell legend won’t be at Mezzanine this Saturday, but apart from the well-known and beloved Hercules & Love Affair, Brooklyn electropop duo Light Asylum are another score. (They’ve worked with Adult., who are profiled in this week’s SF Weekly and who play at The Chapel the following night, Sunday, Feb. 17.) For booking other performers, Lethal says they’re careful to select young acts and give them a platform, as part of a conscious decision not to make Sex Cells feel like too much of a retro night. (There’s no Top 40 in the mix, either, although you might hear remixes of Ladytron amid the Cabaret Voltaire and nu-disco.)

“Maybe they’re not going to be the biggest thing in the next week, but in two years, everyone’s going to be talking about them.” Lethal says. “And we brought them to the stage first.

“When it’s at its fullest effect,” he adds, “it’s a room that’s just intoxicating. You don’t even have to have a drink, if we do it right.”

Lethal Amounts presents Sex Cells, with Hercules, & Love Affair (DJ set), Light Asylum (live), Sateen (live), and more, Saturday, Feb. 16, 9 p.m., at Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St., $20-$25, mezzaninesf.com

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