Warhol Live Pop Party at the de Young
Sugar Shack at the Paradise Lounge
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2009
A double feature of Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol
San Francisco is a city that doesn't easily let go of the past. From our flea markets and vintage stores to our vinyl record shops and oldies dance parties, there's always some way we're giving the old a modern spin.
On Saturday night the two most obvious homages to days gone by happened at the high and low end of the spectrum as the de Young celebrated the world of Andy Warhol
with a Pop Party
and Sugar Shack
hosted two stories of classic soul, R&B, and French pop at the Paradise Lounge
. While these two events shared some overlapping interest in one era in particular (namely the '60s), being at one was a sweet return to sock hop innocence; the other was more like a drunken wedding.
I started out at the evening at the Pop Party, the de Young's big gala for its Warhol Live
exhibit, which looks at the famous pop artist through the scope of his music connections and obsessions. The main floor of the museum was packed mostly with well-heeled women in fancy vintage, their male counterparts in boring black suits, and a couple flamboyant artist types who took the theme to heart and really tried to make a visual impression. The hall was also stocked with open bars (featuring signature cocktails like the "Nico-tini") and kitschy food like Pop Tarts, pizza, and donut holes. It was difficult to spend much time there, though, unless you were really excited about the way the Unauthorized Rolling Stones "jazzed up" the Stones catalog by camping it up like a bad wedding band.
It was much better to escape down into the basement, where tipsy patrons were lounging in the Velvet Underground room to the tune of "All Tomorrow's Parties," mulling around Warhol's television concepts in the media room, and generally taking in the large exhibit with far fewer people blocking their views than on a regular weekend trip.
From there, we ran across town to a scene of cheaper (and better worn) vintage at the Paradise Lounge. The club was hosting a shit-ton of DJs from the soul and oldies circuit, including Dick Vivian from Rooky Ricardo's Records
, Neil Martinson
from Smile, and others from Kaleidoscope
, 1964, and Teenage Dance Craze.
Walking in, you were immediately impressed with how much of the crowd got straight to dancing. There were few wallflowers lounging at the bar, or by the upstairs fireplace (which, by the way, made for a cozy atmosphere). In near total darkness (minus a couple green lasers) twentysomethings packed the downstairs dance floor in ties and flippy baby doll dresses, swinging to girl groups and teeny bopper classics that would've made their grandparents proud. Upstairs the lighting was brighter and the crowd thinner, but a nonstop run of French pop kept the kids moving nonetheless.
For those who needed to catch their breath between sets, the Paradise has plenty of upstairs booths that surround the dancefloor. Watching couples huddle in and out of those booths only further added to the Grease
-y atmosphere of the evening.
Overall, I enjoyed spending a Saturday night dipping into a past I'm too young to have experienced the first round. But in the end, Sugar Shack was more my scene. Attitude wise, it was low key and totally unpretentious, and yet brought with it great musical and visual style. Especially when viewed against the trashy weekend warriors that surrounded it over on 11th and Folsom, this time machine emphasized class over crass. But both events offered a real twist, as it were, on San Francisco nightlife.