Blow Up presents Felix Da Housecat
Friday, March 9, 2012
Better than: Macaulay Culkin's acting in Party Monster.
In a city with a rapidly expanding nightlife scene, it's sometimes easy to forget that the future of the industry lies in those clubs and events that cater to a younger audience. It's simple enough: the under-21 crowd of today is the over-21 crowd of tomorrow. Yet, the number of legitimate venues catering to this market has grown increasingly smaller in recent years. Grizzled by the War on Fun, most of the 18+ parties have moved away from the clubs and into the nebulous world of the underground. Talk with people in the scene, and invariably you'll hear stories about candy-coated massives held in warehouses throughout the Bay Area's nether regions. However, amidst this shift, there are still a few legitimate parties that have managed to carve a niche for themselves. One such event is Blow Up, Jeffrey Paradise and Ava Berlin's long-running 18+ extravaganza.
Going on now for over seven years, Blow Up has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Beginning its run in the mid-'00s as Frisco Disco writ large, it's always managed to maintain an appealing sense of hipster cool. Today, the party is as vital as ever, providing the 18+ crowd with a cohesive and well thought-out nightclub experience that pushes a classically clubby atmosphere lacking in many of its competitors. Head to Blow Up on any given Friday, and you'll find a party that's gradually introducing an entirely new subset of clubbers to the sounds that have begun to make up the over-21 nightlife experience. At the same time, the club is also injecting a uniquely pan-sexual flavor into the scene and seems to be the epicenter for a newly developing subculture of '90s-style club kids.
Of course, it only makes sense that such a party would be held at the DNA Lounge. Considered one of the War on Fun's epicenters, the venue came under fire in 2009 due to its newly acquired 18+ status. Yet, beyond its symbolic role in nightlife politics, DNA is also a suitable venue due to its long history in San Francisco as a place for forward-thinking and avant-garde entertainment.
First opened in 1985, the space was previously occupied by a tough leather bar called Chaps. Influenced by New York's mid-'80s it-club Area, the first iteration of DNA featured a Dadaistic decor with strange murals, checkerboard floors, and large drawings of things like Marcel Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel." Since then, the space has changed hands multiple times and seen multiple stylistic renovations (for a glimpse of the venue and its Keith Haring mural in the mid-'90s, check out the music video for Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Membrane"). Today, the venue is owned by Netscape developer Jamie Zawinski, who bought the venue in 1999, updated the soundsystem, and gave it its current techno-cyberpunk decor.
Last Friday, Avalon and I found ourselves en route to Blow Up for a chance to catch Felix Da Housecat. We arrived around 11 p.m. to find a street scene reminiscent of a Ron Galella photo. A long line of fresh-faced clubbers mingled, smoked, and waited, while a never-ending stream of the party's fashionable inner circle skipped ahead. It was an interesting mixture, the sort of line where three nerds in Men's Warehouse attire could feel comfortable standing next to a seven foot tall drag queen with so many studs in her lips that she looked like some rejected concept for a James Bond henchman.
Inside, the DNA Lounge comes off like some '90s cyberculture fantasy. It's dark with industrial metal, exposed black plastic tubing, and a large timetable-like screen that announces the club's upcoming parties. A cloud of fog shot through with lasers and spotlights blanketed the room like a Midwestern electrical storm. Beneath the haze, a mixed group of younger dancers screamed as they found the beat to Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." Bikini-clad girls and bare-chested guys in tights provided a constant go-go spectacle on pedestals scattered throughout the room. Promoter Jeffrey Paradise presided over the room on an elevated platform, DJing an opening set of gothic new wave and compressed electro favorites.