Pre-Bastille Day Bardot a Go Go
Friday, July 12, 2013
Bastille Day doesn't mean a whole lot in San Francisco. In fact, there's a good chance you completely missed its passage yesterday. Admittedly, the French holiday is locally not on the level of Cinco De Mayo or St. Patrick's Day, but it does have its charms. One of which is Bardot a Go Go, an annual party that honors the storming of the Bastille and formation of the French republic by creating a groovy '60s Parisian discotheque from the raw interior of the Rickshaw Stop.
The overall scene was reminiscent of the past as viewed through the lens of Austin Powers and the cartoony '60s spy pictures that influenced it. Dayglo posters covered the walls, depicting French New Wave stars and familiar pieces of American pop art (Warhol's soup cans, for instance). The ceiling was decorated with cut-out Roy Lichtenstein-style explosions that dangled down to just above head height, exclaiming phrases like "Kerang!," "Bip!," and "Thwack!" Meanwhile, projections of Godard flicks made sure every uncovered surface was skinned with Gallic ephemera: Serge Gainsbourg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in particular. It took me back to nights spent at the now defunct Werepad, a '60s themed warehouse in the Dogpatch that used to host dressed-to-the-nines mod nights.
"Eh, I think Bastille Day is bigger here than in France," said a French friend who I'd dragged to the party. We were standing by a row of bee-hived hairdressers giving "free '60s hairstyling" to those brave enough (or drunk enough) to get a haircut at a nightclub. I can't really say too much about the haircuts themselves, except that everyone in costume seemed to have either a bob or a mop-top.
I drank some beer, and then realized the room was oppressively hot. My girlfriend had taken her jacket off and so had our friends. I wiped the back of my neck: the room was packed beyond measure. If you've ever been to the Rickshaw before, you know it gets hot as balls if more than five people are on the dancefloor. In fact, a few of the club's parties used to advertise air conditioning, if memory serves right. I took my jacket off as well and then stood around awkwardly holding it. My new mission for the evening was to find the coat check to remove this newfound burden.
We pushed through a pocket of girls in cloned go-go boots, skinny Mondrian-print dresses, and matching hair bands. "Hey!" "Woops, sorry!" Our drinks collided in a fender bender of small splashes. Then a guy in Ray Bans (but no other costume to speak of) twisted by, grinding his girlfriend in out of sync spasms. Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints" clicked on, however, and it matched perfectly with the kaleidoscopic camp-trippy decor. Above us, a close-up on Belmondo's legs as he jumped over a shovel thrown by some doomed henchman.
The Rickshaw's coat check is located upstairs, but we should have known we were screwed by the piles of outerwear littering the sides of the venue. The coat check was closed. I looked into the skee ball room hoping maybe it'd been relocated. Nope. Now, Jacques Dutronc's "Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi" was pumping a little Gallic R&B from the speakers. We did what everyone else was doing and put our jackets in a crumpled up ball somewhere near our carved out dancefloor niche, and then we took a shot of severely oaky bourbon (which I'm still regretting).
The music was a real mixed bag. For the most part these tracks stayed on message, flipping between Francophone "Ye-ye" and more standard-issue '60s mod/soul fare. There was Dutronc's "Les Cactus," Eileen "Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher," The Kinks "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy," and The Isley Brothers "Shout." But then there were also times when the music seemed out of whack, such as when a French track gave way to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" or when Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" popped on to incite visible ecstatic glee from a group of twisters on stage. But, then again, nobody seemed to care. This was, afterall, a party in full swing.
Or at least, it was for a while. By 1 a.m., the dancefloor began to noticeably clear out. Pockets of air began to open up beneath all the "biffs" and "bangs" and "pows." Suddenly things weren't so hot and humid. What happened? None of us were sure. The music faded momentarily and the DJ played a clip from Batman:
Batman: "Batman speaking?"
The Riddler: "This is a recording. Before you trip over your cape, Batman, riddle me this. There are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches. How do they manage to smoke?"
Robin: "There were three men in a boat. Four cigarettes. No matches. How did they manage to smoke? They threw one cigarette overboard and made the boat a cigarette lighter!"
Cue music. We grabbed our jackets, deposited our drinks, and headed towards Smuggler's Cove to cap the night with a few mugs full of expensive rum and tiny umbrellas.