Sunday, April 27, 2014
There are not a whole lot of clubs open to the 18+ crowd right now. This was on my mind last week as I sipped an espresso at Farmer Brown's Little Skillet in the SOMA, a restaurant which has since moved in to the old 330 Ritch space. If you're unfamiliar, 330 Ritch was once a cornerstone of the city's 18-and-over club scene, with weekly parties, like Popscene on Thursday nights, which attracted the sub-drinking age-college crowd from as far north as Sacramento and as far south as Monterey. Those days are now over, and the interior of the building is completely unrecognizable from its former, more pro-party incarnation. Its closure, and the closure of venues like it, has pushed the 18+ party scene toward the big clubs that can afford to host such events. One example of a party in this new school is Temple's "Sunset Arcade," which offers a ravey and kandi-coated multimedia bookend to the weekend's festivities.
The party bills itself as a mixed-media affair; the "arcade" in its name isn't for nothing. Prior to the party, I was intrigued by the event's Facebook page, which advertised a whole menu of midway-esque offerings: video games, pillow fights, "adult big wheel races" (which, sadly, we missed), a karaoke lounge, beer pong, beer bongs, and an alley full of live performance art. Despite this variety, when we arrived, the music was clearly the focus -- a decent-sized crowd danced, hula-hooped, and flashed LED gloves to a sped-up and punky EDM soundtrack that scattered major key buzz-saw melodies over a march of heavyweight kick drums.
"Well...we look like a bunch of creepers, don't we?" said a friend of mine over pints of Corona that had been poured in little plastic glasses and garnished with lime. We were in the roped-off drinking section -- a small bar to the side of the main dancefloor -- looking out as the crowd of barely dressed 18-20 year old ravers worked out in the gaze of Temple's collection of life-sized meditating Buddha statues. "What kind of terrible -- or awesome -- shit do you need to do to get reincarnated as a statue in a nightclub, that's what I want to know," said my friend, as he put down his beer. Another Buddha passively observed as two shirtless bros in backwards baseball caps set up a game of beer pong with a fresh-faced brunette wearing only red lingerie and garters. The Buddha's presence seemed to suggest some deeper significance to the proceedings. "Shit, yeah, we definitely look like creepers, we're 10 years older than everyone here, and we're fully clothed," he said again. A balding baby boomer in a pineapple-covered Hawaiian shirt danced by; the Buddha patiently observed this, too, and somehow it made us feel better.
An MC got on the mic and started barking through the speakers. At the mention of "soul train," the floor parted straight down the middle, revealing an animated "Pac-Man" display covering the DJ booth. From that point on, dancers took turns strutting down the center showing off their moves to a willing and captive audience: a girl in Navajo tights did footwork, two in bikinis and fuzzy boots did a prance, and a guy in a flat bill showed off with some more involved breakdancing. This continued for a while, and then segued into a DJ change, which signaled a sonic transition into the jerking, bombastic rush of trap. A stream-like blast of CO2 shot out from the DJ booth. The beat kicked. The dancers freaked out and fell back into a chaotic jumble of kinetic expression. Then and through the night, everything was all smiles. The atmosphere was extremely familial, comfortable, and accepting. Though, looking back, that probably had a lot to do with the chemical-side effect of the unavailability of alcohol -- water, and lots of it, seemed the most popular drink of choice.
Then we were upstairs trying to figure out how to make an Xbox work. True to its name, Sunset Arcade utilizes Temple's mezzanine section as a makeshift video arcade, complete with multiple TVs, Xboxes, and couches. But it was more than just an arcade: it was also a chill-out zone for burnt out dancers to take a breather from the madness of the dancefloor downstairs. We scanned fruitlessly through menus and configuration options. Meanwhile, on the couch next door, a group sat immersed in the screen, racking up points in some kind of multiplayer fighting game. The rest of the TVs remained blank, entertaining nobody in particular as the exhausted and overstimulated napped in the harsh LCD glow. We kept fiddling with ours, but the screen stayed vacant. By the time we almost had it working, the club had thinned out. It was time to go.