“I'm stuck in the '80s,” laughs Krista, a 26-year-old sporting a shaved head and combat boots. It's Saturday night at the Cat's Grill & Alley Club and New Wave City is in full gear. Krista's mohawked partner, Amy, attests that they haven't missed a single night of the monthly floating dance club since they discovered its existence 2 1/2 years ago. That's no surprise — there are more than a few familiar faces tonight as most of New Wave City's patrons are repeat customers.
“I try to come up every month,” says Sam, a 30-year-old legal secretary from Santa Cruz, as she takes a breather from the dance floor. “It moves from club to club — so you get to see a lot of different places without wondering if you'll want to dance or not.”
Full of pogoing men in pointy, shiny shoes and women in miniskirts imitating Molly Ringwald's Breakfast Club dance, Cat's Grill is a sight to behold. “The '80s were really geared towards fun,” says a bespectacled man in New Romantic gear. “The clothes are flashy, the makeup is flashy, but people are out to have fun — not just to pose.” A patter of squeals greets the intro to Soft Cell's “Sex Dwarf,” as a wall of people push their way onto the dance floor.
“We like Shindog,” says Amy. “He plays music with guitars in it. Skip seems to like synth.” Even if 34-year-old DJ Shindog leans to the Specials while his ageless partner favors Depeche Mode and its ilk, the pairing has worked out well. Shindog puts it simply: “We just wanted a club where we could dance with our friends to the music we like.” That was no small order for a new-waver in the club's birth date of 1992, when San Francisco rave culture was at its height and the '70s revival was in full swing. Anyone forsaking Amoeba clothes was probably wearing bell-bottoms and doing the hustle. If Skip and Shindog were strangely nostalgic for a decade that had just passed, they weren't the only ones. New Wave City was a hit from the start.
“We only do one event a month,” explains Shindog. “We didn't want it turning into the same thing each week; it had to be special every time so that the hard-core fans would never miss a night.” With plenty of brainstorming by the DJs and their multimedia guy/booker Ira V., New Wave City has featured a slew of oddball themes, including a Simon Le Bon birthday celebration (he didn't show), a Go-Go's go-go contest in which several boys in skirts gave everyone a run for his money, and the ever-popular Smiths tribute during which the crowd joins in on a “How Soon Is Now?” sing-along complete with cue cards.
“Sure, everyone has a favorite,” says Christian, a 26-year-old in a spiked leather jacket. “I had the most fun at the Ninth and Howard event. It may have just been because it was held at the old Underground, which is where I went clubbing during the '80s, because I don't remember the theme.” How could he forget? That particular night was a John Hughes salute. The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink videos played upstairs at the bar while Simple Minds blared below.
“One thing about the themes,” warns a frequenter, “don't count on hearing the band you came for. Like on the Clash night, they hardly played any Clash and on the Smiths night same thing — very little Smiths. Of course, you can never hear enough Smiths.” Well, actually …
Aside from two disgruntled gents who say they hate new wave (the club name isn't exactly misleading), the dancers are looking pretty giddy by midnight. DJ Shindog welcomes Punk Rock Santa — Ira V. in a red suit with a giant safety pin through his nose — and, because it's Psychedelic Furs night (although we haven't heard much Furs music yet), Santa's mangy reindeer amble to the stage wearing fake animal skins. With a happy ho ho ho, the motley crew tosses new wave CDs and paraphernalia to the crowd, who snatch for the gifts like true children of the Reagan era. “There's plenty to go around,” Shindog admonishes as he mixes a special set of '80s holiday tunes. The frenzy over, the spectators engage in a moment of good will. With eyes closed and ironic smiles on their faces, they raise their arms in the air and sing along to Band Aid's “Do They Know It's Christmas?” while Phil the bartender ignites shots of 181 into festive flames. And they called it the “greed decade.”
By Silke Tudor