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Best Night Ever: Seven Bay Area Partyhounds on Their All-Time Favorite Nights

Nightlife veterans recount the single evening when it all came magically together—or all fell beautifully apart.

 

This is one of many stories from San Francisco's February 2018 Bars & Nightlife issue. Check them all out here.


 

Marke Bieschke
Co-owner, the Stud
“In 2004, I set a challenge for myself: Could I go out all night with just $20 in my pocket? I started out at a house party because I thought, That’s the best place that I’m going to get drinks. It was a Hanukkah party. Once I got good and liquored up, a friend said he had a ticket to another event, but that he wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, because it was a circuit party: They’re these huge, carnivalesque, mainstream gay parties that are very superficial and usually named something silly like Thunderdome or Man Blaster. There was no way I could afford to get in. Luckily, I’d had a lot of drinks at the Hanukkah party, so I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ I found the two biggest muscle guys I could, and right when they had gone past the ID stage, I slipped between them and walked past the ticket booth. Once inside, I looked around and was like, ‘This is going to be one of those things where you go to the fancy party in your Converse and you eat all the hors d’oeuvres, have all the fun, and be the punk rock princess at the rich girl’s wedding.’ I ended up dancing and dancing, and in the morning, the sun came up and I realized I hadn’t spent any of my $20! Also, that Hanukkah party was where I met my future husband, David.”

Noah Bennett
Promoter and DJ, 1015 Folsom

“In 2016, we had Prince come to the club. He called around 5 p.m. the same day of the show. I had taken the day off and gone up to these hot springs, which were about two hours away. Our GM called and said, ‘Prince wants to throw a party at the club.’ I had to find a ride back into town—I paid the door guy at the spot to drive me back. They said it would be cool to get a female DJ, so I hooked up Pam the Funkstress— who just passed away in December—to DJ the event. She started her relationship with Prince there at the club and ended up touring with him after that. Pam was OG and a Bay Area legend—skilled, passionate, and humble. It was a privilege to be able to bring a stage to people like that. I got there right at midnight. What was beautiful about it was that it almost felt like a private event. We didn’t really promote the show that much because it was so last-minute. So it was a lot of friends and family. The party went super late, till like 4 a.m. Then of course Prince passed like a couple weeks later. Everyone at the club got together, and we did a Prince tribute party where we hung his logo up on the side of the club and we had this huge rollout of bands and Prince impersonators. It was free, which is a big deal for a business, but I think it’s really important to bring people together, especially at a time of loss. We ended up keeping the sign up for like a month.”

Dan Strachota
Managing partner, Rickshaw Stop
“The craziest party we ever had was with DJ Funk. The stuff he plays is insanely raunchy. I wasn’t working that night; I just wandered into the place, and it was like walking into the Caligula movie set. It was half-naked people everywhere freaking on each other. The whole dance floor was just awash with people grinding on each other. They had brought a smoke machine in and it was like a London sex party, it was so foggy. We’d hooked our DJ set to the ceiling on wires so that if people bumped into it, it wouldn’t skip. So you look onstage, and the DJ table is kind of floating around, and there are 50 people onstage with him—the capacity is like 30—and he’s this skinny guy, and he’s got a beer in one hand, the other hand on the turntable, and on his leg there’s one or two girls grinding on him. He’s DJing and the table is just floating away from him. And he’s trying to hold on to the table and his beer and the girls. It was just bonkers.”

Segundo Casalis
Promoter and DJ, the Candy Rain party
“Back when we were at Edinburgh [Castle Pub], somebody found a surfboard on the street one night—a Tenderloin street find—and brought it inside. ‘Drunk in Love’ had just come out, and so someone surfed through the entire crowd while it played. Everyone was just like, ‘Yeah, sure, let’s all lift up surfboard guy and take photos of it.’ The surfboard stayed there for months after. I think the guy came in and got it, like, ‘Yo, I left my surfboard here,’ and just walked away.”

Audrey Joseph
VP of events and venues, the San Francisco Armory; former manager, Club Townsend
“The most touching event I did was the last night at Townsend. My lease was up in 2002, and they weren’t giving me a renewal. The owner had sold the property for $10 million; they were knocking it down. So for our last party, we opened at 9 p.m. and closed at noon the next day. We got 8,000 people through the door. People came from all over the world. I painted the walls white and got all these Magic Markers and told people to write something on them. One guy wrote, ‘I met the love of my life here.’ When it was all over, I cut the walls out and kept them for years. People loved it; they felt like it was home. They felt like it was family. It was there toward the ebbing of the AIDS crisis, and so the gay community responded in a huge way. We were all standing in the main DJ booth—me and my office staff and my DJs and light operators—just hysterically crying, because it was the end of an era. There was a hole in the roof over the dance floor for an exhaust fan, and the sun came through that hole and, godlike, landed in the middle of the dance floor, and everybody looked up. It just appeared. Everybody looked up and started praising it. And I said, this is the time to play the last song. We played ‘You Are My Friend’ by Sylvester. It was what I opened the club with in 1987, and that’s how we closed.”

Oscar Edwards
Owner, Complex Oakland
“One of the most memorable parties we had was after the Super Bowl in 2014. We didn’t win the Super Bowl, but Marshawn Lynch [then with the Seattle Seahawks] did. Everyone was really excited for him because he’s from here, West Oakland. He called me and said he wanted to throw a party to celebrate everyone who had supported him and helped him win the Super Bowl. We put together that event in two days, and we had 1,500 or 2,000 people. All the people who were from here—MC Hammer, E-40—everyone came down and said congratulations. It was just a huge thing, all his family came. That was just a huge event. They were trying to charge a lot for police, but the city council came and [former Oakland mayor] Jean Quan was there. She sat through the whole party; she had a lot of bodyguards. There had to be 30 bodyguards and at least 10 undercover. I was surprised she stayed the whole event.”

Fred Barnes
Manager, the Chapel
“One of my favorite— and the craziest— moments at the Chapel had to be when Mac DeMarco and James Blake came out to sit in with Connan Mockasin during his show here in October 2016. Mac joined him onstage, unannounced, and the crowd went absolutely wild. And of course typical Mac DeMarco antics ensued, including hoisting Connan up on his shoulders while Connan continued on with his guitar solo. Then out of nowhere, James Blake, who’d been playing in Oakland that night, walked onstage—again, unannounced— and picked up a keytar and started jamming with the whole crew.”

 

Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco 

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