It's Pride Week, and with that comes a whole bevy of once-a-year parties to fill the dance cards of every LGBT party kid in town. But San Francisco is, after all, one of the gay centers of the universe, with a dense and diverse homo population that rivals any major city in the U.S. (especially as a percentage of the overall population here), and we're a weekend mecca for the rest of the gay Bay Area too. Over the last couple of years, gay nightlife has gotten a jolt of fresh energy thanks to a couple of new venues, and the off-playa work of a couple of popular Burning Man camps, and now, so long as you aren't trying to leave the Castro on Mondays or Tuesdays, there's pretty much always somewhere lively and cool to shake your ass and get wasted. Below, SFist's tried and true favorites, in honor of Pride.
Oasis burst onto the gay scene this year, throwing an opening bash on New Year's Eve, and seemed already destined for success given the party-throwing experience of co-owner Heklina. She and fellow drag queen D'Arcy Drollinger, along with two other partners, had for years been looking for a permanent home for their regular performances and parties, like the famed Trannyshack (rechristened Mother this year in the name of political correctness), and their live stagings of sitcoms like The Golden Girls and Sex and the City. Now, SF Weekly raved in a cover story last week that the place has singlehandedly saved SF nightlife, which may be a bit of hyperbole. But new Friday parties like Polyglamorous and Dragula now have a home here too, both of which harken to the glory days of nightlife in cities usually more associated with after-dark revels, like New York and L.A. Basically, it's a wonderful thing that a big venue like this should open in a time when it feels like gay nightlife was starting to feel a bit watered down and anesthetized. Long may it live. 298 11th Street at Folsom
It's no longer the weekly bad decision it once was, back in its days at Holy Cow (and, before that, Paradise Lounge), but the DJ collective that goes by the nickname Honey returns regularly enough to throw its big blowouts that it remains one of the hottest tickets when it does. It's the type of thing where even if you don't see it on Facebook, if one of their Sunday night parties at Mighty is coming up, and you are gay, someone is going to ask you if you're going. DJs Jason Kendig, PeePlay, Bézier, Jackie House, and Josh Cheon spin a bouncing array of neo-disco, house, EDM, and whatever else you want to call it, and in-the-know homos as well as a smattering of dykes and straight girls show up in droves whenever the call goes out. (And they're throwing a post-Pride party, of course.) Holiday Sundays, Mighty, 119 Utah Street
The most recent trend in gay nightlife has been the infiltration of Burning Man camps throwing benefits for themselves, the organizers of which have now become popular party promoters unto themselves. Case in point: Mystopia, which started throwing occasional, costume-themed parties in SoMa about a year and a half ago and now can fill Mighty whenever they decide to throw one (almost monthly now). While GlamCocks parties tend to skew a bit younger and twinkier, Mystopia attracts a range of party boys from their 20s to their 30s, a majority of whom are game for the costume demands each month, as if they were on the playa. It's also a chance for non-Burners to get a taste of what the gay parties are like out there, any month of the year. Various locations
This long-running mixed party at Rickshaw that skews heavily to the lesbian end of the spectrum is known for fun music, a young and uninhibited crowd, and a packed dancefloor. As one fan put in The Bold Italic in 2013, it's "the hook-upiest of any of the clubs," and "Most cities have only one lesbian party, and it’s probably a lot like Cock Block, only not as good." Second Saturdays, Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street
Photo: Georg Lester
Booty Call Wednesdays
One of the longer running weekly clubs in town, Booty Call tends to bring a bevy of younger guys and their gal pals, often in groups looking to take photos together in the weekly changing photobooth, which features backdrop installations by local queer artists. Hostess Juanita MORE! brings in an eclectic mix of DJs from all over who are often in town to play larger gigs, generally making this party a poor decision for everybody who has to work on Thursday mornings. But this wouldn't be a city without a cool place to dance in the middle of the week. Wednesdays, Q Bar, 456 Castro Street.
Gym Class at Hi Tops
If you're a gainfully employed gay, and/or college educated, and/or preppy, and/or jock-aspiring, and/or an admirer of any of the above, you've likely found your way to Hi Tops on a near weekly basis. The two-and-a-half-year-old gay sports bar in the Castro is consistently packed on weekends and during televised sporting events, and on Tuesdays for trivia, but it's Thursday nights after 10 p.m. when the locals congregate to start their weekends early and have a few free whiskey shots served to them by a go-go boy in his underwear. The sports screens all flip over to either sexy shots of athletes in singlets or edited softcore porn. It's consistently crowded with a bunch of guys who mostly know each other, or once slept together, and it's always more friendly and chatty than it is cruise-y. Also, the place all but clears out at midnight, because these gays have day jobs. Thursdays at 10 p.m. 2247 Market Street near Sanchez
Going strong now for 11 years, Tubesteak is the longest running gay party in town, and it's where hip kids still go late on a drunken Thursday to dance on the tiny Aunt Charlie's dancefloor to DJ Bus Station John's underground disco record collection. With its dim red lighting and dive-y charm, not to mention music no one has heard since the days of Dancer From the Dance and the Trocadero Transfer, this party is a vivid connection to the dark and sexy disco clubs of the past. Just don't sit there on your phone within Bus Station's line of sight, or he will shame you. Aunt Charlie's Lounge, 133 Turk Street, Thursdays, 9 p.m.
Easily the most fun drag show in town, SomeThing brings together four things that make it a quintessentially good time: dancing, drag queens, the historic quirkiness of The Stud, and crafts. Yes, there's a themed craft table every week presided over by the ever talented Haute Gloo (think bedazzling your own sunglasses, i.e. shades, on Sade tribute night). There are some tireless, veteran bartenders. There's the music stylings of DJ Down-E (and other guests). There's the witty MC talents of hostess Vivvyanne ForeverMORE. And there's the fact the drag that happens on this small stage picks up where the old, pre-DNA Lounge Trannyshack left off, with newcomers and seasoned pros coming together to make political statements, strap on dildos, cover themselves in fake blood, and generally get weird. Fridays, Harrison and Ninth, 9 p.m. with shows around 11:30 and 12:30. $8
Mystopia may have kicked off the Burning Man-does-gay-stuff-in-the-city trend, but GlamCocks raised the bar on the sexiness quotient, attracting an even younger crowd to throw on a costume, or maybe just some body glitter, and come dance their asses off. Like Mystopia, GlamCocks has expanded and now throws monthly parties at Mighty, but a couple of their promoters are also expanding with a whole other party, one Saturday a month at the new Empire Room, called Shenanigans, launching in July. As one friend put it, "You've got a couple hundred people showing up, in costume, every month, to dance? That's amazing. That's like the 90's right there." Various locations
Like DJ Bus Station John, but with a more contemporary vibe, veteran SF DJs Steve Fabus, Prince Wolf, and Sergio Fedasz host this monthly disco- and house-music bash that has an ardent, passionate fan base. It also happens on the historic dancefloor of The Stud, replete with the ghosts of five decades of late-night revels, from the cowboy-themed days of the late 60's, to Sugar in the early aughts. First Saturdays, The Stud, Harrison and 9th
Photo: Shot in the City
This daylight party at El Rio, on third Sundays from March to October, is always an easy-going swell time with terrific music, and a diverse crowd. Hosts Heklina, DJ Carnita (Tom Temprano of Hard French), and Stanley Frank represent a triumvirate of complementary talents, with the mix of Carnita's soul tracks, Frank's electro and pop tracks, and Heklina's ragtag array of drag performers, who performer every hour on the half-hour. Also, they've always got Sneaky's BBQ serving up brisket in the corner, under the lemon tree, and nobody's really here to pose or get laid. Sunday Funday at its best. 3158 Mission Street at Precita, third Sundays in spring and summer
Photo: FeFe Photography/Facebook
The Castro isn't known for its club nights so much anymore (except for Booty Call, and the dreaded Boy Bar at the Cafe), but Beaux has been trying to change that the last two years. Weekends here can be a little overwhelming and bridge-and-tunnel at times, but it is one of the only places in the neighborhood where you can count on both a packed dancefloor and hot go-go boys nearby as well as an upstairs overlook where you can get away from it all and look down on everyone. The weekly 90's party on Thursdays has been a big hit lately with locals especially those who were still kids in the 90's and responsible for a lot of Friday hangovers. 2344 Market Street between Castro and Noe
Until Oasis came along, BeatBox was holding steady as the only gay destination in the clubland of 11th Street. Now it remains the biggest gay dancefloor in town, and a place for those looking to seriously, shirtlessly dance into the wee hours of Sunday morning, now that The EndUp is mostly not so gay anymore. They bring in popular circuit DJs and divas, and sometimes there'll even be an open bar if you get there before 11 (which is indicative of the fact that this is a late-night-only type place). Also, cover charges here tend to be more New York than SF, usually starting at $25. 314 11th Street near Folsom
While CockBlock caters to the younger generation, Darling Nikki which started four years ago as a loft party by producers Lyra Wallace and Lydia Daniller and takes its name from a Prince song aims for women in their 30s and 40s. Now, sadly, just an occasional event at Slate in the Mission, it's always a good time set to 80s hits, hip-hop, and Top 40, with the added bonus of bartenders who know how to mix a real cocktail. They're throwing their annual Pride blowout this week, and then, hopefully, they won't stay away long. Slate, 2925 16th Street
Photo: Shot In the City
Powerhouse has managed the incredible feat in the last ten years of morphing from a dirty leather bar that catered to an aging demographic to a vibrant, self-consciously sleazy SoMa outpost with an age-diverse clientele. One of their best and most consistent club nights is this one, hosted by Walter Gomez and Juanita MORE!, that's all about blurring the outdated lines between the fetish scene, the drag scene, and the alternaqueer scene. The monthly installments are pretty much always crowded, with plenty of heavy flirting in front and dancing in back, along with the occasional hand down the pants. Third Saturdays, Powerhouse, 1347 Folsom Street
Swagger Like Us
It's the only queer hip-hop night on this list, and it's a little more than that there's a healthy mix of other dance tracks and stage performances thrown in. Swagger draws a younger, mixed, very diverse and very fun crowd that you can get a sample of from the video above, and it currently alternates between El Rio in the Mission and the new Oasis in SoMa. Monthly at various locations, check here.
Hard French at El Riovia Facebook
Last but not least we have the most popular Saturday day party for local lesbians and homos alike, hosted and DJ'd by Carnita (Tom Temprano) and Brown Amy. And here, it's all about vintage Motown and soul, and teaching the kids how their parents and grandparents used to get down to this stuff. As they put it, their goal is to "modernize, takeover, revamp, trick out, revive, and do up the dance party experience," and the crowd is sometimes as straight as it is LGBT. First Saturdays, El Rio, 3158 Mission Street at Precita.