A group of friends got together last year to imagine a new, post-pandemic LGBTQ party that would be ready to liven the scene at just the right moment. And they're hoping that's Gemini, which has its first outing at Holy Cow on Saturday.
Days ahead of when SF's indoor mask mandate gets officially lifted — and everyone who's already been packing into bars and clubs can drop the pretense of masking up just to walk in the door — a new daytime dance party will spring into action at a venue that hasn't hosted a queer club in quite a while.
"San Francisco is a Gemini," say the promoters, who go on to explain that the name for the club comes from the "two currents" that run through the city's hills — one that "celebrates the weird [and] prizes self-expression," and the other that "represents money, power, and the drive to create our own future." And they're challenging everyone to "embrace the duality" and "spend an afternoon in a melting pot of queer souls from the Bay and beyond." The featured DJ for the first party is SF-based Chrissy (who the Blessed Madonna once called "one of the best DJs to ever walk the earth").
The theme, since it's Valentine's weekend: red and pink.
With many bars and venues around town still just a few weeks out from self-imposed closures as the Omicron wave was cresting around the city, what's it been like trying to plan a new party in this odd in-between moment? If ticket sales are any indicator, the hunger is there for some hard-earned fun and frivolity — Gemini's pre-sale tiers are all sold out, and they'll just be offering the leftover tickets for $30 at the door.
"Planning a party these days means embracing uncertainty," says co-host Tyler Hopf. "But now I think we landed on the perfect time to kickstart this new adventure."
"It’s honestly been invigorating for all of us to put our energies into planning something new and fun for the city we love," says co-promoter and Mystopia DJ Bradley Portnoy. "After over two years with so many ups and downs, it feels like our community collectively needs this!"
Portnoy says he had been thinking about launching something new last year, and a core group of co-hosts came together through word of mouth. "Our city has had a hard time bouncing back from the pandemic, and we all wanted to contribute a spark of creativity to help remind the community about our city's rich history of artists, queers, and weirdos," Portnoy says. He adds, "We have a really diverse queer community, but everyone is swimming in their own lanes! Burners, puppies, lesbians, circuit boys — there's no place where you can see all of them together, a true cross section of the city. I'd love for Gemini to be a place where [that happens]."
Co-promoter Blake Young said he'd been watching some of the exodus of friends last year to other cities, and he longed for San Francisco to have more "queer spaces that remain open" all year and where he could find "sweaty dance floors filled with diverse groups of people, house music (with lyrics) played by up-and-coming DJ's, and fashion-driven inspiration. A place to spark creativity and encourage inclusivity."
"I'm really attracted to the diverse queer and mixed crowds that you can find at Panorama Bar in Berlin, or that we've heard stories about from the legendary Paradise Garage in NYC in the 70s," says Portnoy, adding that he spend time researching Paradise Garage in preparation for this launch.
And all of Gemini's promoters mention, as inspiration, the decade-old, traveling A Club Called Rhonda out of Los Angeles, which has been hosting occasional club nights in SF over the last ten years; as well as L.A.'s Ostbanhof.
Hopf explains that the extra time they were given thanks to the winter pandemic lull meant they had more time to hone the vibe and figure out what the event would be. "We didn't just pause everything while we waited, we kept iterating and producing so that when the time comes, the party will be incredible."
As for the choice of Holy Cow as the venue — which has hosted Folsom parties over the years and the legendary Honey Soundsystem finished off its SF residency there — Hopf says, "We wanted a space with personality that would encourage that spontaneous interaction between people."
Portnoy adds that having attended "their Pink Party after the Folsom Street Fair," he had "confidence that Holy Cow would be a good spot for a daytime party."
And the team behind Gemini stresses that they hope they're just the first of more inclusive, inventive LGBTQ events the spring up as the pandemic fades.
"I hope to see a more diverse group of parties this year," says Young. "Events that create space for all races, body types, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status." And he says, "I also hope to see more fashion, creativity, and self expression outside of the common Burning Man-inspired themes."
Hopf suggests that maybe too many people have become complacent and a little too staid in their work-from-home existences, and they need to break the cycle of that too. "It's ok to go to work tired from the night before, because the bonds that you build dancing with your community are one of the most important things you have," he says.
"I'd love for Gemini to be a place where everyone can come together and celebrate what makes each of us so wonderful," says Portnoy. "And I'd like to see that form a spark that brings some more queer surprise and delight to this city."
Gemini kicks off Saturday, February 12, at 2 p.m. at Holy Cow, and limited tickets will be sold at the door. It will recur on second Saturdays. Follow them on Instagram here.