Dilettante 20: Nouveau vaudeville

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In the late ’90s before dot-com rich kids blew out the underside of the city’s culture, San Francisco used to be full of fashionistas who danced well and could hold their liquor.

Nowadays in the Mission and Polk Street neighborhoods where the beautiful vintage people used to nurse hangovers at brunch, cozy nerds dressed like they’re going camping stare at phones and wait in long lines for tiny cupcakes. On the flip side, as it was 20 years ago this week, it’s still incredibly difficult to find any actual hipness going in North Beach.

remember flyers? like, paper xerox flyers stacked on the special table at the coffee shop or record store?

DJ Aaron Abelson Svengali’d several different nights at various clubs in neighborhoods all over town (including the one featured in this article I wrote 20 years ago) but Popscene, located in the Potrero-industrial badlands far away from any other clubs, topped them all.

At Popscene on Thursday nights, where the girls and I went to dance when nothing else was happening, Abelsen kept us all hip on the ‘90s glam-rock and scene-pop revival singles. Dance floor patrons were always well-dressed. Bands dropped by after their sets at other clubs. These people were the style makers of the scooter set AND the Joshua Tree Gram Parsons worship set.

The prominent y’allternative spiritualized rock band called Mover who played on this night doesn’t exist anymore but their next iteration does; they’re called Hot Lunch and they pretty much personify San Francisco psych-bar-rock. Their 2014 album is available here on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

Once I went on a date with one of these Popscenester guys — one date — which we amicably ended early when he asked me in front of a whole room full of his friends whether I liked the Rolling Stones. I said emphatically that I didn’t, not expecting the floor to fall out of the conversation on a psychic level.

Everyone went ice-cold quiet. Shortly thereafter nobody would look me in the eye so I politely excused myself and went home.

That was the second time in my life I had to tell a man goodbye because I loathe the Rolling Stones. I will never have regrets about it.


Click through to read “Decline of Western Civilization IV,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on August 12, 1998.

This is the 20th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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basically the dudes at popscene and this show looked like either gram parsons or these guys (the kinks)


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