tl;dr/summary: Folsom is a big gay leather prom. See you there.
And we’re back, ready to rage, rave, rutt, and revel for another magical September weekend! If you’re impatient, jump past my platitudes and get to the list.
You’re reading the guide for Folsom 2019. Here’s the guide for Dore 2019.
Folsom is a Rorschach
It reflects your sexual identity back at you. You learn what turns you on, what doesn’t. What you once thought was kinky, and what you now think is normal. What you might try, what you’re glad you tried, and what you’d never try. Who you’re scared to admit you want to be, what you’re scared to admit you want, and what you’re absolutely sure you don’t.
What is Folsom Street Fair?
Folsom Street Fair (also referred to as just “Folsom”) is the world’s largest outdoor leather/ fetish event and attracts half a million people every year from all over the world. The fair is produced by the Folsom Street Events non-profit organization for an annual roster of beneficiaries. If you’re familiar with July’s Up Your Alley street fair (also produced by the Folsom org), it’s generally a more ‘mainstream’ and straighter affair than Dore alley weekend. Straight kinksters and fetishists have been important partners in the fight for LGBT equality and visibility and Folsom is for them, too. Everyone realizes that after the far-right gets done outlawing queer sexual thrills, they’ll continue with the rest of the Handmaid’s Tale training manual.
You’ll hear The Gays complain that the fair isn’t what it used to be and the Folsom organization has let the event lose its edge. It’s too tame. Too straight. Too many women. (Which usually means they pine for the days of manly-men-only events and venues.) But bitching that things aren’t the way they used to be is one of San Francisco’s most hallowed pastimes. Along with bitching about rents and being seen standing in line for things.
You might see producers refer to the weekend as “FLSM” or just “Leather Weekend.” It’s all the same. The Folsom organization can be pretty draconian about protecting their trademarks.
Know Your History
Photo above from the June 26, 1964 issue of Life magazine profile “Homosexuality in America,” a landmark in LGBT visibility
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some history. It’s hard to convey how much leather, kink, and fetish culture is woven into the fabric of San Francisco. That libertine spirit has grown to include all sexualities and genders and all types of people and expanded across the world. Here’s some reading for your flight here:
- SFTravel article Behind the Harness: The Extraordinary History of the The Folsom Street Fair.
- Found SF article Changes and Continuities in the Leather Community.
- SFist article Brief History of the Folsom Street Fair
- Blogger Broke Ass Stuart’s Down and Dirty History of the Folsom Street Fair
This context is also important because many have a knee-jerk conservative reaction to this collection of people and behaviors. It’s hard to express to straight people sometimes, “We do it this way. I can’t entirely explain why we do it this way, but this is how we do it.” Numerous religious right fundamentalist websites use photos from the street fair to depict all queer people. Some would argue if we just didn’t dress up like that or throw it in everyone’s face that we’d have more queer acceptance faster but let’s be honest: They’d murder us for simply holding hands. See also: Respectability politics.
If you don’t like it, then it isn’t for you, and isn’t intended for you and it’s completely fine if you stay away. That’s why the street fair requires admission and minors aren’t allowed.
For some people, leather and fetish is a core part of their identity and peer groups. For others it’s a fun weekend to get a little wild, experiment with different mode of dress or style, and push your own boundaries of what you like and who you are. You can see this history in action as the entire week kicks off with:
Sunday, September 23rd, 28th Annual LeatherWalk
Founded in 1992, the annual LeatherWalk features hundreds of people gearing up in their best leather finery to walk together down our main drag to celebrate and respresent leather, kink, chosen family, and community while raising funds for Folsom Street Events and PRC charities.
The promenade stops at several local watering holes ending up at The Eagle where the leather pride flag is raised (know your flags!). On-site registration and check-in begins at 10am at the bar 440 Castro.
No official event page yet so stay tuned.
Here’s a list of many of the events of Folsom Street Fair weekend:
When someone asks me to describe Folsom weekend overall I usually say: It’s like a big gay leather prom.
And just like prom, everyone dresses in their Sunday best, everyone has high and probably unrealistic expectations about getting laid, and everyone is ready to dance and have a great time. Think of Molly Ringwald’s 50 Load Weekend.
Also like prom, you might have some mean girls or mean bears or mean muscle queens or belligerent twinks that are more intested in throwing attitude. You can usually find these assholes standing outside the dance floor not moving at all, just posing. They look amazing and they’ve worked hard all year to look this good – and they are starving. Tell them they look great and then go to the opposite side of the club where people are actually having fun.
Generally the San Francisco crowd is warm and friendly to a fault and the general etiquette is such that everyone introduces everyone to everyone else. As far I can tell this doesn’t happen at other cities (the Atlantis cruises, kinda).
It’s like we say back in Indiana, “The way to a man’s hole is through his husband.”
As you read the guide please keep in mind that:
Taste in music is so individual.
I can rage for hours at an afterhours until 8am and then have a friend say, “Yeah it was too dark, didn’t really do it for me.” Then, I’m at another party with a more disco-y edge and everyone’s grooving and it isn’t moving me at all. I like the familiar structure of circuit mixes with the beat doubling on itself or the steady state deep pumping of a heavy minimal afterhours mix. Others find it completely monotonous. My motto is: If you can’t fuck to it, I can’t dance to it. That’s probably why our favorite getting-ready-to-dance song is Ivan Gomez’s remix of “Do You Fuck As Well as You Dance?” (1 minute in on this J. Warren mix).
San Franciso parties are different.
San Francisco parties have a beating heart. They have a soul.
We went to Madrid Pride this year and attended several of the We Party production group’s parties. They were stunning evenings with up to 10,000 guys at venues like Fabrik and La Riveria. The production design was absolutely astounding (video). You would have seen similar scale if you were in New York for World Pride this year at the Javits Center party, the Pier for Madonna (“Vogue”), or Alegria. Massive events with tens of thousands of attendees and multi-million dollar production budgets.
I can see why guys come to San Francisco and enjoy the switch to smaller, more intimate events. Going from 8,000 men packed with millions of dollars of lighting hardware rigged to soaring ceilings to several hundred guys packed into Club Six with the low basement ceilings practically sweating from the humidity is a huge change in dynamic and tone. In San Francisco, you are more likely to see the same guys several times a night or throughout the weekend. There’s more a sense of us.
Almost all of the events detailed in this guide are from part-time producers and groups of volunteers who have day jobs and husbands and families and lives. They don’t make millions doing these events (and often lose money just trying to make the bar minimum on other weekends). We know many of these producers personally, and I can tell you that they ache over every single detail and minute of every party trying to bring the best possible experience to a legendary weekend. They do it for the sheer love of music and dance and celebration. So at 3:30am when the mix of sweat and leather hangs in the air and Donna Summer croons, “Oooooooo… I feel love, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love…. I fee-eeel love… “, and you’ve got one beautiful man in your arms, and another behind you, his hot exhale on the back of your neck, and the guy you met at the other party is smiling from across the crowd, and everyone is moving in unison, say to yourself, “This is how they do it in San Francisco.”
I’ve included links to photo galleries for most of the events so you can get a sense for what the mix of the crowd is like and what to wear along with Mixcloud, SoundCloud, and social media profiles for all the DJs so you can get a sense for the music.
Thursday, September 26th
If you’re coming in town early, there’s a few early events ready to get you into the fray:
Horse Market, produced by the Stablemaster
And what better way to launch into the week’s filth flarn filth than with the return of San Francisco’s Horse Market. I checked with the Stable Master and he’s confirmed there will be a Folsom edition of this barn of iniquity. Horse Market is a truly degenerate evening for all, inspired by Europe’s infamous Fickstutenmarkt parties (Vice article). From the site:
The mares [bottoms] arrive before the stallions [tops] and get prepared for the event. They are to strip naked, have their hands bound (lightly) and are then blindfolded. Then the stallions appear and can fully inspect the bound mares at their leisure. When a stallion has decided on a mare, he then leads the chosen mare to a place of his choice to mount. When the stallion has finished covering the mare, this mare is then available for covering by other stallions.
[scratches record, clutches pearls, drops monocle]
There’s even a Best In Show designation at the end of the event because gay men have to turn everything into a
beauty pageant scholarship program. So all you guys bitching about Folsom getting too tame, this is that Berlin-grade filth you’ve been pining for.
Friday, September 27th
You’re taking Friday off from work, right? Oh, henny. There’s so many parties to choose from:
Brüt, at the Great Northern, produced by Hedonic Productions and Brian Kent Productions, with DJs Dan Darlington, Peter Napoli, and Manny Ward
Brüt started as a New York party but its special mix of leather, music, and muscle has reached across the globe with events in other major cities. We’ve been attending and hosting Brüt parties for six years now in San Francisco, and it’s a fantastic evening of dancing with primal music pumping and guys ready to rutt. Brüt producer/DJs Dan Darlington and Peter Napoli are on hand to deliver their signature subterranean sound with DJ Manny Ward joining the gang and local bestie/producer Brian Kent wrangling the night. These gents are going to have no problem keeping the boys bouncing all night long. Brut’s sound is mostly steady state deep house with tribal mixed and a little circuit-y here and there but mostly a deep carnal groove that isn’t too fast or slow but just right for having a hot guy in your arms (music below).
Top three Brut moments from past parties:
- A couple years ago at Folsom Brüt, Dan slowed down the beat and mixed in Nine Inch Nails’s “Closer” and you had hundreds of rutting leather-clad men chanting “I want to fuck you like an animal!” and then as the song ended, Dan kept repeating the Downward Spiral descending motif from the classic album as he brought the beat back up.
- Hearing them drop in the remix of DMX’s “It’s All Right” featuring the elegant subtle couplet, “It’s all good! It’s alright! Fuck all day! Fuck all night!”
- This past March’s Brüt party, it was later into the night when things start to feel a little otherworldly, and Dan was on the decks (with his usual devilish grin), and he’d just suspended a really hard bass line, and as you caught your breath from dancing so hard, then he faded in an isolated vocal of Debbie Gibson cooing, “No… only in my dreams… as real as it may seem… you are only in my dreams…” Transcendent.
Resident Brut DJ Dan Darlington on Mixcloud, SoundCloud, Facebook, and the Brüt site and Brüt’s own SoundCloud. My favorite Brüt mix of all time is this Folsom mix from a couple years ago. It absolutely purrs.
Brut featured in:
- The New York Times: Gay Leather Scene Tones Down From Hard-Core to Dress-Up
- Daily Xtra: How one leather party is taking back New York City
- Project Q: Brut muscles it’s way into Atlanta
Prime at Club Six, presented by TrophyDad with DJs Neon and Serge P
Friday also marks the return of TrophyDad’s Prime party to to seedy sleaze-haus Club Six with their party dedicated to “men in their prime and their admirers.” Hot gogo daddies (all over 50) ply their trade (ahem) and keep you entertained while a broad group of dads, boys, otters, wolves, bears, and the rest of the zoo come together to celebrate and dance and enjoy. Upstairs, Prime’s resident DJ Neon spins his trademark blend of celebratory vocals and lots of classics – all with a bit more bawlz behind it. Meanwhile downstairs is the Daddy Pit, recreating the aggressive overt vibe of the leather bars of days gone by with low ceilings, lower inhibitions, and a play space – plus Berlin’s Serge P bringing that dark, sexy sound he’s pioneered at clubs across Europe. Visuals, lasers, and videos from the always dazzling William Brown.
Prime party started a few years ago with our friend Ed throwing himself a big 50th birthday party and then it kinda became a thing. I think as the generation of men that survived the 80s and 90s is hitting their 50s and 60s their redefining what it is to be a gay man after 50: active, vital, confident, horny, and fun.
Love, love, love the security at Club Six. The head Filipina mama always seems to hug Ron more than frisk him. They are super-friendly and always happy to see the gays, and even the straight guys always appreciate a hot ass. It’s staff like that that puts patrons at ease.
Both Club Six and Club OMG (below) are on that strange hellhole block of 6th Street between Market and Mission. You should be fine walking in a group but if you’re solo, I’d grab a car or find some other guys in leather and chat them up and walk with them. There’s a reason the convenience store cashiers there are behind plexiglass. Keep your phone in your pocket, headphones off, and your wits about you – that goes for the whole weekend.
And as you daddy-hunt, remember our advice from daddy connoisseur (papa sommelier?) Baby Jake: “You better check for that AARP card first.”
Read more about the genesis of the Prime party in Race Bannon’s article in The Bay Area Reporter: “Celebrating Grey — the Older Kinkster”
Full details on the Folsom Prime event page on Facebook and you can also follow TrophyDad’s Facebook page and see lots of photo galleries on the TrophyDad’s Facebook page.
Harder at F8, produced by Ricardo Tavares
Friday is also when inked Brazilian muscle stud/cutie-pie producer Ricardo Tavares brings his horny NYC party Harder to San Francisco for a Folsom encounter. We’ve gone to other Harder parties in SF and the guys are always hot, friendly, and agreeable and the music is mostly dark and sexy house-ish, not too manic and not circuit.
Taboo at Oasis
No DJs or theme announced yet for this event. But I confirmed with one of the production team that they are indeed having a Taboo party at Folsom Friday at Oasis.
Taboo is a monthly event with a different fetish or theme each time (last year’s Folsom party was puppy play). Oasis is a fantastic gay-owned venue founded by drag queens with a big front bar, rooftop area, and a legit stage and cabaret theatre space that doubles as a dance floor. You can barely tell it used to be an 8,000 sq ft gay bathhouse in a past life (the step down into the main conrete floor is the old pool space).
Saturday, September 28th
And by Saturday, we mean Satur-after-noon since you were out late. I hope.
Geared Up Party at Mr. S Leather
Now celebrating 40 years of leather, kink, and style, Mr. S Leather is a San Francisco mainstay and globally recognized leather and fetish brand. Every year on Folsom Saturday they have an in-store party with DJs spinning, and “dirty dancers and the trashiest bartenders in San Francisco” pouring drinks, bootblacks shining, cigar enthusiasts are out on the sidewalk smoking, and guys cruising from every corner – while hundreds of hot guys are shopping and trying on their full range of harnesses, clothing, gear, and toys.
If you are going to buy some new leather finery during your trip, get over there when you first get to San Francisco. They can do alterations onsite to ensure a perfect fit and often while you wait. Their leatherworkers will be going overtime for the weekend so that might be more difficult as the weekend kicks in. Harnesses, hats, ballcaps, boots, uniforms, vests, blindfolds, ropes, lubes, jockstraps, singlets, socks, toys… they’ve got it all. And slings for rent.
Mr. S staff are helpful and friendly and want to make sure you look your best – even if you’re new to the whole leather thing. I remember finding the place super intimidating when were first went since we didn’t know much about leather culture and they helped us pick out our first harnesses. Now we live just a 10 minute walk away and go at least once a month. I went from having panic attacks when I first went in there to being a model for the new harness they debuted a couple years ago.
Mr. S also has their famed brown bottle “cleaning solution” which you have to pay cash to get. There’s an ATM onsite or the one catty-corner at the gas station. Probably can’t take it home if you’re from outside the US.
No event page on Facebook for this page just yet but you can follow their Facebook page to stay up to date.
Big Muscle Party at DNA Lounge, benefiting Positive Resource Center
DJs have not been announced yet for this event.
I always like taking friends to this event because if you don’t know it’s happening on a Saturday afternoon, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Several hundred muscle guys of all sizes and stripes, and their admirers pack into DNA Lounge (founded with Netscape money and like every other big venue always at risk of closing) to have cocktails and dance and make Mary. It’s got a fantastic vibe whether you’re in the mood to dance on the main floor, chill in the back lounges, hang out and chit-chat in the side bars, or people-watch from the wraparound balcony.
Ron and I contend that this party usually the hottest crowd of Folsom weekend. And some of the guys are yooooge! Like water buffalo galloping through amber waves of grain on the dance floor.
DJs for the Folsom edition aren’t out yet but the music is tea dance-y, but not wussy. The vibe is relaxed and fun and not everybody is a total mess just yet.
It’ll be bright outside and dark as night indoors so it’ll take you a bit to see once you’re in the club. Reminder: DNA Lounge is a huge venue! It took me a couple years to realize, “Ohh shit there’s that back bar there… and oh damn is that another bar further on back… ” So after you’ve enjoyed the main floor, go upstairs to the balcony, the side bar on the left with the windows to the street, the bar behind that, the bar behind that, the bar that swings around behind back into the balcony to the lounge with seating and back around to the other side of the club. One of my favorite moments from last year is the DJ in the upper bar teasing the growling bass line for “The Humpty Dance” for about 10 minutes and you kept thinking, “Am I hearing that?” and then finally launching into the 1989 classic, then back into house.
There’s also the photo booth in the balcony (house-left) where you can get photos of your hot ass and hot-ass friends for posterity. It closes earlier than the event ends, so be sure to get up there sooner than later.
If you get overheated, there are A/C vents to chill you down right in front of the street-side balcony bar.
And don’t forget to grab pizza next door at DNA Pizza (menu) during the party or on your way out. You know these gals like to eat. You can go between the pizzeria and the club and even go outside for a smoke or a vape.
Tip: Lines for the Folsom edition last year were unexpectedly long and we were in the “need to buy tickets” line which was moving pretty slowly. Security tipped us off that you could still buy a ticket online. So we bought tickets on our phones at dnalounge.com and then jumped over to the ticketholder line which was moving much faster. Or just buy your ticket now and save a few dollars. Usually $15-$20 at the door but advance tickets available on the DNA lounge site.
No event page yet but tickets for sale on the DNA Lounge site (ignore the VIP packages, that’s for straight prime time events, and when has a gay man ever ordered bottle service?).
Photo gallery to show you who-all’s there and what to wear in Out magazine: “109 Photos From BigMuscle Party at Folsom Street Fair”
No Magnitude This Year
Folsom Street Events decided not to produce their famed Saturday night party year for the first time in 20 years: Magnitude is not happening this year. Here’s the organization’s explanation in The Fight magazine: “Keeping It Fresh: What’s New And Different At Folsom Street Events:”
“We will not be producing Magnitude this year. The big reason is cost. Magnitude has always had high production costs, primarily due to its sheer size (approximately 2,500 attendees). There are no existing night clubs in SF that have that capacity, so we have been working with large scale venues that, in most cases, require a complete build (sound, lighting, stages), and come with an exorbitantly high rental fee – we’re talking $50K to $75K to rent the space. However, many of those venues have either closed, or are unwilling to host the event due to its sexual nature. In the past, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a space at Magnitude for “getting frisky.” That changed in 2017, EVERY venue we approached was not on board with it, so that aspect of the party had to go away. … Also to note in 2017, we thought we had found Magnitude’s “forever home” at the San Francisco Armory. However, the building sold and the new owners had no interest in hosting the event. Magnitude as a party is over 20 years old, and lost money for the first time, affecting the entire organization. We had to reduce our charitable giving amounts and we had to make substantial cuts to our 2019 administration and production budgets. We literally do not have the funds to produce Magnitude this year. We want to keep it fresh, and with the overwhelming need to find the right venue within our budget to keep the party to our standards, we thought it best to take at least a year off.”
We were all so excited when the Armory’s cavernous hall (a boxing ring in the 1920s) became an event venue for a brief few years. Several huge fantastic parties were there. But the owners that came in after Kink Studios left aren’t interested in it. It’s a fucking shame, really.
Full Fetish at Space 550 Barneveld, produced by Folsom Street Events and Recon, with DJs Cyril G and Brian Novy
In lieu of Magnitude, the Folsom organization is partnering with the perverts at Recon for the Full Fetish party.
Hookup site/app Recon brings their Full Fetish party to Folsom Saturday with a “sleazy, Euro-style” underground party, so wear your kinkiest gear whether it’s “leather, rubber, sports gear, spandex, military, punks, jockstraps, boots, jocks, harnesses, uniforms and more…” Music in the main room by the infamous Cyril G. (Paris) and DJ Brian Novy spinning house, electro, tribal and everything in between keep you bumping and grinding through the night.
Full details on the EventBrite page for the event.
Can’t find any photo galleries from past events here in SF, but here’s photo galleries of other Recon Full Fetish parties in other cities.
Masteurdome at August Hall, produced by Brian Kent Productions and Audrey Joseph, with DJs Chus + Ceballos and Ralphi Rosario
If you hang around San Francisco people long enough eventually someone will wax nostalgic for the days of Club Universe and Pleasuredome (1992 to 2002) when massive parties happened every weekend with amazing DJs, trend-setting performances, and outlandish themes – all under the curation of legendary producer Audrey Joseph. Venues close, times change, but she has never stopped creating fantastic memorable evenings.
The last time Joseph and consummate showman and producer Brian Kent got together we ended up with the legendary Jungle party at The Armory where you walked through an indoor jungle to get to the dance floor, stopping at a real wildlife petting zoo along the way, ending up in a cavnernous space ready to dance the night away. Their “Pride at the Armory” event set the standard for what we all hoped was going to be a long string of massive events at The Armory. No matter the venue, Brian always pushes our local scene to be more startling, more innovative, expanding the local palette of party and music. This year they’ve brought DJs Chus + Ceballos and Ralphi Rosario to the city for Folsom Saturday to create what will be a thunderous, unforgettable party.
Iberican producers and best friends Chus + Ceballos (s“choo’s and s’bye-yo’s”) have a sound that blends house and techno in perfect harmony, accentuated with heavy percussion. We’ve heard them at Halcyon a year or so ago and before that back when they did Magnitude with the wild horizontal white shafts of light piercing through the crowd like searing heat lamps. Chus + Ceballos are known for marathon all-night until dawn sets and with deep dark beats. Steady deep house with longer more abstract phrasing and haunting vocals. Be sure to take a listen (links below).
They are joined by superstar DJ Ralphi Rosario who has worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Donna Summer and has spun leather events the world over. Every time we’ve heard Ralphi he’s been fantastic. They’re both amazing acts, I can’t even guess who would be opening for whom.
Plus, it’s Ceballos’s birthday!
Full details on the Facebook page for the event.
Bearracuda at Public Works, produced by Matt Bearracuda with DJ Mateo Segade and Horse Meat Disco
And if Saturday night you’re feeling into the big boys and/or a big boy yourself, the Bearracuda crew is back with their trademark winning formula of big boys and fat beats. These aren’t those Insta-twinks that say omg sis, I’m so thicc or the muscle queens that are all saying Folsom is gonna get whatever body I give it! while being coy about their cum gutters. No bitch, these are the original thick boys. Thick with a capital K. Booty with a capital T. The kinda heft you want to feel on top of you (or underneath).
Matt Bearracuda and the boys are pleased as punch to host the San Francisco debut of London’s notorious Horse Meat Disco on the main floor of Public Works for the entire seven-hour evening. HMD is billed as “a disco behemoth of classics, italo disco, oddities, [and] punk funk.” In the upstairs lounge is local mixmeister DJ Mateo Segade.
We’ve gone to many Bearracuda events over the years (I think four New Year’s Eves in a row now!) and it’s always a great, friendly mix of guys and a positive vibe. And I’ve heard fantastic reviews from friends that have gone to Horse Meat Disco parties all over the world. Overwhelmingly they say if disco is your thing, then this is your party.
Pervert at Mezzanine, produced by Cecil Russel, Matinee, and XOXO Productions, with DJs Dan Slater, Nina Flowers, and Isaac Escalante
Local producers Cecil Russel and Mansingh (XOXO) have joined forces with European production group Matinee to bring their Pervert party to San Francisco for the first time on Folsom Saturday night. Direct from Circuit Festival in Barcelona, Pervert features three master DJs with Dan Slater, Nina Flowers, and Isaac Escalante. We’ve heard Dan Slater several times and he’s always fantastic and I know we’ve enjoyed Isaac Escalante before, but if you’ve never heard Nina Flowers you might need to make some time.
If you don’t know her music, you might know Nina from her stints on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Drag U, and Drag Race: All Star. Nina Flowers descends upon a party like a vengeful alien queen ready to tear the fucking walls down with the dirtiest hardest beats you’ve ever heard. Nina tears tracks apart and lashes them together so deftly, you can’t help but yell out, “Oh fuck yes!” with each new step into madness. You won’t be able to sit still. Nina is also a master showman and fun to watch as she spins the crowd into a frenzy. So if you like vocals and lighter fare and disco this is probably not the music for you.
Pervert is at Mezzanine, one of our favorite clubs with it’s huge main dance area and cozy expansive lounge overlooking the dance floor (the city’s largest woman-owned venue closing at the end of the year or maybe not).
New Breed at Club Six, produced by PoundPuppy SF and Polyglamorous
This is the one of the more overtly sex party-ish events I’m seeing promoted for the weekend. Upstairs, the Polyglamorous crew is running their usual dance party while downstairs, the gang from Pound Puppy is getting a bit more carnal. I don’t know much about these events at all but it literally has the word “breed” in the title, so there you go.
NSA Underwear Party at Club OMG, produced by NSA at OMG
The NSA honchos are back on with a Folsom double feature with their underwear party on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons at club OMG. Promotions always promise hot bartenders, bangin’ beats, horny men, and a sexy playful vibe. I mean it has “dim lights” in big text and the word “NSA” so…
No event pages yet for the parties but I confirmed with the producers they are indeed having the event on Saturday and Sunday. You can follow the NSA at OMG folks on Facebook for more updates. Free if you have a student ID.
As I said above, OMG and Club Six are kinda in that strange hellhole block of 6th Street between Market and Mission. Keep your wits about you.
Overnight at Catalyst, produced by San Francsico Bay Area Leather Alliance
This event has not yet been confirmed.
As kink tries to stay fortified in San Francisco, the Catalyst space provides one of the few dedicated play spaces in the city (and like everything always seems to be in danger of closing). And as the Saturday night dance parties continue on, Catalyst opens at 1am ready and waiting for nocturnal activities until 10:30am (and it’s a block away from the fair). And with showers available for guests, you can smell so fresh and so clean-clean as you head to the fair (bring your own towels, pillows, or blankets). The space is open to all open-minded persons 18+ who are respectful of other guests and the space. SF Catalyst is a community-run space for the leather, fetish, BDSM, and motorcycle communities. The 3,000 square foot space is equipped with “crosses, benches, beds, slings, a suspension frame, hoists, and more BDSM equipment.” Donations go to support Catalyst space, a project of the non-profit SF Bay Area Leather Alliance.
House of Black Leather, produced by Honey Soundsystem
Event confirmed but no DJs or venue announced yet.
A lot of people absolutely love Honey Soundsystem and the events that they produce throughout the year. Their music never really grabs me so I’m not a good judge. I find their stuff too light and disco-y. But this event will be packed like all of their events and draw a broad crowd of SF queerdom and I’d venture this is pretty straight-friendly event as well.
This year’s event is from 3pm to 3am. Also note from the event page on Facebook: “Zero tolerance for GHB. Security will be checking for it.”
ONYX vs FLSM at Powerhouse, produced by Onyx
This event, venue, and DJs have not yet been confirmed.
And Saturday night at Powerhouse is Onyx’s Folsom party for leather men of color and their admirers. Waiting for confirmation that this event is happening (though it seems there’s no reason why it wouldn’t, the Dore one did).
ShangriLa at End Up, produced by ShangriLaSF
While the city’s baseline cowhide quotient is off the charts, there’s a few local non-leather events still going on. One is ShangriLa at The End Up (one of the few 24 hour clubs in the city, opened since 1973). The core audience is the city’s huge Asian-American population and those that desire them. Their September party is the launch of the new Asian Men Calendar for 2020 and a fashion show for underwear label 2EROS. But if you’re into smooth brown muscle and leather, I’d still probably go to the main Folsom parties and find guys pre-qualified for some action.
No DJ announced yet. Full details on the Facebook page for the event.
Sunday, September 29th
Well, good morning, precious! How’re ya feeling? Doesn’t matter. We’re not done yet. Momma didn’t raise no quitter!
A few years ago, we got home from Magnitude around 3am and decided we’d just take a brief nap and then go to Aftershock which starts at 4am. Instead, I woke up at 8:30am next to Ron and thought, “Oh shit. Do I tell him?”
So rinse off the shame or get ready to apply whole new sheen – but if you’re gonna sit down – set the alarm!
Aftershock at City Nights, produced by Frisco Disco, with DJ Abel
This is the Saturday night/Sunday morning afterhours before the fair. Aftershock is before the fair. Starting on Sunday. Before the fair.
It’s hard to say why Aftershock is one of our favorite events of the year. Now in it’s 24th year, it’s got that perfect dark, horny, forbidden, unforgiven ambiance. None of this happy diva vocals and “Isn’t life great!” bullshit. I want to be damned for my sins, dragged to hell, and stay there (did I mention I was raised Catholic?). With Aftershock, it feels like the guys that were focused on hooking up for the night are back at the hotel rooms or clubs or private parties and the crowd that comes to Aftershock is there to dance. (I mean there’ll be some dance floor fraternizing of course).
And DJ Abel is the fucking king. We’ve heard him in several cities and on Atlantis cruises and whether it is prime time circuit, tea dance, or afterhours, he’s just simply a master at what he does. I know it’s stereotypical to talk about a DJ taking you on a journey but he absolutely executes that every single time. Aftershock starts promptly at 4am. Everyone is pretty much wearing just jockstraps, harnesses, and boots.
The line for Aftershock starts well before 3am. Last year, the line was hundreds of guys down the street, into the parking lot, almost to the overpass. Hopefully you’ll find a way to pass the time. Maybe there’s a cute Argentinian guy who has already taken his pill and is standing in line high as fuck and wants to grope and kiss, calling you “guapo” and asking, “When are we getting together, papi?” as your husband watches, laughs, and shakes his head from the sidelines.
Aftershock achieves that strange surreal feeling that while you’re dancing in a crowd of hundreds of hot horny, sweaty men, you aren’t entirely sure the world outside the club exists anymore.
The venue-run coat/clothes check at City Nights is always a disaster no matter who is producing. Producers keep trying different tactics to try and alleviate it, to little avail. (I’ve got some coat check tips below in the FAQs.)
I guess I said we never wait in lines for things in San Francisco. Aftershock is actually worth waiting in line for.
DJ Abel on Mixcloud, SoundCloud, and Facebook. I’ve never listened to an Abel mix online that comes close to approximating how he is live and he seems to have a a specific style he reserves just for Aftershock.
Again, Aftershock is before the fair on Sunday.
Last year, we stumbled out of the club into the sunrise walked back to our place holding hands, turned down Folsom street where coming down Folsom which had already been blocked off for the fair, and vendors and volunteers already setting up booths and stages for the street fair that would start in just a few hours. As we walked up 10th St towards our building, a guy in a jockstrap from a second-story apartment window yelled, “Go to bed, queens!” So we did.
Folsom Street Fair, produced by Folsom Street Events
Ah the fair. It’s huge. You won’t realize it’s so many people until you are there. It’s crazy.
Folsom Street Fair is on Folsom Street between 8th and 13th Streets. It’s a recommended $10 donation to get in. Enter on the side streets especially Harrison, for quicker entry and to get into the crowd faster. It’s over 400,000 people packed into 13 city blocks for 7 hours. It’s insane.
There are several stages with some of the city’s best DJs plus a constant cavalcade of indie music rock acts. Hundreds of booths of fetish and leather vendors. You’ll see just about anything there.
What do you actually do there? Get tied to an electrical pole and get flogged, buy some leather stuff, watch fetish demonstrations, have a chicken skewer, dance your ass off, get drunk/stoned/high/fucked/fucked up, or whatever you’ve got a whim for. One year we saw a group berating a naked man with whip marks on his back, re-enacting Cersei’s walk of shame from Game of Thrones.
You will see people dressed in their favorite fetish attire whether is is leather or biker or athletic or rubber or corsets or neoprene or even Edwardian formal wear right out of A Room With a View. Some of these kinksters wait all year for events like this to strut their stuff and fly their freak flag. If you don’t like it or roll your eyes and can’t delight in seeing perverts celebrate their perversions, don’t be a twat about it. Not every thing is for every body.
There are two main strategies to enjoying the fair:
- Walk the length of the main drag. Though any place there’s a demo going on the crowd is going to be dense and slow or down where the pornstars play naked Twister.
- Stay in one place, and eventually everyone will pass you.
White people/Wypipo: BRING SUNBLOCK. The sun is pretty much high noon and direct with little shade and most of the surrounding buildings are one story. But there’s usually super hot sexy tattooed EMTs with sunblock at the first aid tents.
People of Color: Please continue to get super-dark and sexy. But don’t burn. We thank you.
We’ve passed a local ordinance that single-serve water bottles can’t be sold or provided on public property at a permitted event. Foldable bottles are available for a dollar or reuse a juice bottle or bring your own canteen to refilll at any of the Water Towers throughout the fair.
Event details on the Facebook page for the fair and just about anything else you’d like to know at folsomstreetevents.org.
We’ve been to the fair numerous times so I’m hoping we’re sleeping in so we can enjoy our absolute favorite event of the entire year:
Real Bad at 1015 Folsom, produced by Grass Roots Gay Rights with DJs Ale Maes and Fawks
Sunday night on Folsom weekend is our favorite event of the year. If I could go to only one dance party a year it would be Real Bad, now in its 31st year.
Thousands of the friendliest, hottest men you’ve ever met (and some women) pack into local dance mega-temple 1015 Folsom for a night of dancing and revelry. The event is produced by local non-profit Grass Roots Gay Rights and all the money from the general admission tickets goes directly to local and national beneficiaries.
Real Bad is special to us because it is the centerpiece for an entire year of gay dance events in the city. From the initial margarita party kickoff where they announce the DJs and unveil the poster to their Up Your Alley afterhours, Ritual, and then the check presentation party where we all cry as they give the funds to the beneficiaries, it’s an entire narrative across the year for the community that we call friends.
You can’t really separate the event from the venue it is in: 1015 Folsom (the address and venue name are the same). A nondescript front door gives way to a warmly lit lobby with a stairs and a ramp on either side spilling into to the main dance floor with three-story ceilings and a wrap around balcony. The balcony includes the lust-laden Red Room and then on the opposite (street-side) the upstairs lounge with seating and refreshments that comprise the VIP area for the first half of the evening (it opens up to everyone later on, so be sure to get up there). The first year we went to Real Bad, we spent most of our time on the ground floor and in the balcony and then we finally went downstairs to discover The Underground – the glowing low-ceilinged basement of the venue – where it’s a whole ‘nother party with a second DJ playing more downtempo steady-state house sound, much cooler down there as well. Our friend Joey spent most of his first Real Bad in just the lobby – thinking the event was just the front lobby (I’ll have what she’s having). So be sure to explore .
This year’s Real Bad DJ is Chicago’s Ale Maes on the main floor and then in the Underground you’ll find local favorite pup and DJ Fawks. The DJ selection process is pretty rigorous (the rules) with a focus on giving fresh talent a showcase in the Bay Area. Many times you’ll get to see a DJ right before they start to blow up big.
The music on the main floor usually starts laidback and kinda disco-y as everyone makes their way from the fair to the venue then gradually gets a bit heavier and leans more into prime time circuit for much of the night and then a little more abstract and dreamy as the night carries on. But always a nice weight to it.
We spend most of our evening on the outer third of the crowd. Dancing in the dense crowd under the disco ball in the center of the main floor can be exhilarating or exhausting depending on how you’re feeling at that moment. I was doing great last year until three taller guys (all friends whom I adore) all wanted to dance and cuddle me. Finally I had to disengage, saying, “Love the enthusiasm, gentlemen, but the claustrophia test is completed.” Like with all things Folsom, you can dial the density and intensity up or down without having to leave the venue that you’re in. Take a break in the upstairs lounge, snuggle up with a guy in the basement, catch a breath outside in the cordoned-off smoking area, or have a stunning tattooed Iraqi muscle stud help you unwrap a Starburst in the lobby (that’s not even a euphemism, it was a literally a Starburst).
I can’t say enough about Real Bad. It’s a singular experience distilling everything amazing about the city of San Francisco into one event. I know that sounds trite. Every year I walk down that ramp from the lobby to the main floor and think, “Goddamn this is a whole other level of party.”
And when you hear “Let’s Have a Kiki” come on, look for Ron and I among the platoon of men and women in aprons (which Ron designed!) and hats (and little else) barreling through the thick crowd handing out popsicles to the over-heated crowd. Sometimes it’s hard to convince a queen to eat a calorie (bruh it is hour five, have a goddamn treat). And be sure you’re in the main room for when they drop the leather flag. The whole night has several peak moments.
Real Bad tickets are a complete bitch to get. Most tickets are only available through a host system of a couple hundred hosts who are each given a handful of host codes to share with friends and their network (each host can also buy 1 or 2 VIP tickets which they can resell if they like). That approach helps preserve the vibe that nearly the entire crowd is there because of someone they know in the organization’s “Circle of Friends.” They’ve cut the number of tickets given out by quite a lot over the years, to provide “the best experience for our guests by giving them a hospitable, safe, and comfortable space at all of our events” which I think means they or the venue thinks the party is getting too overcrowded.
If you can’t get tickets through hosts there are two other options available that you should know about. I’ve never seen someone that really wanted to go to Real Bad and asked around and did some legwork and didn’t get in.
Short documentary about Real Bad, Activism with a Beat.
Article about Real Bad in The Daily Californian.
If I couldn’t get into Real Bad, I’d probably sleep in or hang out or hookup or whatevz until the Nocturnal afterhours started (below).
There’s also the official closing party:
Deviants Adult Arcade at Mezzanine, produced by Folsom Street Events with DJs Whitney Fierce, Lina, and Chris Cruse hosted by Mario Diaz
Deviants is the official closing party of Folsom Street Fair, now in its tenth year. This year they’re keeping the Folsom fair vibe going all night with DJs Whitney Fierce, Lina, and Chris Cruse. The party is at Mezzanine, so just a short walk from the fair. The night’s proceedings are hosted by the original King of Sleaze Mario Diaz (of the BFD, Full Frontal Disco, and Dirty Sanchez parties).
I’ve never gone to this one since most of our group goes to Real Bad, but looking at the photos of past Deviants parties it gets packed with a broad range of guys. LA producer Mario Diaz joins forces with Folsom Street Events at Mezzanine (Pervert was there thenight before) which is a great space we always enjoy. DJs are a good mix of house without too much circuit in there – a little disco I suppose?
Mario Diaz featured on Gay Life LA: Mario Diaz: King of LA’s Gay Nightlife
Release at Catalyst, produced by San Francisco Bay Area Alliance
This event has not yet been confirmed.
And I assume after they’ve aired the place out after Overnight (above), the Catalyst play space opens back up with Release, an open play party inviting you to “bring your partners or meet new ones and get kinky.” As mentioned above, Catalyst is complimented with a full dungeon of BDSM essentials including St. Andrew’s crosses, slings, spanking benches, suspension points, and more.
Monday, September 30th
Nocturnal Extreme Afterhours at Halcyon, produced by Ky Martinez with DJ Paulo
This is the Sunday night/Monday morning afterhours after the closing parties. Monday morning.
We’ve known Ky and his husband Juan for many years (they sat at the circuit queen table at our wedding reception) and it’s been wonderful watching them go from producing their monthly House Party event at Powerhouse (every second-Saturday) to building their reputation with larger more sophisticated events like Heaven and Imagina (next one is Labor Day weekend). Their events always draw a fantastic crowd that is a diverse, broad slice of the city’s denizens (leather, muscle, queens, queers, jocks, fairies, and all the rest).
I can’t think of a better way to close out the weekend, the night, and the morning than with Ky’s Nocturnal party under the direction of the original “tribal bitch” DJ Paulo. And at this time of the morning you need a good hard pounding like only Paulo can deliver.
Last year we came home from Real Bad, rinsed off, re-geared and walked over to Halcyon nightclub and thought well shit it’s early and it’s day four so this’ll be cute, I guess. We got in there as Paulo played that clip, “The party… just go started… and the dance floor is full.. this type of groove… makes me wanna move… can you feel it?” and then kicked in the bassline and the place exploded and the crowd went nuts. Guys kept streaming in from all the other events all morning. Again, we kinda like an afterhours because the guys that are there are there to dance.
Expect this event to be packed as the prime time events end and everyone else wakes up. I will say VIP tickets are worth it for Halcyon because there’s a nice lounge that sits behind the DJ and on the sides of the club opposite the bar so you’ll be able to escape the crowd but still enjoy the music. And with lighting and visuals designed by William Brown the production production design will be stellar.
Full details on the Facebook page for the event.
And then on Monday afternoon everybody hits the bars and switches to alcohol and calls it “recovery.”
Folsom Recovery at Lookout, with DJ Phil B
No one wants to admit a good thing has to end, so a couple of the bars will be packed on Monday. Lookout and Eagle seem like the most popular ones. Lookout especially. Local favorite DJ Phil B (waiting for him to confirm) is on hand at Lookout to keep the party going as you stave off out your terrible life choices this weekend. Phil intimated that it’s one of his favorite parties he gets to spin. Last year used hashtags #hotcock and #puredurt, so draw your own conclusions.
DJ Phil B on Mixcloud, SoundCloud, and Facebook. One of my favorite of Phil’s mixes is Bay of Pigs party in 2015 (he teased “I Feel Love” for a full 8 minutes without ever giving us the actual vocal, it was sublime). His mix for Recovery will be much more classic circuit with lots of pop.
No official event page yet but usually the Recovery events start at 1pm and go until 9pm.
So if you’re still in town, slather on the eye cream, and head over to Lookout. That lockable bathroom can get you in trouble.
Speaking of which – there’s also all the bars.
And along with all these hideous skirt conventions at specific clubs and venues, every bar will be packed to the gills with hot fuckers. Ain’t no shame in doing it the old fashioned way and gearing up and going to the bars to score some hot trade. And some guys just aren’t that into dancing.
Recommended bars in the Castro: 440 and Edge have a fair amount of the leather/bear contingent. The Mix and Midnight Sun are more mainstream-y feeling. Hi-Tops is more jock/clean-cut. Beaux I always feel super old (Cafe also skews younger). We don’t talk about Badlands.
Recommended bars in SOMA: Powerhouse and The Eagle of course. Lots of guys we know also enjoy El Rio, Lone Star Saloon, Oasis, and The Stud.
Or just stay home and wait for the hot horny eager men to spill out of the clubs and bars and start popping up on Scruff or Grindr or Recon ready for intense cuddling (it’s like a special hug two men do when they like each other very much).
You’re Looking Foyne As Fuck
You probably look amazing this weekend. You should preserve the moment. Our friend, photographer Trevor Ott will be again doing his impromptu photo shoots with the street fair as the backdrop. We did a shoot with him at Dore a few years ago (above) and in Chicago at IML with our boy Sunny (photo below) and had a great time. Contact him on Facebook if you’re interested and peruse his work on Instagram.
Folsom on a Budget
Travel, tickets, transportation, refreshments, enhancements… this kind of weekend ain’t cheap (and that’s not even counting the leather gear). But, if you’re trying to keep spending to a minimum:
Echo the old-school Castro clone look of our forefathers with tight jeans, a t-shirt, and boots.
If you feel you have to have some sort of leather on ya, grab an armband from Mr. S or one of the other stores.
The Mr. S Party is free since it’s in the store. You can mill about and cruise guys and try stuff on.
Saturday afternoon’s Big Muscle party is the most affordable of the larger dance parties with $20 advance tickets – plus it benefits charity. You can take Muni to Van Ness, walk a few blocks and you’re there. For all the other dance parties above, check out early tier pricing now. Most of the producers we know are sensitive to pricing – especially for younger patrons – and keep their first tier of tickets at a non-insane price. The NSA underwear parties at OMG are also very affordable and free with a student ID.
Hang out at the bars in Castro and SOMA (historically known as “the Valley of the Dolls” and “the Valley of the Kings,” respectively). As I said above, they’ll be packed with lots of other guys that are more into the cocktails and cruising dynamic. Most bars will have a modest cover charge on Folsom weekend.
Most of the bars are walkable via transit. If it’s super late you don’t want to be walking around too much. Like I said before, keep your phone in your pocket, headphones off, and your wits about you. It’s San Francisco, but it’s still a big city with crazy people.
If you really have barely any money at all, you must use it to go to the fair. If ten bucks is all you have, give it to the fair and charity that is the centerpiece for the weekend.
Volunteer for events. Another way to keep costs down is to volunteer for events. For the first few years we were here, Ron and I were greeters and ticket-takers at lots of parties and that was fun because you literally meet everyone on their way in and you get to put wristbands on hot guys and once your shift is over you can go dance.
Other San Francisco Parties for 2019
If you find you’ve got a yen for the way we do things in San Francisco, come see us again and join us for any of our multitude of parties remaining for the year:
Our favorite pups, the Fog City Pack, have their Omega party in November concluding their annual trilogy of sleaze that started with Alpha in the first part of the year, Beta for Up Your Alley, and finishing with Omega before Thanksgiving. To stay apprised, follow Fog City Pack on Facebook or Instagram.
The Paradigm folks produce their annual Shift party which helps raise money for AIDS LifeCycle in spring before the big ride. Plus, last fall they gave us a strange Lynchian experience with their party, X. I bet they’re gonna get impatient and do something before the end of the year, so be sure to follow Paradigm on Facebook and Instagram.
Ky Martinez’s Heaven party at Halcyon on Labor Day weekend with DJs Tom Stephan and our bestie DJ Mohammad (our favorite mix from him) will be a blast. Ky and his husband Juan also produce the monthly House Party at Powerhouse I mentioned above where every second-Saturday a couple hundred guys come out to try and stuff a deep house/circuit party into the back of a trashy gay dive bar. Follow Ky Martinez Productions to stay in touch.
Prime producer’s TrophyDad’s Dad in Training party is on August 17th with DJ Binomio and DJ Salazar and I bet TrophyDad brings us another event before the end of the year so keep in touch with TrophyDad on Facebook.
Okay let’s do a run down of other important stuff:
More questions you may have and stuff you should know:
“Do some people really wear just jockstraps at these parties? I don’t want to be the only one dressed like a whore.”
Dressing like a sex object is pretty much par for the weekend and just-jock seems to be a particularly San Francisco thing. Even at parties outside the high holidays, there’s always a big leather and bear presence at every party so you’ll always see harnesses. Some guys will wear the classic full leather uniform out to the bars but that’s way too much clothing for a steamy dance floor. Most guys will wear a shirt and shorts over their jock and harness. You’ll want to have pockets to keep your ID, ATM card, phone, cash, mints, and such handy. Or if you have no pockets, wear long socks and stuff them in there. Some guys wear fanny packs (that’s “bum bags” for your Brits).
Peruse the photo galleries of the events for a sampling of the various options available. We’ve done couples’ matchy-matchy outfits before and planned things for the entire weekend in the past. Anymore, I’d rather wear something comfortable I can move in. Or just keep your shorts on and put your shirt in your belt loop. Otherwise you’ll lose your shirt on the floor and have to walk back to the hotel like a hooker.
“Are all these events just a bunch of white hairy guys only looking for other hairy white guys?”
Sometimes these events have a tendency to be a bunch of big hairy white guys only interested in hanging out with other big hairy white guys. And honestly unless they have field markings (tattoos) I can’t tell all these white guys apart. The race politics of the gay dance floor can be pretty shitty (no it’s not just a preference) along with the accompanying body fascism. And that sucks for our brown, black, and/or smooth, skinny, and/or non-huge brethren. The weekend’s events will have pretty broad range in body type and ethnic mix. Chances are you’re “totally my type” for someone in the crowd.
One shortcut is to find the mixed couples (easier to pre-qualify). That’s also in case there’s an emergency, we have to shepherd all the men of color out of the club quickly. Inked brown and black muscle is our nation’s most precious natural resource. Another short cut is:
Always party with the bears and the Brazilians
Numerous studies in the field around the world have confirmed that the bears and Brazilians are usually having the most fun at any dance party. And if you find Brazilian bears, it’s going to be an amazing night.
Tip: If you are looking for the bears at any club, find the big industrial fans. The big boys overheat easily so they’re usually near the fans, or they have actual fans, or are near the A/C vents. There’s literally a ‘bear corner’ at 1015 Folsom because that’s where the big fans always are.
And I dunno maybe talk to guys that aren’t your type. Think of your total type in your head and go talk to guys that are the exact opposite. It’s okay to talk to guys you’re not going to fuck. We call that being friendly.
Don’t mix G and alcohol, you stupid fuck
Don’t mix depressants and definitely never mix alcohol with GHB or it’s pre-cursors GBL and 1,4-Butanediol (“BDO”). If you mix alcohol and G, you’re basically telling your friends you’re a selfish piece of shit and you think it’s cute that others have to take care of you. We saw a guy ‘falling out’ (the more glam way to say overdosing) in a play room once being attended to by EMTs. Nothing kills the vibe like a guy who’s stopped breathing. They were trying to keep him awake. Know your milliliters.
Poppers and Viagra are both vasodialators and together can cause blood pressure to drop dangerously low. Go slow. Also coke can kill your E high.
I won’t even talk about crystal meth (“tina”). It has been tearing down the LGBT community and many small towns like the one I grew up in and we’ve seen friends destroy their lives to continue their addiction. Handle your shit, ladies.
Always thank the EMTs when you see them
I usually say, “Thanks for working tonight.” They are there to make sure everyone has a great time and stays in the guard rails. If you see someone getting stumbly, ask if they’re okay. If you hug someone and they seem cold or have stopped sweating, ask if need some water or sugary soda. If you know any of the producers of these parties you know that the (mostly straight) venue owners are very harsh when our community is a hot mess. We risk losing access to these spaces for gay events.
If you are sober and out at these events, be sure you know local AA/etc. meetings so if you need support to stay on track, you’ve got it.
Have a great time. Take care of yourself. Take care of others.
And thank security
There’s a whole phalanx of security guards working at all the clubs all weekend and many of them are queer people that specifically want to work the events of Folsom weekend. Like our girl Donna: (if you see her say hi)
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I had a great Folsom weekend. I saw old friends and made new ones. Keeping my LGBTQ community SAFE, even if it's 5am on Folsom Street. Anytime. #mypeople #family #sf #gaynightlife #gay #securitylife #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #security #lesbianbouncer #that1bouncer #thatbouncerlife #folsom2017 #folsom #earlymorningslatenights #fitgay #fitfam #fitness #fit #gatekeeper #techno #safetyfirst #sanfrancisco #party #playhard #workselfie #selfie #work #workhardtrainhardbehard #workhard
These men and women have an incredible sense of ownership and protection of us as we head out for the evening. One memorable moment of Dore was a lesbian security guard (different than badass Donna above) outside the club who was inspecting bags and doing pat-downs, saying to the guy in front of me and to all of us, “Okay now you guys might have some paraphernalia, I don’t want to see it. Management doesn’t want to see it. If you’re doing stuff just don’t do it on the dance floor. Ok?” And then as she patted me down, “Gotta take care of my community. I love my girls – and my boys. Have a good night!”
It’s easy to take for granted all the people putting aside their own chance at a fun weekend so they can take care of their people.
Get off your goddamn phone
A friend at Dore spent half the night at one club checking his phone for updates from this guy he wanted to hookup with. He had a street address, but no apartment number and we said there’s no fucking way you’re leaving the club to go stand on the street at this time of night for some trick. He’s literally surrounded by hundreds of beautiful horny down-to-fuck men and he’s staring at his fucking phone. It turned out okay, he fucked a guy in a bathroom stall. And they say romance is dead.
If you’re doing extended texting, step to the side of the dance floor and continue. And turn your screen brightness down. It’s obnoxious.
No really, get off your fucking phone
Just wanted to say it a second time.
Be where you are
I’m prone to getting annoyed if the music isn’t perfect or people are bumping into me and just burning the entire evening down and going home and Xanax-ing myself to sleep. Ron’ll adominsh me, “Stop obsessing! Deal with it!” If you and your partner bicker or have an argument, stop. Talk about it next week. Stop waiting for that guy that said he’d be at the place at that time that wanted to meet up or breed you or get your load or get a selfie. Stop chasing that porn star (he’s probably booked all weekend making videos for his OnlyFans page and wants you to participate for free). Remember Daddy Aaron’s only Folsom rule:
If you’re local, don’t make this the weekend you make it happen with that local guy you’ve been over-staring at the gym. Focus on the fresh, transient meat.
“I looked for you all night!” NO. Stop. Be where you are. Here and now. Don’t make this a make or break weekend for anything or anyone. It is what it is. Enjoy it.
We don’t really wear cologne here
When we were in Madrid it was kinda nice that everyone smelled so good and some put on cologne before going to club. But in SF everyone’s a little more earthy. Some guys have a nice fresh sweat on clean skin aroma. Others seriously need to rinse off their taints. I usually put some beard oil on for the night as an extra bonus to whomever gets up in my business. If you like a good man musk you’re in for a treat in this town. And you have to admit the smell of sweat and leather hanging in the air fused with testosterone is kinda hot.
“What’s with the colors and armbands?”
When finding gay sex and companionship was more difficult and dangerous, gay men developed the ‘hanky code’ where you’d wear a specific color of handkerchief to signal what you were into and what you were looking for. Left back pocket meant, top. Right side, bottom. Both sides, vers. This has been carried forth in the colors of harnesses and armbands you see out and about. Sometimes yellow is a signal and sometimes you just want to wear yellow. I had on a snazzy yellow Cellblock13 jock at a party once and a guy said, “Hey, I can piss on you if you want!” and I declined, “It’s more of a sartorial choice.” It’s a fun retro part of the culture we’ve carried through to today. Here’s a full rundown of the hanky code colors in probably one of the oldest web pages you’ll ever read these days. Also:
Getting “mistaken” for a bottom isn’t an insult.
And if you think it is, you’re probably a misogynist piece of shit. If nothing else a man getting fucked by another man is the most masculine thing in the world. It’s like a totes-masc Voltron.
Everyone secretly hates your fan clacking
In moderation and on the beat, it can be positively electrifying. But every goddamn song? C’mon, ladies. And by ladies, I mean queens. And by queens, I mean men. Don’t clack them all night with that sharp sound that feels like an icepick behind your right eye.
And let’s not start with the fucking parasols
Stop bringing parasols to parties. Several producers have mentioned that it fucks up the event photos with your big goddamn umbrella in the way, blocks the view of people around you, and it’s not that fucking clever. Glare at anyone who brings one and say, “You should really check that.” Or break it over your knee and throw it away. You are not the star of this wedding.
Buy multiple drinks at a time (and tip)
Bars will be busy and/or under staffed. If you are buying Gatorade for 3 friends, grab six. If you are buying cocktails, buy double, chug one and then sip the other. Hell, grab 8 Gatorades and hand a couple to guys as you pass on the dance floor. And pay cash if you can. Credit cards slow everyone down. Most venues have an ATM/teller but go into the venue with cash. We usually try to have $80 on us for the night. Break your twenties so you can tip. Non-Americans, the usual tip for a bartender is $1-2 per drink served.
Assume clothes check will be a disaster everywhere
Coat/clothes check will probably move at a glacial pace no matter where you go. We usually bring one of our gym bags and put everything in there (and put phones and wallets in obvious pockets so we can find them quickly for the keys-phone-wallet-ready?! check as you leave the club). That way if our stuff gets misplaced or mis-tagged we can say, “Look for the bright red Timbuktu backpack. I can see it right there!”
Another option is to dress for the walk/car to the club and the dance floor (shirt over harness, shorts over jock, boots) and enjoy the first part of the party and then once the coat check line dies down, go check your shorts and shirt so you can really get down. But if you’re desperate to get to your skivvies you can dance and flirt in the line. We have a friend that wears super lightweight shorts and a tank top and ties them around his ankle for the night. That’s a solution.
Get tested the week after (and two weeks before)
A circuit party is a Petri dish with a bass line. A lot of people have a lot of sex with a lot of people during Folsom weekend so there’s a possibility you might get a bug – even if you’re the most careful condom user ever-ever.
Go to your GP or local clinic to get tested for the full palette of STIs. Keep in mind you can have gonorrhea, syphillis, or chlamydia and not show any obvious symptoms for a while. And even if you’re a “total top” doesn’t really mean anything since infections can spread between oral, anal, and genital regions regardless of who is fucking who. Notify the other people you had sex with if you have their contact info. It’s common courtesy and comes with the territory in our high-volume-hookup sex-as-a-hobby culture.
If you’re really an ethical slut, get tested two weeks early just in case you’ve got some critters. That way if you end up having something, you’ve had enough time to complete a full course of antibiotics (usually 7-10 days). Nobody wants to spend Folsom in sex jail (sex jail sounds super hot, but no it is not). And of course, get tested for HIV. And if you test positive for HIV, go into treatment immediately. It is much easier these days to get down to undetectable levels and manage your health properly.
You should already know that undetectable is untransmittable, meaning an HIV+ person on meds whose viral load is undetectable carries the same risk of transmission as someone without the virus. If you don’t know this you’re not really doing your due diligence as a sexually active gay man. Get your shit together.
A lot of guys will also be “cleaning out” for the weekend in the event that they bottom (hell, lots of tops even clean out just in case they meet a guy who’s sponge-worthy). Here’s a guide (still don’t agree with the stomping). Pack the shower shot (or buy one at one of the sex stores) and don’t forget the wrench (which TSA may take if it is in your carry on). If we’re dancing and I smell a waft, we gotta vacate the surroundings. Some guys even forego eating real food and use Immodium to halt everything for the day or weekend. I’m not saying any of this is healthy.
“Blessed are the bottoms, may their waters always run clear.” (Matthew 6:9)
If you are HIV-, get on PrEP
If you are HIV negative, consider getting on PrEP. It doesn’t protect against other STIs but the risk of HIV transmission is statistically approaching that of condoms. We have the technology to stop HIV in its tracks in this generation and we’re stupid if we don’t take advantage of it. Remember, you have to take PrEP daily for seven days to reach maximum efficacy. And if you are not on PrEP and have unprotected sex and think you might be at risk for HIV, go to the PeP protocol which is for after a possible exposure.
When agreeing to meet or hookup, be clear about condom use (or not) so no one feels pressured to make choices not aligned with their values. And if you take Metamucil or Pure or other fiber supplements to be bottom-ready, do not take them at the same time as your PrEP or other meds. Fiber supplements might soak up the meds in your digestive system and prevent them from getting into your blood stream.
“I’m too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too young, too old to go…”
The only difference these days is we take ibuprofen before we head out for the night. You will see guys who are so roided up they are practically parodies of masculinity (and probably have a dialysis machine hidden in their jock). Other guys have their ass sticking out so far, you’d think you’re at a pelvic tilt convention. You’ll see beanpole guys who are skin and bones and guys going nuts over them, too. All shapes, all sizes, and ages ready to have a great time. Both US straight mainstream culture and the queer/gay minority sub-culture is co-opted by marketers to tell us we never have enough, do enough, or are enough so not hating the way you look all the time is kind of a triumph. Fuck the male gaze (that we literally created ourselves). Go have fun and fuck all the rest of it. There aren’t “leagues.” No guy is too hot to go up and talk to. And if he thinks he is, he’s probably a terrible fuck. Or a bad kisser. And a hot guy who can’t kiss is a crime against God.
Introverts, here’s a Facebook thread I started about meeting guys on the dance floor. (My solution has been: Marry an extrovert.)
You have the right to have a fucking great time no matter how you look or how you feel about how you look.
Don’t wait until you “lose the weight” or “do a cycle” or whatever other barrier to entry you’re setting for yourself.
“Can I go to these events if I’m a straight man or a woman?”
Yes, you can. Keep in mind though: Most of the events I’ve detailed in this guide are intended for and produced primarily by gay men seeking to meet and dance and do whatever with other gay men. You might not be the target audience here. It’s our space – it’s great you feel safe here, too – but we built this. There’s several lesbian and straight women that are a big part of the community out here and join us for many of the parties as patrons and producers and talent. And they know the events that are more play-oriented aren’t really for them and sure they could go into a back room and look around, but turning someone’s sexuality into a tourist attraction is tacky and gross. You will probably see public sex between men at the fair or on the dance floor or in a bathroom or in a lounge or in an alley way. Enjoy watching or just turn 180 degrees and voila! it doesn’t even exist anymore. I’ll keep searching for lesbian events for Folsom, too so I’ll add them here. Don’t want our Sapphic sistren to feel left out.
“All these goddamn events are sold out!”
You waited too long. In this town, we buy our tickets early (and much cheaper first-tier pricing). If you are looking for tickets for a particular event, post as such on the Facebook page for the event. Mark yourself as Going for the event so you’ll get alerts if someone posts on that event page they have a ticket available. As the weekend approaches, people decide which ones they are or aren’t going to and will sell their tickets.
“What if I have tickets I don’t need?”
The opposite of the above, post on the event page to see if others are interested in buying your tickets. And don’t scalp, that’s some hetero asshole bullshit, right there.
No life decisions the week after a party
Until there is at least a glimmer of hope in those dead cow eyes, don’t get together or break up or get married or close things or open things or move out or move in or quit a job or start a job. I’m usually a dessicated husk until at least Thursday night after a weekend rage. On Tuesday, it’s “That wasn’t so bad. I feel fine.” Around Wednesday, it’s “Ugh nightmares last night. We really have to stop doing this.” Thursday is, “What am I doing with my life? Am I a good husband? Am I a terrible son?” Then Friday is, “I feel great when’s the next one?!”
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some events, let me know
No slight to producers or DJs if I’ve missed one (and I didn’t even do shoutouts to all the talented lighting, sound, video, laser, and environment designers and special peformers).
Where to Visit While You’re in SF
We’ve lived in San Francisco for 11 years and here’s our recommended points of interest and touristy activities if you’re here for several days:
Beach Blanket Babylon is the world’s longest running musical revue, closing end of this year.
Former federal prison Alcatraz Island has a haunting audio tour.
The Castro Theatre has new releases and classic films with a live organist before each showing.
The best photos of the bridge are Golden Gate View Point plus nearby abandoned gunnery stations from WII.
The California Academy of Sciences has huge aquaria and a four-story tropical rainforest installation and a planetarium where she kept talking about “Sharon” and I realized oh she means Pluto’s moon Charon and I couldn’t stop giggling. Classic Sharon! The Conservatory of Flowers just across the way is also fantastic.
Fisherman’s Wharf is kinda trashy don’t bother unless you came all this way to have Ruby Tuesdays. It does have the only In-N-Out in town, though I’d tell you to go to local favorite Super Duper Burger (see below).
There’s wine country – Napa and Sonoma – but we find the whole wine thing boring. But go for it if you’re nuts for wine.
Where to Eat
We’re both from the Midwest so we’re not really foodies, we just like to eat. Our go-to restaurants:
Super Duper Burger is our usual post-party weekend lunch of burger, fries, and milkshake.
Fable serves modern American cuisine with a huge back patio. Reservations through OpenTable.
Catch is great for brunch or dinner with a front patio with lighting that takes strangely high-quality selfies. Reservations through OpenTable.
Fringale French bistro with “Gallic cuisine with a Basque twist.” Reservations through OpenTable.
The Cove diner across from the Castro Theatre has been a Castro institution for over 40 years.
Sam’s Diner across from the Whitcomb Hotel on Market near 9th has non-complicated breakfast and you can add tater tots.
Mona Lisa in Little Italy/North Beach has great Italian food and homemade pasta.
You probably have some for-real foodie frends in San Francisco if you’re really looking for a high-quality fine-dining type thing. Ask them for their recommendations (they’ll probably roll their eyes at mine).
And don’t forget a full raft of delivery restaurants on Grubhub and other apps if you’re in your/someone’s hotel room and need a cube of cheese.
Finally: Fucking dance.
I try to remind myself it hasn’t been that long ago that police would invade gay bars to stop men from simply dancing together. It is easy to take the level of relative safety we enjoy now for granted. And many queer groups in many countries and cities are still not completely safe. Hell, is anybody completely safe?
Dance for yourself. Dance for your friends. Dance for your community. Dance for those never got to have the man or woman of their dreams in their arms. Dance for those that are no longer with us. Dance for those that are still here. Dance for Pulse in Orlando, for the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, and for all the rest who died or were injured while simply trying to have a fun night out.
Dance for the closeted queer kids stuck in backwards boondock burgs or dangerous families trying to just hold on until they can get out (please just hold on). Dance for those that live in countries where they would kill us for simply holding hands.
Dance for the queens, the queers, the faggots, the fairies, the leathermen, the bulldykes, and all the other outlaws who said no seriously fuck this shit and fuck you and risked their lives and their careers and their families and put it all on the line. You have the luxury of living right here, right now, because so many people fought for it.
Don’t ever forget that.
A few folks shared screencaps of that last year, so I made it a meme:
See You On the Dance Floor, Gentlemen
…and ladies, and everyone else in between. It’s incredibly rewarding to have guys from all over the world say hi and say that they read my guide and found it useful. So, if you see us on the dance floor, say hello. Look for the complimentary Polynesian sleeve tattoos (reference photo above) on the sexy Filipino muscle daddy with the huge smile dancing with abandon and probably sporting a majestic fan (Ron) and the semi-serious inked bearded white muscle daddy wolf trying to keep up with him (me).
Thanks for reading – please share!
Andy (with editing/etc. from Ron)
p.s. You can follow my writing on Facebook, Twitter, and enjoy cat photos, thirst pics, Ron’s Stepford streak, doppelbängers, general shirtlessness, and fear of aging on my Instagram (andymaticgram), but actually Ron posts better photos on his Instagram (ronamatic). If you want even more reading in this vein, you can read my previous guides for Dore (2019, 2018, 2017, and the 2016 recap) and Folsom (2018, 2017, and 2014 recap). Or read about that time I turned 40 or when we got married. And if you’re really retro, there’s the old fashioned RSS feed for my blog at andymatic.com.