tl;dr/summary: Folsom is a big gay leather prom. See you there.
Be sure to bookmark this guide; it’ll get long – I have so much to tell you! Plus, I’m constantly updating as new events, venues, and DJs are announced.
(Or are you looking for this year’s Dore guide?)
You can always find the latest at andymatic.com/folsom – just tell friends, “It’s at andy matic dot com slash folsom!” Easy to remember!
If you’re impatient, jump past my platitudes and get to the list.
Folsom is a Rorschach.
It reflects your sexual identity back at you. You learn what turns you on and what doesn’t. What you once thought was kink and what you now think is vanilla. What you might try, what you’re glad you tried, and what you’d never even consider (well, maybe next year). 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 usually attracts half a million people every year from all over the world. The fair is produced by the Folsom Street Events non-profit organization raising money for an annual roster of beneficiaries. If you’re familiar with July’s Up Your Alley/Dore Alley street fair (also produced by the Folsom organization), Folsom is generally a more ‘mainstream’ and straighter affair than Dore alley weekend. Straight kinsters 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 complaining 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.
And yes “Happy Folsom!” is a tiding people will say as they greet you over the weekend.
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. It’s a horny city.
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:
- Recon News: San Francsico, a Gay Kink Destination by the always amazing Race Bannon
- 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 and an article specifically about Megahood 1984
- 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 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 faces 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.
The annual “kink at pride” hand-wringing blows up bigger each year lately (with lots of photos from Folsom used as examples, instead of actual Pride celebrations). Looks like it is driven primarily by Gen Z queer-folk that don’t know their history along with the 4chan trolls’s annual operation Pridefall. You can be prudish with your own tastes, but you better respect and you better recognize. Here’s a good Twitter thread discussing why kink and leather is insperable from Pride. And the call to be “family-friendly” is just coded language for assimilation.
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 and all these parties are for patrons over 21.
For some people, leather and fetish is a core part of their identity and peer groups. Many queer people come out of the closet but still don’t quite feel like the mainstream gay community is for them. Often it’s what they see portrayed in media: upper class, assimilated, prudish/vanilla, straight-acting, gay, white, and urban. They then find their leather/fetish/kink group and feel more at home. Folsom celebrates that every year.
Here’s a list of many of the events of Folsom 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 is ready to dance and have a great time. And everyone has high (and probably unrealistic expectations) about how much they’re going to get laid. Think Molly Ringwald’s 50 Load Weekend.
Also like prom, you might run into some mean girls or mean bears or mean muscle queens or belligerent twinks that are more intested in throwing attitude than having a good time. You can usually find these assholes standing outside the dance floor not moving at all, just posing. They aren’t sweating from dancing. They look amazing and they’ve worked hard all year to look this good and fuck only guys that look just like them (and they are starving). Tell them they look stunning 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. 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). Also, that’s how you remember a guy’s name. Introduce him to someone else so they have to say their name again.
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, we were at another party from one of the city’s top producers and headlining DJs with a more disco-y edge and everyone’s grooving and it isn’t moving me at all. And sometimes I just want straight-up dead-eyed muscle-queen basic-bitch four-on-the-floor primetime circuit. Some 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-go-out song is Ivan Gomez’s remix of Danny Tenaglia’s club mix of Wayne G’s “Twisted Excuse Me)” (1 minute in on this J. Warren mix).
And the music, clubs, and dance floors have their own amazing history. “It Takes a Village, People: Preserving San Francisco’s Gay Disco History” (DJ Mag)
San Franciso parties are different
San Francisco parties have a beating heart. San Francisco parties have a soul.
We went to several of We Party’s events at Madrid Pride a few years ago. Stunning evenings with up to 10,000 guys at iconic venues like Fabrik and La Riveria. Production design was absolutely astounding (video).
Guys come to San Francisco and enjoy the switch to smaller, more intimate events. Going from 10,000 men and tons 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. It 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 partners 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).
And sure they can get competitive. But last year at Dore, when two producers for a Saturday night party tested positive for covid. The production team that was at the venue the night before said no problem, we got this. They stepped right in to help make sure the party went off without a hitch. That’s not going to happen in many cities.
We know many of these DJs and 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. You head into the club with the spirit of, “I can’t wait to see what our friends have cooked up us tonight!”
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 beard brushing 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. I also tried to include profiles for the DJs so you can get a sense of what the music will be like. Several events that have not yet been confirmed but they’ve happened every year so many years surely they’re gonna happen.
Sunday September 18th: LeatherWalk 2022 produced by the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District
Not yet confirmed.
The Leatherwalk is back! The traditional launch to San Francisco’s Leather Week, leather and kink enthusisasts of all stripes will walk together starting at City Hall, pausing at favorite neighborhood spots and watering holes, and culminating with the Leather Pride Fest, presented by the SF Eagle, at Eagle Plaza.
LeatherWalk benefits the Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, a unique San Francisco institution dedicated to keeping our South of Market neighborhood queer and kinky. The money raised supports the Cultural District’s work, including murals, promoting our existing businesses, facilitating new ones, activating art and live events both indoors and out and sustaining the new Leather Community Center.
Stops along the route include Oasis, Powerhouse, Hole in the Wall, Azúcar Lounge, Leather Etc., Wicked Grounds, Cat Club, Mr. S Leather, the Ringold Leather History Alley (next paragraph), the Lone Star Saloon, and ending at Eagle Plaza.
While you’re in town, walk through a history of the city’s leather scene with Leather Memoir, along Ringold Alley which before the crisis in the 1980s, “one of the go-to places for gay men to rendezvous after the numerous gay bars along Folsom Street closed for the night.” The walk includes sidewalk plaques commemorating the many men, women, businesses, and bars that have anchored leather in San Francisco.
Article in the Bay Area Reporter from 2006: LeatherWalk aims to keep SF kinky.
Friday September 23rd
Brüt at Great Northern, produced by Hedonic Productions and Brian Kent Productions
Folsom Friday, Ron and I will among your gracious, persuadable hosts helping to facilitate you in making regrettable life choices.
Brüt started as an NYC 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 Brüt parties for many years in San Francisco (and now in Chicago), and it’s an incredible evening of dancing with primal music pumping and guys ready to have a good time.
The Great Northern (previously Mighty) is a big 7k sq ft warehouse dance space with 30′ ceilings and a “Future Deco” design with exposed brick wall and art deco accents (love the stained glass motif above the bar). The club has that step down from the bar into the dancefloor. You can watch queens trip over it all night if you need entertainment. The crystal clear 80k watt Void sound system keeps the music from being over-loud and you don’t have to yell at the guy next to you to have a conversation. That back lounge behind the DJ, far corner, can be fun.
Brüt 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 6, produced by TrophyDad with DJs Neon and Serge
Friday also marks the return of TrophyDad’s Prime party dedicated to “men in their prime and their admirers.” Hot gogo daddies (all over 50) tower atop the boxes 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.
They’ll be at Club 6. On the ground floor, 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, with the aggressive overt vibe of the leather bars of days gone by with low ceilings, lower inhibitions, and a play space – with mixmaster Serge that dark, sexy sound he’s pioneered for years in the dark rooms of Berlin.
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.
Club Six is on this 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 are behind plexiglass. Keep your phone in your pocket, headphones off, and your wits about you – that goes for the whole weekend.
Get there early, the line for this event went all way down a block and half down the alley and the line inside for clothes check was all way from the basement up the stairs and into the bar.
Read more about the genesis of the Prime party in Race Bannon’s article in The Bay Area Reporter: “Celebrating Grey — the Older Kinkster”
Lots of photos to show you what to expect and what to wear. Or not wear. Visuals, lasers, and videos from the always dazzling William Brown. Coat check benefits AIDS/LlfeCyle.
Details on the Facebook page for the event and follow TrophyDad’s Facebook page and see lots of photo galleries on the TrophyDad’s Facebook page including photos of 2019’s Dore edition.
Horse Meat Disco at Public Works, presented by Bearracuda with DJs Horse Meat Disco and Mateo Segade
If Friday night you’re feeling into the thick hairy boys and/or a big hairy boy yourself, the Bearracuda crew is back with their trademark winning formula of big boys and fat beats. These aren’t those Insta-twink fiber pill influencers that are all omg sis, I’m so thicc or the muscle queens that are all Folsom is gonna get whatever body I give it! while being coy about their cum gutters (have you ever tried to explain cum gutters to straight people?). 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).
Producer Matt Bearracuda and the boys are pleased as punch to bring London’s notorious Horse Meat Disco back to the main floor of Public Works for the entire six-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 and it’s always a friendly mix of guys and a great vibe. And I’ve heard positive 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.
Public Works features a dense main floor with two story ceilings and a wrap around balcony above with a side lounge loft tucked in to the side. Lots of places to watch and be watched. It’s got odd traffic patterns, it’s not just you.
Profile and interviews with the four DJs that make up London’s Horse Meat Disco and their first album in The Guardian.
Stank at Powerhouse, produced by Spencer Adams
Want a whiff? Get a waft! Everybody’s favorite gay dive bar kicks off the weekend with an evening devoted to the natural smell of men as God made ’em and as God intended.
Stop showering a couple days beforehand and hit the gym hard so you can go in perfectly fragrant (we have a couple friends who declare it “natural poppers”). Be ready to bury your face in a man’s ripe pits and enjoy the aroma and taste of the gogos as they ply their trade.
But get there before midnight so you can participate in (or just appreciate) the Ripe Pits Contest.
Prowl at Eagle
The Folsom edition of Prowl at the Eagle features a cigar lounge. DJ TBA but will keep the men bouncing as they prowl around for what this weekend is famous for.
Saturday September 24th
Big Muscle Party at DNA Lounge, produced by BigMuscle and BigMuscleBears.com
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 wrap-around balcony.
Ron and I contend that this party usually has 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. It always makes me want to start a Tumblr called Big Guys, Tiny Fans.
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, “Ohhh 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 (and another DJ lineup), the bar behind that, the bar behind that (and another DJ lineup), 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.
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 right in front of the street-side balcony bar.
Halfway through the party you’ll meet the men of this year’s Bare Chest Calendar. For 35 years the annual calendar has been a huge part of the San Francisco community, raising over $3 million for PRC and its program AIDS Emergency Fund. PRC (Positive Resorce Center) is devoted to providing residential treatment and supportive housing for people with mental health, substance use, and HIV/AIDS-related issues. Buy a calendar! Our bestie Moe is Mr. January!
And yes you’re smelling pizza from the dance floor. DNA Pizza (menu) is next door through the doors on the left. Cuz, you know these gals like to eat. The veggie slice is called Artichoke-Me-Daddy. You can go between the pizzeria and the club and even go outside for a smoke or a vape during the event – just be sure you don’t sweat off your wrist stamp.
Aside from the pizza the area between Audio, DNA Lounge, Halcyon, and Oasis often has street vendors serving bacon wrapped hotdogs and holy fuuuuuuck are they good. If you smell sizzling meat, be on the lookout.
This event will sell out. Get tickets now.
If the “buy a ticket” line outside is too long. You can probably buy tickets on your phone on the DNA Lounge site and then jump over to the ticketholder line which moves 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. Service fees are kinda bullshit but know that none of that goes to the producers.
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”
Masteurdome presents Tom of Finland at Regency Ballroom, produced by Brian Kent Events benefitting Folsom Street Events and the Tom of Finland Foundation, with DJs Pagano and Karsten Sollors
Masteurdome is back this year in tandem with the Tom of Finland for a wild night of leather and lust. No matter the venue, producer/impresario Brian Kentalways pushes events to be more startling, more innovative, expanding the local palette of parties and music. He’s started producing parties in PV, so watch out!
1000 sexy leather men, bears, pigs, voyeurs, exhibitionists and kinksters from around the world will descend on the historic Regency Ballroom (a former Scottish Rites masonic lodge from 1909) located right in heart of San Francisco and central to one of the biggest leather weekends in the world.
Global tech house producer Pagano is always fantastic. He was one of the DJs on the January whore-boat Atlantis Cruise a couple years ago and showed his breadth with tea dance, prime time, and afterhours sets. And we’ve heard him on land several times and always enjoyed it. DJ MAG UK described him, “Pagano has emerged as one of Italy’s finest DJs. An accomplished hand in the studio and behind the decks… Pagano is no overnight DJ sensation. A keen studier of sound, the man is obsessed with finding obscure gems and unique cuts and layering them together in his own inimitable manner”
Karsten Sollors we last heard at the notorious Black & Blue Ball at Chicago’s House of Blues as part of the International Mister Leather weekend. His sound also has a tech house foundation with additional melodic elements and traditional house, blended with some classic vocals and soulful funk and grooves.
And celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz will be shooting more men for his iconic LEATHERMAN project. He’ll be taking a limited number of exclusive leather portraits in the Regency basement, each of which benefits Folsom Street Events. Be a part of history, be shot by a legend!
This event is also fundraising for Folsom Street Events and their annual roster of beneficiaries as well as the Tom of Finland Foundation, devoted to promoting and protecting the work of this legendary gay erotic artist. If you don’t know the massive influence of this iconic artist on how gay men perceive themselves, be sure to watch the movie about him (trailer) or this 4 minute video tribute. He essentially invented us.
New Breed at Club Six, produced by Polyglamorous and Pound Puppy
This is the one of the most sex party-ish events of 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 words “breed” and “coming” in the title, so there you go.
Tickets will sell out within hours. But usually lots of tickets at the door.
Details will be on the Facebook page for Polyglamorous.
Pervert at Midway, produced by Cecil Russel, Matinee, and XOXO Productions, with DJs Tom Stephan, Nina Flowers, Paulo Fragoso, J Warren, Cindel, and live act Amanda
Producers Cecil Russell, and Mansingh Chouhan and the team at XOXO have joined forces with European production group Matinee to bring the Pervert party to San Francisco. Direct from Circuit Festival in Barcelona, Pervert features 10 hours of music with international master DJ Tom Stephan and luminaries Nina Flowers, Paulo Fragoso, and J Warren. “Live Act: Amanda” is on the poster. Not sure what that means yet.
Tom Stephan we’ve heard several times at IML and other events and he’s always good. With 17 Billboard Number One hits, he’s spun Black Party, White Party, Algeria, etc. pretty much every big party everywhere. A darker circuit sound with a horny edge born from the NYC afterhours scene and mixed with an East London sound. He also mixes under the psuedonym Superchumbo.
If you don’t know her music, you might know Nina Flowers from her stints on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Drag U, and Drag Race: All Stars. 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. You won’t be able to sit still.
We’ve known J Warren for years and he is perfectly at home with a tea dance, prime time, or afterhours mix with a relentless drive. It’ll be good to hear him do something darker and hornier.
Brazilian-born, Miami-based Paulo Fragoso blends house, tribal, and the progressive styles and energetic sets all over the world. And he’s easy on the eyes so there’s that.
Pervert is at Midway, one of the city’s largest performance venues. If you want something in the Euro high-gloss high-production style of circuit, this is probably your best bet.
NSA Underwear Party at Club OMG
The NSA honchos are back on with a Dore editiong of their underwear party on Saturday afternoon from 4pm to 10pm. Promotions always promise hot bartenders, bangin’ beats, horny men, and a sexy playful vibe. No event page for the party but I saw a flyer in the Castro (above). You can follow the NSA at OMG folks on Facebook for more updates. OMG and Club Six are kinda in that strange hellhole block of 6th Street between Market and Mission. Keep your wits about you.
Ram, produced by Daddy Ersin
Ersin’s horny undeground NYC gear party Ram finally makes its way to San Francisco. If you want aggressive rutting leathermen decked out in gear, this is the party for you. Dark, subterranean music and carnivorous cruising. Not a lot of details just yet.
Details will be on Ram’s Facebook page once they are availalbe.
Lick It at Powerhouse
Monthly party lands at Powerhous for their Folsom edition promising decadent party promoting ‘playful compassion’ with a focus on house music. Benefits local charities.
No details yet but they’ll be on their Facebook page.
Rogue at the Eagle
Rogue is one on of the city’s monthly fetish events. Their Folsom edition will feature dark and sexy beats while gogo slaves grind it out for you. Expect hot and twisted demo acts of taboo and perversions play out on stage. Hot men in gear cruising for some action pack the back patio maze for a night of fun that grabs you by the balls and won’t let go.
Code at Edge
Code is The Edge’s monthly event bringing leather back to the Castro with geared-up gogos and a no-frills bar packed with congenial leather-clad gents and resident DJ Sean McMahon, spinning Code’s signature dark and cruisy beats.Don’t know the theme yet.
Whatever happened to Magnitude? Legendary Folsom Saturday dance party Magnitude is no longer produced. It’s too expensive and no venues will allow a playspace. Here’s the organization’s explanation in The Fight magazine: “Keeping It Fresh: What’s New And Different At Folsom Street Events.” It’s a fucking shame, really. Gay billionaires out there, please buy The Armory, give it a huge endowment, and put the women who ran Mezzanine (closed a few years and now office space) in charge. Do The Eagle and Club 6 as well.
Sunday September 25th
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 a party 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 a whole new sheen – but if you’re gonna lie 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.
Grab a circuit queen’s phone and go to the alarms. They probably a preset for 3am. Aftershock is why.
It’s easy to say why Aftershock is one of our favorite events of the year. Now in it’s 28th year, it’s got that perfect dark, horny, forbidden, unforgiven ambiance. None of this happy R&B diva vocals and “Isn’t life great!” bullshit. I take my problems to the dance floor, damned for my sins, dragged to hell, and stay there (did I mention I was raised Catholic?).
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, and goes 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. Here’s a video from last year at 7am.
City Nights is one of our favorite venues with a huge front room/lobby so if you get overheated or claustrophobic you can go chill out there, bar will be faster on that side anyway.
The main room is massive. Enter the main floor from the side, the stairs down in the back will have tons of guys strutting on it and not moving at all. And don’t foget the mini lounge up the staircase house-left with the couches and mirrored ceiling. The line for the bar in the main hallway always gets morphed with the coat check line so it’s a big mess for the first few hours of the party.
Coat check at City Nights is always a shitshow. Like every time. Producers have tried over and over again to make it move faster to no avail. So just know that. You could dance with your backpack or whatever until the line cools down. Just don’t be surprised if you wait up to 45 minutes to get stuff checked if you get there during the rush. I know Ky and company are always trying new tactics to get things moving faster. But like they have some sort of mental block over there.
I said we never wait in lines for things in San Francisco. Aftershock is actually worth waiting in line for.
This event is sold out. There will be 300 tickets at the door at $80 each.
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.
Lights and visuals by Guy Smith and Rob Montenegro.
Event details on Facebook. Aftershock benefits the Folsom Street Events organization.
Again, Aftershock is before the fair on Sunday.
One year, we stumbled out of the club into the sunrise walked back to our place holding hands. We turned down Folsom street 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 closing his winsow blinds 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. The Fight usually publishes the official guide a few weeks before the event (2017, 2019) which will have a full map of the fair and a full calendar of events, but is much less obnoxiously opinionated than this one.
Hundreds of booths of fetish and leather vendors. There are several stages with some of the city’s best DJs plus a constant cavalcade of indie music rock acts and room to rock out and dance. Other stages feature fetish demos liek bondage, BDSM, and etc. Hopefully naked Twister is back, but that is a HUGE bottleneck of traffic.You’ll see just about anything there.
As far as philandering, no impeding traffic while you’re doing your business, and no public penetration. Butt-ass naked is fine. Don’t bring pets, they’ll be stressed out by all the people.
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.
Get tied to an electrical pole and get flogged, buy some leather stuff, watch BDSM 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.
What do you actually do there? Well last year, Ron went full KimK.
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.
Some of our friends absolutely love the fair and stay all day and have a great time.
White people/Wypipo: APPLY/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. And if you got more tattoos, I would not be mad. We thank you.
The Facebook event is not out yet but you can follow their page and and just about anything else you’d like to know at folsomstreetevents.org.
Tons of photos at their galleries by photographer Gooch
If you want to see all manner of crazy stuff that happens at the fair
Some of our friends absolutely love the fair and stay all day and have a great time. I’m usually wanting to rest up for:
Real Bad XXXIII at 1015 Folsom, produced by Grass Roots Gay Rights Foundation with DJs Rob Phillips, Mascfish, and Jumpr
This is the ticket to get and you probably won’t be able to get it.
Sunday night on Folsom weekend is our favorite event of the entire year. If I could go to only one dance party a year anywhere in the world, it would be Real Bad. Real Bad is one of the few parties still going strong since the the 1980s crisis and they’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their beneficiaries.
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. 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 San Francisco. From the initial margarita party kickoff where they announce the DJs 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 global community that we the Circle of 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 stairs and a ramp spilling into to the main dance floor. If you haven’t seen the remodel, they took the wall between the lobby and main room out. Three-story ceilings are complemented by a wrap around balcony – all with Brazilian hardwood dance floors. The rear 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 differentDJ playing more downtempo steady-state house sound, much cooler down there, too. 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 DJ Mascfish is opening the night right as the fair ends and about halfway through Rob Phillips will take over and take us into the morning.
Rob Phillips is a Brazilian DJ and producer has produced at numerous massive events all over the world and brings a contagious energy with strong beats and lots of personality. Local favorite pup
Jumpr will spin most of the night in the Undeground – the basement – with a more relaxed sound. 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 and density. Never “pots & pans.”
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 the moment. Take a break in the upstairs lounge. Snuggle up with a guy in the basement. Catch a breath outside in the cordoned-off smoking. 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.
Real Bad is also our yearly check-in with everyone and where they are in their lives. People have seen Ron and I go from two wide-eyed young bucks from Chicago to two inked pierced bearded married muscle dads (and this past December, moved back to Chicago) and part of the usual usuals orbiting the community and it’s related events. I’ll see friends that we were very close with for a few years, had wonderful memorable times with them, and now I’m just somebody that they used to know. You’ll see now-separated couples with their new beaus. Or couples with their new thirds knowing that by next year they might be broken apart.
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.”
Around midnight, 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 day 3, 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. Each host is given a handful of ticket codes to share with friends and their network . 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.” With capacity rules, there are fewer tickets than ever this year.
There will be some general admissions tickets available online on Eventbrite at a time to later be decided, info on the site. They went in minutes last year.
As the weekend approaches make sure eveyrone around you knows they’re looking for a Real Bad ticket. As the fair ends and everyone decides if they’re really going to go the event, tickets become available. We had one friend leave the fair, take a nap, got texts about an available ticket, and was on the dance floor in an hour.
Short documentary about Real Bad, Activism with a Beat.
Article about Real Bad in The Daily Californian.
Past Real Bad sets for your listening enjoyment:
- Real Bad XXXII had Matt Effect opening the night with the perfect evening apertif while Paul Cowling kept steady in the Underground (3 hours of his set). The prime time slot was local favorite Russ Rich. He tore the fucking place down (part one , part two). You’ve never seen a club go off like this. Two years of a community’s expectation and excitement to celebrate. We all lost our shit. Ron’s video from the balcony. And then around 3am he snuck in Acraze’s remix of “Do It To It” – a few weeks before it hit big – and everyone was like WTF is this strutting subterreanean bass line. I over-played that song for months.
- There wasn’t a Real Bad event in 2020, but a few DJs gave us sets to hold us over: DJs Ale Maes, Jesus Pelayo, and an Underground set from Fawks.
- Real Bad XXXI in 2019 with DJ Ales (early/warm-up, peak/prime time, afterhours) and Fawks (in the Underground) and video of the leather pride flag peak moment
- Real Bad XXX in 2018 celebrated 30 years had two DJs on the main floor with Jesus Pelayo (peak medley, main room) and Charly (main room) and then Byron Bonsall (in the Underground) and a fantastic recap video
- Real Bad XXIX in 2017 with Juan Escadero (main room) and video of peak moment with the leather flag, popsicle deployment, confetti drop, and recap/relive video
- Real Bad XXVIII in 2016 with Xavier Alvarado (preview set, main room) and and videos of peak moments one, two, and three
- Real Bad XXVII in 2015 with Brian Maier (in the Underground)
- Real Bad XXVI in 2014 with Fabio Campos (main room) and Corey Craig (in the Underground)
- Real Bad XXV in 2013 with Luiggi (main room) and Craig Gaibler (in the Underground)
- Real Bad XXIV in 2012 wtih Kam Shafaati (in the Underground)
- Real Bad XXIII in 2011 with Brian Reyes (early/primetime, late) and Steve Sherwood (in the Underground)
- Real Bad XXII in 2010 with Sean Mac (early/primetime, late) and Peter Canellis (in the Underground)
- Real Bad X in 1998 with Joe D’Espinosa (part 1, part 2)
Rated X produced by Ky Martinez
Rated X is back! Last year’s premiere was a rowdy rutting good time and for Folsom Sunday, they’re (probably) coming to City Nights (where you were for Aftershock just this morning). Leathermen will be geared up out in gear and ready to cruise.
No DJs or venue announced yet.
Hot Tea at Audio, produced by Cecil Russel and Evan J-Sun, with DJs Dan Slater, Arno Diem, Orel Sabag, Jack Chang
Cecil Russell, in association with Evan J-Sun, are once again bringing you their piping Hot Tea event at Audio nightclub. They’re also taking over the first floor of the adjacent Bergerac club so you’ll have two floors and four DJs of music to choose from. Leather-clad gogo gods and goddesses will undulate and provide entertainment all night.
Super-handsome Aussie, Dan Slater spins a fantastic prime time sound with upbeat, chunky house sound blending the progressive sounds of the European club scene with the Latino fire of South America beats as he moves seamlessly between house, circuit, tech and deep house.
Not finding much intel about LA’s Arno Diem but I pinged him for details on his sound, SoundCloud link below.
Also from Los Angeles, Israeli Orel Sabag has a tribal house sound that’s been featured at events like Reload, WE’s Arena Carnival, and the Papa party.
And my God: Mutha-fuckin’ Jack Chang. Before we even started going to events, we were streaming his mixes and dancing around the house. I have external hard drives full of his mixes. We finally stalked him enough we became good friends, and we are so pleased he’s back state-side. Jack’s pedigree spans from the notorious sex parties in the sleaze-hauses of Berlin to sun-drenched pool parties in Brazil with a high impact sound with lots of drums and vocals.
Audio nightclub is in the heart of SOMA, right across from DNA Lounge where the Big Muscle party was and a few doors down from where Ram was and Nocturnal will be. The events starts as the fair ends so it’s a quick stumble to get there. Limited VIP tickets include VIP lounge area near the DJ booth, bottled water, and snacks.
Folsom Sunday at Oasis
A few steps from the fair, Oasis is giving you a 12 hour marathon of music and festivities (they’ve confirmed it’s happening but not the DJs yet).
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 (that step down into the main concrete floor is the old pool space). They had a fantastic fundraiser during the worst of the pandemic and put that money back into the club including a fantastic new rooftop remodel for some old fashioned open-air cruising.
Party on the Patio at Eagle
Join everybody at the Eagle during and after the fair where the party goes all day and deep into the night. Thousands of hot, sweaty, half naked bodies pack the place throughout the day and night where things get going that have made this party world (in)famous!!
Folsom Aftermath at Powerhouse
You don’t have to worry about choosing Powerhouse or the fair. Powerhouse is literally inside the fair! They’ve got horndogs aplenty ready to be rowdy. They’ll clothes check all day and night and several DJs making you move.
Monday September 27th
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 Martinez 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 Imagina and Heaven. Their events always draw a sexy crowd that is a diverse, broad slice of the city’s denizens (leather, muscle, queens, bears, queers, jocks, fairies, and all the rest).
I can’t think of a better way to close out the night, the morning, and the weekend, than with Ky Martinez’s Nocturnal party under the direction of the original “tribal bitch” DJ Paulo for the entire morning. And at this time of the morning you need a good hard pounding like only Paulo can deliver.
We usually come home from Real Bad, rinse off, re-gear, and walk over to Halcyon nightclub. You think well shit it’s early and it’s day four so this’ll be cute, I guess. You walk in and it’s like the weekend never even happened. Guys streaming in from all the other events all morning. DJ Paulo at his cauldron, playing this type of groove that makes you want to move. Again, we kinda like an afterhours because the guys that are there are there to dance.
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. Video from the VIP lounge.
Halcyon (formerly the old Beatbox space) is one of only three clubs in the world to feature the Dolby Atmos immersive sound system. Halcyon regularly ranks among the top clubs in the country and is noted for its all-women management and being a welcome home for LGBT events and producers. The exposed brick and steel keeps the warehouse vibe alive and with one of the city’s few 24-hour liquor licenses, DJs have been known to spin from dusk to dawn and into the affternoon.
And then on Monday afternoon everybody hits the bars and switches to alcohol and calls it “recovery.”
Folsom Recovery at Lookout
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. One of our top local DJs will be on hand at Lookout to keep the party going as you stave off thinking about your terrible life choices this weekend.
Most of the producers and DJs of the weekend will be there.
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. Their kitchen can be slow, but their snacks and food are good.
More details will be on their Facebook page.
Okay let’s do a run down of other important stuff:
More questions you may have and stuff you should know:
“Do people really wear just jockstraps at these parties? I don’t want to be the only one dressed like a whore.”
Yes. Even at SF parties outside the high holy days, there’s always a big leather and bear presence at every party so you’ll always see harnesses and guys stripped down to a jockstrap. You’ll see some men in the classic full leather uniform out at 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/gum, and such handy. Or if you have no pockets, wear long athletic socks and stuff them in there. Some guys wear fanny packs (that’s “bum bags” for you Brits). Our European friends are surprised to see that even guys who are tops wear jockstraps. Yep. You wanna make sure they can move those hips!
Peruse the photo galleries of the events for a sampling of the various options available. We’ve done kyoot 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 knot 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.
Oh and trim your nails. You just never know your fingers might end up. And maybe a pedicure in case you meet a guy into feet?
“Are all these events just a bunch of hairy white guys looking for other hairy white guys?”
These events can have a tendency to be a bunch of big hairy white guys only interested in hanging out with other big hairy white guys. Honestly, unless they have field markings (tattoos) I can’t tell all these white motherfuckers apart. When we all had masks on in SF, I had no idea who anyone was for a whole year.
The race politics of the gay dance floor can be pretty shitty (no, it’s not just a preference). And the body fascism.vAnd that sucks for our brown, black, and/or smooth, skinny, and/or non-huge/short brethren. The weekend’s events will have pretty broad range in body type and ethnic/race 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.
No hovering: We’re implementing a No Hovering Rule. If someone or group hovers or orbits near you more than three times you have to say hello (assuming they aren’t being creepy).
Stop being a racist piece of shit.
Take all that race preference shit off your profile. It’s disgusting and shit manners. Our gay black and brown brothers move in a world that reminds them every day that they are “other.” They don’t need that when they are in a gay space. And if you are “into” a certain race, ethniticy, complexion, or color of guys, don’t say it out loud, just go talk to the guy.
Don’t be a Terrible White Gay™! Decolonize the dance floor!
And for fuck’s sake don’t ask a guy, “What are you?” or “Where are you from, no where are you really from?” or “You’re really sexy for a [ethnicity].”
Another short cut is:
Always party with the bears and the Brazilians
Numerous studies in the field and 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.
Pro-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.
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.
If everyone around you looks just like you, you’re doing it wrong.
Worst Folsom pickup line ever remains: “Hey, you’ve got bitch tits, too.” Let’s have some manners, gents.
And when talking to couples, maybe talk to both of them.
Don’t mix G and alcohol, you stupid fuck
Oxygen, drips, and stretchers are not rave accessories. 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 once saw a guy ‘falling out’ (the more glam way to say overdosing) in a play room being attended to by EMTs. Nothing kills the vibe like a guy who’s stopped breathing. They were trying to keep him awake.
Just one milliliter too much – 1/5 of teaspoon! – can be the difference between being a good-time gal versus your knees buckling and your friends pissed they have to take you home (or so pissed they hand you off to teh EMT). Know your mLs and timing. It’s why Tim Cook invented Apple Watch.
Use a bumper for K so it’s more measured. Label your coke and K.
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,d your dick, and make your bowels move.
I won’t even talk about crystal meth. Tina is insidiously efficient at destroying lives. 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, marriages, and friendships to sustain their addiction. Handle your shit, ladies (and ask for and get help). If you see tina at the private party or the trick’s hotel room, walk out the door.
Always thank the EMTs when you see them
I usually say, “Thanks for working tonight.”
They are there to make sure everyone has a safe, memorable 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 they 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 The Gays are a hot mess (though we never have fistfights, just ambulance calls). 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.
Be generous. 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 gal Donna, if you see her outside running security for an event, it’s going to go smooth as silk.
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 outside the club (not Donna above) 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.
Most venues have security that will frisk people on the way in. Don’t be an idiot and you’ll get through with your accourtrements. That’s why God invented the taint.
Get off your goddamn phone
A friend at Dore a few years ago 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. 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 whose probably already asleep. 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.
Faster flirting with keyboard macros
But if you’re on your phone and tired of guys asking what your are into or what parties you are going to and typing it over and over again. Setup a macro!
iPhone: Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Tap + type the phrase you want to add then enter the macro. Like whenever you type /folsom, the phone will pop in your full agenda.
Android: Anybody know if this is standard? Lemme know.
Get a couple portable USB chargers to have fully charged up in your European Carryall or backpack or purse.
Be where you are
People talk about wantig to go back to the happy days. We can’t go back. We can stand still or go forward.
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 “collab” for free).
I always say I hope for a good time with good music and good friends and my amazing husband in my arms – and everything else is a bonus.
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.
Save this GIF to your phone to drop in group threads when someone’s being a needy/dramatic twat:
And maybe don’t fuck your boyfriend blocking the bathroom entrance. K-thnx.
We don’t really wear cologne here
When we were in Madrid it was kinda nice that everyone smelled so good and some guys put on a little cologne before going to club. Less so when a few of them smoke cigarettes in the club. In Saugatuck everyone was getting sweat but no one was getting odoriferous.
But in SF we’re a little more… earthy. This is the town that birthed Manson, Jonestown, and the hippies.
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.
But do whatever you want. If your cologne is too strong someone will probably tell you.
“What’s with the colors and armbands?”
When hooking 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. But sometimes yellow is a signal and other times you just want to wear yellow. 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 you’re probably also a misogynist piece of shit. Jokes about, “Omg bottoms are needy and petty just like women, isn’t that hilarious?” are tired as fuck. 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. Let’s dispense with the 1950s gender roles.
Everyone secretly hates your fan clacking
In moderation and on the beat, clacking fans can be positively electrifying. But every goddamn song? Don’t clack them all night with that sharp sound that feels like an icepick behind your right eye.
And let’s not with the fucking parasols
Stop bringing parasols to parties. You are not the star of this wedding. 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.
Buy multiple drinks at a time (and tip)
Bars will be busy and/or under-staffed. If you are buying Gatorade for three 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 you don’t know as you make your way back to your friends. 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 $100 on us for the night. Break your twenties so you can tip (tip the gogo dancers, too!). Non-Americans, the usual tip for a bartender is $1-2 per drink served.
Many of these events have patrons that turn to non-alcohol sources for their enhancements. It’s lost revenue and a problem every producer will mention. So buy soda, Red Bull, Gatorades, and waters!
Don’t grab someone’s piercings without asking
You don’t know how they like them handled – if at all. And if they’re new, it’ll hurt. For pierced folks, watch out for mesh and fishnet as you make your way through the crowd!
Schedule your haircut and beard trim now.
If you’re in a gay metro area, you know there’ll be a rush to get your hurr did. Schedule those appointments now!
Assume clothes check will be a disaster everywhere
Coat/clothes check will probably move at a glacial pace. We usually bring one of our gym bags and put everything in there (and put keys, phones, and wallets in obvious pockets so we can find them quickly for the keys-phone-wallet-ready?! check as we 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 to 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. One friend wears a backpack the first half of the night and checks that once the lines clear. Another wears super lightweight shorts and a tank top and ties them around his ankle for the night. That’s a solution.
Take a photo of your coat check tag so you have it on your phone, and text it to a friend just in case.
And coat check usually is cash only.
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. There’s a possibility you might get a bug – even if you’re the most careful condom user ever-ever.
Go to your primary care physician 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” that 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 this high-volume-hookup sex-as-a-hobby culture.
If you’re really an ethical slut, get tested two weeks before the weekend 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.
Undetectable = Untransmittable
You should already know that undetectable is untransmittable, This means that an HIV+ person on meds whose viral load is undetectable carries virtually zero risk of transmission through sex.
- Get COVID vaccinated and boosted. Most events aren’t checking vaccine status anymore. But have a digital one or a photo of it on your phone. And favorite that photo on your phone so you aren’t scrolling through hole pics while a bouncer waits.
- Get a meningitis vaccine while you’re at it. There was an outbreak in Florida. Get the ACMY vaccine since the current is meningitis serogroup C.
- Get the HPV vaccine too if you’re the right age (it’s expanded) and have coverage. HPV can lead to forms of anal cancer.
- Get the smallpox or monkeypox vaccine because fuck me looks like we’re doing this shit all over again with monkey pox. If you’ve had the smallpox vaccine in the last 5 years you might still have some protection. Frequently updated Google Doc of mpx vaxx information in the US.
A lot of guys will also be “cleaning out” for the weekend in the event that they bottom. Hell, lots of tops clean out just in case they meet a guy who’s sponge-worthy. Here’s a guide (not keen on the stomping). Pack the shower shot or buy one at one of the sex stores. We all know the bulb sucks. Don’t forget the wrench (which TSA may take if it is in your carry on, I think you can get a plastic wrench that won’t show up as much in x-rays). Some guys even forego eating real food and use Imodium to halt everything for the day or weekend. I’m not saying any of this is healthy. Video: Jonathan Van Ness explaining this to Tiffany Haddish is comedy gold.
And thus it was written:
“Blessed are the bottoms, may their waters always run clear.” (Matthew 6:9)
If you are HIV-, get on PrEP
If you are HIV-, get on PrEP. It doesn’t protect against other STIs but the risk of HIV transmission is statistically 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. If you are not on PrEP and have unprotected sex and think you might be at risk for HIV, know about the PeP protocol which is for after a possible exposure.
If you don’t want to take PrEP all the time, there’s also the new PrEP 2-1-1 protocol for an intermittent trampage. You take two Truvada 2-24 hours before sex, one pill 24 hours after the initial dose, and one final pill 24 hours later. Full details.
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 working.
“I’m too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too young, too old to go…”
Now that I’m 47, my sister says I’m officially pushing 50. The only difference these days is we take ibuprofen before we head out for the night. You’re never too old.
Both 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). 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.
You will see all type all weekend. 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.
Don’t tell tall guys they’re tall or tell short guys they’re short. They know.
Introverts, here’s a Facebook thread I started about meeting guys on the dance floor. (My solution has always been: Marry an extrovert. Or try the bend and snap.)
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.
And put your hair up. Nobody wants your long hair sticking to their sweaty chest or back.
“All these goddamn events are sold out!”
You waited too long. . In this town, they 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 that they have a ticket available. As the weekend develop, people decide which parties they are or aren’t going to and will unload 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.
Be wary of third-party ticket sales from questionable sources
Scammers that will post on the event pages that they have last minute tickets and then take your money and tell you to walk with Christ. Look for friends you have in common and vet sources if you need to.
“OMG, Folsom is not just about the parties!”
You’re right. There’s an entire leather community anchoring this whole thing. But this is a party guide.
Always do a ticket inventory the week before
The week beforehand, make sure you have all your tickets. If they are in your email, use the pin/star feature to make sure they bubble up to the top or take screencaps of all your QR codes. Nothing like the, “Oh my god I bought tickets for the Folsom Brut but not the Dore Brut, Ron’s going to kill me…” panic attack. Some of these parties and producers do events for both weekends with the same names, don’t get them mixed up!
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?!” After one year’s revels, my CEO alerted staff the following week announcing, “Don’t ask Andy anything. He hasn’t slept for five days.”
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 performers). Message me via Instagram or Facebook Messenger.
Where to visit while you’re in town
We lived in San Francisco for 13 years and here’s our recommended points of interest and touristy activities if you’re here for several days:
Former federal prison Alcatraz Island has a haunting audio tour.
The Castro Theatre will hopefully be open again featuring 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 WWII.
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 worth a trip.
Fisherman’s Wharf is trashy and you didn’t come all this way to eat 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). The Krispy Kreme there has closed.
There’s wine country – Napa and Sonoma. We find the whole wine thing boring. But go for it if you’re nuts for wine.
Where are all the taxis?
Same thing we said when we moved here from Chicago. San Francisco has only 1/3 the cabs per capita of New York City and Chicago. And you really notice. The taxi medallion system is a shitshow here and Lyft and Uber have carved out a following. Easier to find cabs at your hotel but less on the way back,.
Where to eat while you’re in town
We’re both from the Midwest so we’re not really foodies, we just like to eat. Our go-to restaurants:
Skip the Whataburger vs In-n-Out debate and go to Super Duper Burger. They’re our usual post-party lunch of burger, fries, and milkshake. Several locations in the city.
Taco Boys next to the Castro Super Duper is our usual taco place. Tacorgasmico is across the street as well. Bonita’s nearby always has dry-ass chicken and beef.
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.
The Cove diner across from 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 friends 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 the full raft of delivery restaurants on Grubhub and other apps in case you need a cube of cheese. Our usuallly places are iThai, Tara Indian Cuisine, Bamboo (Chinese), and Tanglad (Vietnamese run by Filipinos, with a location in Castro).
And if you need poppers and lube, there’s several sex stores and smoke shops in the Castro (including Mr. S mentinoed above). We usually go to Koheba Gifts on Market (might not be gay-owned, but Yemeni immigrants, I think). Get tacos next door while you’re over there. There’s also stores like Does Your Mother Know and Rock Hard.
Finally: Fucking dance
Who knows when the hell all this global pandemic shit will be done? Who knows when everything will close down again? Honestly, all we can count on anymore is right now (and top pining for the golden era).
But for now we get to dance. Have a beautiful man in our arms. Feel his beard against yours. Feel the bass rattling your ribcage.
And more importantly, hold your friends close. Hold them tight and dance. Love unabashedly.
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 hurt 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.
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 come up and say hi and say that they read my guide or shared it with friends. So, if you see us on the dance floor, say hello (reference photo above). Look for the complementary Polynesian sleeve tattoos on the sexy Filipino muscle daddy with the huge smile dancing with abandon and probably waving (but never clacking) a majestic fan (my husband Ron) and the semi-serious/RBF’d 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, aggressive shirtlessness, and fear of aging on my Instagram (andymaticgram), but actually Ron posts better photos on his Instagram (ronamatic) and his account for his pandemic macaron obsession (macarons_by_ron). If you want even more reading in this vein, you can read my previous guides for Dore (this year, 2021, 2019, 2018, 2017, and the 2016 recap) and Folsom (2019, 2018, 2017, and 2014 recap). Or read about that time I turned 40 or when we got married. or on the Daddy Issues podcast talking about roids and racism, gay Trump supporters, and being pretty vs smart. And if you’re really retro, there’s the old fashioned RSS feed for my blog at andymatic.com
p.p.s. This past year was our last Folsom as San Francisco residents. We moved to Chicago this past December. When we first started going out years ago, we’d walk home by ourselves since we didn’t know anybody. Then a few years in, we’d have friends walking with us to get refreshed for the next party or house guests coming back to crash. Other years, a lucky guy or couple we brought back to our place for post-party adventures. This past year when we walked back from Aftershock, it was just us again.
The city has been good to us.