tl;dr/summary: Folsom is a big gay leather prom. This year it’s called Megahood. 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.
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!
Party grid for the weekend (so far) below: (compare to 2019 grid)
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 street fair (also produced by the Folsom org), Folsom is 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 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.
Why is it called Megahood this year?
The Folsom organization is presenting an abbreviated version of the street fair this year, so they wanted to call it something different. Megahood was the original name of the street fair when it first started in 1984. I predict people will still call it Folsom.
What is Folsom Street Market?
The Folsom org has also renamed their July street fair, Up Your Alley. Also affectionately know as Dore Alley, Up Your Alley is renamed to Folsom Street Market for this year. Again, emphasis on the vendors and community. Completely not confusing at all.
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 seemed to blow up bigger than usual this year (with lots of photos from Folsom used as examples, instead of actual Pride celebrations). Looks like it was 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. “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 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, prudish/vanilla, gay, white, urban). They then find their leather/fetish/kink group and feel more at home and like they found their tribe.
For others it’s a fun weekend to get a little wild, experiment with different mode of dress or behavior, and push your own boundaries of what you like and who you are.
Here’s a list of many of the events of Megahood/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 – you can tell because 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 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). 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 want straight-up dead-eyed muscle-queen basic-bitch four-on-the-floor primetime circuit. The familiar structure of circuit mixes with the beat doubling on itself or the steady state deep pumping of a heavy afterhours mix. 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,” “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 a couple years ago 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 World Pride in New York a few years ago with the massive events at the Javits Center party, the Pier for Madonna, or Alegria.
I can see why 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, 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). 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. We head into the club with the spirit of, “I can’t wait to see what our friends have cooked up for 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 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. I also tried to include profiles for the DJs so you can get a sense of what the music will be like.
I’m including several events that have not yet been confirmed but they’ve happened every year so many years surely they’re gonna happen.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required at many of these events with the date of the second shot being 2 weeks in the past. Many producers and venues are accepting a copy of your vaccination card or a photo of your vaccination card on you phone. Be sure to check the detail pages closer to the events.
Wednesday, September 22nd
Baloney at Oasis, produced by Rory Davis
SF’s “gay all-male revue that’s not entirely gay and not entirely male” is back with their summer edition and their second weekend just so happens to line up with Folsom. We’ve gone to the show several times over the years and it’s always a fun evening with these talented sexy men of all shapes and sizes and ages. Baloney combines theater, dance, striptease, song, comedy, and acrobatics into an entertaining evening unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Baloney runs September 16-17 and 23-25.
Trailer for the upcoming documentary Baloney: A Queer Male Burlesque.
Thursday, September 23rd
Horse Market, produced by the Stable Master
This date for this event is unconfirmed. It’s been on Thursday the past few times.
And what better way to launch into the week’s sacrilige 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.
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. Sorry: scholarship program. The tops all nominate a Best In Show Mare and the staff award the Best in Show Stallion. So all you guys bitching about Folsom getting too tame, this is that Berlin-grade filth you’ve been pining for. Our friends that have gone have said it is a wild fun time – one of them even won Best in Show Mare! We’re all so proud.
Friday, September 24th
Folsom Block Party at Mr. S Leather
This date for this event is unconfirmed. This event is usually both Friday and Saturday of Folsom weekend.
Now celebrating 40 years of leather, kink, and style, Mr. S Leather is a San Francisco mainstay and globally recognized leather and fetish brand. Their in-store party has expanded to a two-day Folsom block party with with DJs spinning, along with “dirty dancers and the trashiest bartenders in San Francisco” pouring drinks, bootblacks shining, cigar enthusiasts out on the sidewalk, 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 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. You want to wear the right thing, right? 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.
If you’re worried about wearing your harness wrong: Just check how they are styled on Mr. S Leather’s site or whatever vendor you got it from. A lot of guys wear their harnesses way too low and too loose. It’s basically a corset for your shoulders. Shoulders back, pecs out!
If you have a narrow build, look at the harnesses with thinner strips of leather.
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.
No Facebook page yet but you can follow their Facebook page to stay up to date.
Friendly Fire at Danzhaus, produced by Gage Lennox
This event is two nights, both Friday and Saturday.
Proof of vaccination is required at this event.
After an unchained Dore party, Gage Lennox is back with another wild Friendly Fire event for all you piggies.
It’s a special “Red vs Blue” edition (if you’re not sure what the colors mean, check your hanky code). As you enter the party, they’ll be giving out red or blue armbands when you arrive, so everyone knows what everyone is there for (and some guys are probably there for both).
Danzhaus is one of the few venues in the city allowing a fully outfitted playspace, including showers – and it’s literally a dance studio on the main floor so there’s mirrors all around.
Gage is encouraging a liberal clothes check policy of checking everything and the more clothes you check the less you’ll pay at the door.
The last time Ron and I gogo danced at one of Gage’s parties we’re down on the main floor and the play area opens up and I look around and, we’re by ourselves! I’m on one box and he’s on the other side of the room. “Hi, honey!”
He’s cultivated an amazing global community of enthusiasts and dedicates a lot of time and heart to these events.
Venue is cash only.
Stay connected with Gage and the rest of the Friendly Fire ffolks on their Facebook group.
Prime produced by TrophyDad
This event is unconfirmed.
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.
These events are usually at Club 6 (again unconfirmed) with more dancing on the ground floor with 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 slings. Floor gets slippery.
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.
And as you daddy-hunt, remember our advice from daddy connoisseur (papa sommelier?) Baby Jake: “You better check for that AARP card first.”
Get there early, the line for this event went all way down a block and half down the alley and the line inside for clothe 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”
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 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 (last year would have been 5 New Year’s Eves in a row if not for Miss Rona!). 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.
Public Works fits about 1,300 with 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.
Background, interviews with the four DJs that make up London’s Horse Meat Disco and their first album in The Guardian.
Saturday, September 25th
Big Muscle Party at DNA Lounge, benefiting Positive Resource Center
This event is unconfirmed.
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 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 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. 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 have your wrist stamped.
Tip: Lines in the past have been 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..
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”
Whatever happened to Magnitude?
Legendary Folsom Saturday dance party Magnitude is no longer produced as an official event of the Folsom Street Events organization since 2019. 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.”
No large venues will allow advertised and specific play spaces.
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 Mezzaniine (closed last year and now office space) in charge. Do The Eagle and Club 6 as well.
In place of Magnitude, might I suggest a more intimate and aggressive affair for your Folsom Saturday:
Ram at The EndUp, produced by Daddy Ersin and Ky Martinez Events, with DJs Dani Toro and Dan De Leon
New York’s horny undeground gear party Ram finally makes its way to San Francisco – and on Folsom Saturday no less! If you want aggressive rutting leathermen decked out in gear, this is the party for you. Dark, subterranean music and carnivorous cruising.
Founded in 1973, The EndUp has been around longer than a lot of us have and is one of the city’s late-late night venues that is open after everything else has closed. Everyone ends up here. The club has a huge bar with lounge seating in the front leading to a modest dance floor with low ceilings. Down the hall you’ll find the VIP area comfy leather seating and tables and lighting. EndUp has a huge outdoor patio for cooling off, smoking, and cruising and I predict that’ll be a fun area for a lot of guys that night.
Both DJs are fantastic. We’ve heard Dani at parties in SF and other cities and he always bring a strong, pulsating, hard sound. Dan De Leon pumps in more energy to keep your hips moving.
Interview with Ram party producer and ofunder Daddy Ersin in Thotyssey online magazine, On Point With: Daddy Ersin.
Red Light at Social Hall SF, presented by Masteurdome, produced by Brian Kent Productions, with DJs Ralphi Rosario and Dan Darlington
Consummate showman and producer Brian Kent gave us 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. No matter the venue, Brian always pushes our local scene to be more startling, more innovative, expanding the local palette of party and music. We went to Masteurdome for 2019 and it was an absolutely fantastic event.
Superstar DJ Ralphi Rosario has worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Donna Summer and has spun leather events the world over. When he and Abel spin together (he does Aftershock on Sat night/Sun morning) they are Rosabel. Every time we’ve heard Ralphi he’s been fantastic.
And Dan Darlington you’ll know as the producer of NYC’s hot and horny Brut paties. I’m assuming if he’s spinning here there won’t be a Brut party for the weekend. One Brut SF, it was later into the night when things start to feel a little otherworldly, and Dan was on the decks in jock and harness (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, 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…” Absolutely transcendent.
Get there early. Both DJs are fantastic. The venue is the Regency Ballroom if you’ve been there.
Full details on the Facebook page for the event
And if you want something more high-gloss and high-production:
Pervert at Midway, produced by Cecil Russel, Matinee, and XOXO Productions, with DJs Tom Stephan, Nina Flowers, Paulo Fragoso, J Warren, 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 amazing. 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 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. You won’t be able to sit still.
We’ve known J Warren for year 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. Our two favorite dark mixes of his are from Grunt and Fukr parties.
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, and also the site of XOXO’s pride party this year. If you want something in the Euro high-gloss high-production style of circuit, this is probably your best bet.
Currently tickets are being sold with the requirement that you will provide proof of vaccination upon entry. That might be loosened up by the time we get to the end of September. Who knows.
More details XOXO’s and ticket info on their site.
The Gay Rave and Circuit Almanac group on Facebook has a partner discount for this event. Use discount code ALMANAC10 before July 1st or ALMANAC after July 1st for $10 and $5 discounts respectively.
Friendly Fire at Danzhaus, produced by Gage Lennox
Is also on Saturday, description above from Friday.
Sunday, September 26th
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 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 pre-set for 3am. Afrtershock is why.
It’s hard to say why Aftershock is one of our favorite events of the year. Now in it’s 25th 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 pawing, 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.
City Nights is one of our favorite venus with a huge front room/lobby so if you get overheated or clasutrobphic you can go chill out there, bar will be faster on that side anyway. The main room is massive. 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.
The venue-run coat/clothes check at City Nights is always a disaster no matter who is producing. Like you can’t even get angry about it anymore. Producers keep trying different tactics to try and alleviate it, to little avail. (I’ve got some coat check tips below in the FAQs.) You will be in line forever.
I said we never wait in lines for things in San Francisco. Aftershock is actually worth waiting in line for.
Aftershock tickets will sellout very, very fast. Paper tickets used to be available at Body clothing store but that place closed a while ago. There will be some tickets available the door. Maybe.
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.
One year, we stumbled out of the club into the sunrise walked back to our place holding hands, 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 window yelled, “Go to bed, queens!” So we did.
Megahood 2021, produced by Folsom Street Events
Some or a lot of this description may change since the fair isn’t what it always is this year.
This year’s street fair will be more focused on the vendors, artisans, and community organizations that need to promote and sell their wares in light of a year of lost business. Expect about a third less of the usual content for people to distance properly. No alcohol will be served at the fair to encouarge attendees to buy drinks at the local bars that have been struggling for the past year. Since the non-profit org been depleted trying to stay afloat the past year, there won’t be any beneficiaries.
As of May 23, they are saying expect to wear masks. Hopefully that’s changed by September.
Ah the fair. It’s huge. You won’t realize it’s so many people until you are there. It’s crazy.
The 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. On normal years its over 400,000 people packed into 13 city blocks for 7 hours. It’s insane. -Ly great.
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.
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: 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.
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.
No Facebook page for the event yet but just about anything else you’d like to know at folsomstreetevents.org.
Some of our friends absolutely love the fair and stay all day and have a great time.
Real Bad XXXII at 1015 Folsom, produced by Grass Roots Gay Rights Foundation, DJs not confirmed
This is the ticket to get and you probably won’t be able to get it. Though California is opening “everything” up on the 15th so that should mean venue capacities will return to normal.
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 32st 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 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, 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 .
There will be one DJ on the main floor for the entire night taking you from evening into the night and to dawn with a second DJ in the Undeground – the basement – spinning a more relaxed sound. 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 one 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).
Real Bad is also our yearly check-in with everyone and where they are in their lives. People have seen Ron and go from two wide-eyed young bucks from Chicago to two inked pierced bearded married muscle dads 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, 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’ll probably be broken apart. Sorry, think positive!
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 host 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.” 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.
Currently they are being sticklers with only selling as many tickets as the venue will permit, especially with the city forcing venus to have reduced capacity. Tickets are going to be very hard to get. Hopefully by the end of September, things have relaxed and city lets venues go to full capacitiy and more tickets can be sold. Update June 9th: Governor Newsom says California is opening up completely on June 15th and Mayor Breed has said San Francsico is going to adopt the same policies as the state. So that’s a good sign!
There was a Facebook group for people to say they were looking for tickets but it descended into bitchery and thirst traps. Holes pics won’t get you Real Bad tix.
Crying and complaining that the host/ticket process isn’t fair on Facebook just makes you look like an entitled prick and honestly that’s the exact opposite type of person we want at the party. So show some fucking respect for the history and integrity of the event.
I usually say that 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. But if the venue capacity doesn’t increaes, that might not be the case.
Make sure eveyrone around them 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, he bought the 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.
No event page yet but updates on their website RealBad.org.
If I couldn’t get into Real Bad, I’d probably sleep in or hang out or hookup or whatevz until Nocturnal afterhours started (below).
Monday, September 39th
Nocturnal Extreme Afterhours at Halcyon, produced by Ky Martinez with DJ Paulo
This event is unconfirmed.
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, starting back up soon) to building their reputation with larger more sophisticated events like Imagina and Heaven. 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 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. My husband Ron and I will be among your gracious persuadable hosts ensuring you continue to make questionable life choices well into Monday morning.
We usually come home from Real Bad, rinsed off, re-geared and walked 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 hasn’t happened. DJ Paulo playing this type of groove that makes you want to move. 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.
Halcyon (formerly the old Beatbox space) is one of only three clubs in the world to feature the Dobly Atmos immersive sound system. Halcyon regularly ranks among the top clubs in the country and is noted for its all-women management and we’re very happy they welcome 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.
Fun fact: Ky is one of the few producers that refunded tickets after the pandemic cancelled everything – but told the venues and DJs to keep their deposits. I’ll always respect that. Most others collected interest for a year and rolled it over. Or downgraded the venue but kept the money.
And then on Monday afternoon everybody hits the bars and switches to alcohol and calls it “recovery.”
Folsom Recovery at Lookout
This event is unconfirmed.
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 bw 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. 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 a noisy hall with a nightly brawl 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.
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). Badlands closed thankfully.
Recommended bars in SOMA: Powerhouse and The Eagle of course. Lots of guys we know also enjoy El Rio, Lone Star Saloon, and Oasis. After 54 years, The Stud closed.
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. Especially after this past year.
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 with them.
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 holy days, 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/gum, 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 you 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 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.
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?”
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. 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 year.
The race politics of the gay dance floor can be pretty shitty (no, it’s not just a preference and don’t tell a person of color it’s all in how they carry themselves) 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/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.
Take all that race preference shit off your profile. It’s disgusting and shit manners. Our gay black and brown brethren move in a world that makes sure they remember they are “other” every day. They don’t need that when they are in a gay space. And if you are “into” a certain race or color of guys, don’t say it out loud, just go talk to the guy.
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. 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.
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. Know your mLs and timing.
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. And your dick for most people. And make your bowels move.
If your weekend is summed up with, “I G’ed out! Then I G’ed right back in again! Then omg this guy fucked me so hard, I woke up!” might be time to level set.
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 and friendships to sustain 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 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 ODs). 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.
We were at Big Muscle for Dore and I saw a big tattooed guy in a harness, visibly troubled, holding his drink, stopped on the stairs. I asked if he was okay. He said, “I don’t know… I’m feeling sort of depressed.” I said, “Okay, do you need to go outside and get some air or anything? I can go with you.” He thought a bit and then said, “No… no, I’ll be okay,” and he walked down and away. Later on at another party he saw me and said, “Hey, thanks for checking on me earlier. I was having some sort of moment. I’m better now.”
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.
Get off your goddamn phone
A friend at Dore last year 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 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 full charged up in your European Carryall or backpack.
Be where you are
People talk to about the old days and they say they want 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.
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.
But in SF it’s 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.
“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. But sometimes yellow is a signal and other times 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 really an insult
And if you think it is, you’re probably 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. Can we dispense with the 1950s gender roles?
Everyone secretly hates your fan clacking
Is it coming back after the ‘Rona? 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 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 $100 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.
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.
Just assume clothes check will be a disaster everywhere
Coat/clothes check will probably move at a glacial pace no matter where you go especially as the clubs fill up. 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 for the walk/car to the club and the dance floor (shirt/tank 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. 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.
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 this high-volume-hookup sex-as-a-hobby culture.
Get the HPV vaccine if you can. They’ve raised the age window.
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.
U = U. You should already know that undetectable is untransmittable, meaning an HIV+ person on meds whose viral load is undetectable carries virtually zero risk of transmission.
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 (still don’t agree with the stomping). Pack the shower shot (or buy one at one of the sex stores, we all know the bulb sucks) and don’t forget the wrench (which TSA may take if it is in your carry on). 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. 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 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.
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 getting into your blood stream.
“I’m too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too young, too old to go…”
Now that I’m 46 my sister says I’m officially 50. 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 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 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.
“All these goddamn events are sold out!”
You waited too long. And some of these events sold out last year and producers rolled the tickets over to 2021. 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 that they have a ticket available. As the weekend approaches, 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. And don’t scalp, that’s some hetero asshole bullshit, right there.
Be wary of third-party ticket sales from questionable sources.
A few people have been burned by scammers that will post on the event pages that they have 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. Don’t get scammed!
“OMG, Folsom is not just about the parties!”
You’re right. But this is a party guide. So fuck off.
Always do a ticket inventory the week before
Some of your tickets might be in EventBrite or from the producer’s website or even from the venues. 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 party but not the Dore one, Ron’s going to kill me…” panic attack. Some of these parties and producers do events for both weekends, 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 in the office 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 ma via Instagram or Facebook Messenger.
Where to visit while you’re in town
We’ve 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 fantastic.
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 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.
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 if you’re in your/someone’s hotel room and you need a cube of cheese. Our usuallly places are iThai, Tara Indian Cuisine, Bamboo (Chinese), and Tanglad (Vietnamese, with location in Castro).
And if you need poppers and lube, there’s several sex stores and smoke shops in the Castro. 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
Much has been lost. (Again)
We have a couple friends who have passed from COVID and a several friends who have lost family members. A few recovered but have probably lifetime side effects. Many countries are not out of the woods yet by a long shot.
I remember the Prime party from March 2020. You just knew. This is our last time to dance for a very long time. Even back then, guys weren’t dancing as close to each other and there was less fraternizing. San Francisco entered the longest strictest shutdown in the US. Most states and cities soon followed. Others kept things running and hid their numbers or simply ignored the death toll. An entire civilizaiton was on pause.
A few virtual events tried to keep folks buoyant and raise funds for bars and staff, but that petered out eventuallly. Some never stopped the party and went undeground to private house parties or left the country to party. Constant social media swarms were arguing about accountability vs shaming (vs Hey do what-the-fuck-ever but maybe don’t fucking post about it).
But now we get to dance again. Have a beautiful man in our arms. Feel his beard against yours. Feel the bass rattling your ribcage.
Or 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 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. Look for the complimentary Polynesian sleeve tattoos (reference photo above, we have nipple piercings now FYI) 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/RPB’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 strea , 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 (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