Buddha system

Taking in the zentastically huge, newish Temple nightclub
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Sen-Sei holds the key

superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO Gadzooks! I'm lunching with Sen-Sei at Prana, the nifty Thai resto attached to zentastic club Temple, Sen-Sei's hazel eyes reflecting the brilliant curlicues of my ginger-garlic prawns. No, I'm not assuming the lotus position. Not in these heels, Dharma.

Scenesters know Sen-Sei as the classically trained pianist who's been plugging his keys into mixers and tapping out sen-seitional "live house" since the early '90s. But his day job is Marketing Genius for Temple — or, more accurately, for Zen Compound, the new downtown Buddha-themed complex with more business arms than a wriggly Vishnu — and he's giving me the downward-dog scoop.

Besides luscious Prana, the compound houses a production studio for the Temple Music Group label, a soon-to-be-opened school for yoga, tai chi, and more (wait for it: "The Zenter"), and an Irrawaddy Delta's worth of antique Buddhist artifacts — srsly, it's like Raiders of the Lama Ark up in there. Plus, of course, the zenterpiece: Temple nightclub, a spiffy, vast space that includes the generous first-floor Shrine Room, and, beneath that, the blinding white Destiny Lounge and cozy Catacombs. The joint also admirably touts its commitment to sustainability — it'll be rocking a gonzo solar-paneled float at LoveFest on Oct. 4 — but much of the green's attached to grants and guidance from PG&E, so, environy.

Listen, huge clubs scare me. They do! You know that clubber nightmare where you're busting fierce moves to some comfy old-school funk — when suddenly you look up to find yourself on the floor of the Republican National Convention, surrounded by rickety 'nillas awkwardly "getting down"? Then you vomit fluorescent begonias? Gurl, I've been there — mostly at some megaclub megacatastrophe. When you have to fill a couple acre's worth of dance floor every night to break even, drink and cover prices usually soar while crowd quality plummets. B&T + LCD = nightlife tragedy.

Temple isn't that — Sen-Sei tags it as not a megaclub, but an, er, "ultraclub" — and although it can get crowded with far-Bay playa-wannabes puking on their knockoff Jimmy Choos, the stellar talent booked is often off-the-karma-chain, and there's always a core of dedicated dance fans near the speakers. This can lead to some real Siddharthan surrealness — like the night me and 20 others were losing our mandalas over breakbeat gods LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad in the Shrine, while below us 200 cologniacs ground out tired threeways to Jeezy in the Catacombs.

"We're trying to achieve a balance," Sen-Sei says, appropriately, "between staying afloat and still appealing to an open-minded crowd willing to be musically educated. But I swear to you, we'll never be Ruby Skye."

And I believe him. For one thing, the whole ball of bodhi-wax is owned by DJ Paul Hemming, a bass-heavy synth-techno nut who takes to the decks most Saturdays. For another, almost everyone I met on the business end of the club had already made legendary names for themselves as DJs or promoters — it was like the '90s all over again! The good part, not the black tar.

For a third, despite its slightly belabored Orientalism, Temple does follow an enlightened philosophy: "Fuck all that same-sounding superstar DJ Paul Van Dykenfold-Tiësto bullshit," Sen-Sei advised. "'Oh, look at me, I can beat-match in a stadium.' Big deal. We just want to bring back the love, build a dance floor family, and take it into the future. Is that so impossible now?"

TEMPLE

540 Howard, SF

www.templesf.com

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