Welcome to Bear 2.0
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SUPER EGO "If you're snorting coke out of the hollow end of a Parliament filter, you just don't care anymore," quoth supervixen Beccalicious, standing outside Madrone Lounge, spattered by a light drizzle. But I did care I do care. The night's a mosaic of throbbing subbacultchas, and there're far too many amateur jibber-jabberers hopped up on Bolivian marching powder out there already, waxing the floor with their tongues. Shut up and dance, say I. There's spittle dripping from your numb mustache.
Thus concludes the soapbox moment portion of our broadcast. Anybody got a smoky bump?
I was heading to Basket, the monthly bear party at the Transfer. It was its last night there before moving to Eight in SoMa. The Transfer was suddenly sold three weeks ago under curious circumstances its future is still in doubt but Basket's promoters, Kuma SF, had already planned a move because the place was too darn small and hot for them. (Old bear joke: "How was the bear bar?" "It was packed! There must have been 10 guys there!") My experience bore that out. There were a lot more than 10 hirsute revelers in attendance, and I couldn't even squeeze in, let alone see in the windows were steamier than Eros with a pipe leak. But from all the rumbling of the sidewalk to the boom of techno-lite beats, I knew it was a jammin' jamboree.
What the heck happened to the bear community? Last time I looked and, being the desirable cub that I am, I did a lot of looking it was all flannel shirts, hairy backs, classic rock and country tunes, and an aversion to hip-hop and house that often bordered on racism. Bear with a capital "B" has been around for more than 15 years now once an important corrective to mainstream images of gay men in the '90s, it's still going strong. (This weekend's International Bear Rendezvous, hosted by Bears of SF, will flood the streets with yee-hawin' roly-polies.) But any movement that fronted a chubby Marlboro Man masculinity one composed, in reality, of screaming queens elated at the prospect of unselfconsciousness was bound to warp into parody.
"It all started out with a philosophy of inclusion," says Orme Dominique of Kuma, which is hosting a giant glamourama IBR after-party, Kavity. "But there was all this rejection of youth culture that second-generation bears found too restrictive. We wanted to dance and be really creative outside the flannel-and-boots thing. A lot of the older bears became the pigs in Animal Farm."
There's been some kicking against the C&W aesthetic for a while. Cute cub DJ Jew-C hosted a pumping bear-oriented house party at the Powerhouse in the early '00s, and hairy dreamboat DJ Jonathan's been swathing bars like 440 Castro (formerly Daddy's) with hard techno for what seems like forever. The disco-tinged, mess o' fun biweekly Planet Big at the Stud is almost two years old and is throwing two big parties during the IBR. And then there's Sweat, the giant bear monthly event from Gus Presents and Castro Bear (happening twice during the IBR), which many new bear promoters view as the standard their parties play against.
Kuma, which started out, according to Dominique, as the "Burning Man camp of Lazy Bear Weekend," now has several bear shindig-throwing chapters around the US. The success of its SF parties and the twice monthly, bass-heavy after-hours Bearracuda at Deco thrown by notorious drag queen Rentecca and her luscious bf, Rob, and also hosting an IBR after-party confirm the emergence of a new ursine outlook: bears don't need to be line dancers to hit the floor. Just make sure there're snacks.
Of course, with all the up-and-coming bear name DJs, shirtless stomping, and up-till-dawn antics, the new gen may be in danger of becoming the circuit queens their forebears railed against, but the promoters seem to be doing their best to prevent that by keeping in mind the prime reason for partying: wild fun. It's Bear 2.0, and I think I'm absolutely intrigued. *
INTERNATIONAL BEAR RENDEZVOUS
Fri/16, 9 p.m.4 a.m., $18 presale, $35 door
1015 Folsom, SF
Fri/16, 9 p.m.2 a.m.; Sun/17, 6 p.m.2 a.m.; $5
399 Ninth St., SF
First and third Sat., 9 p.m.3 a.m., $5
510 Larkin, SF