“Mindfondling spectacular night” – The Klown
Across the street the sign advertises triple-x videos. We pass several people hanging out on the sidewalk like they have nowhere to go. Some of them don’t. This is 6th and Mission in San Francisco. A lone palm tree opposes the never-ending concrete. The plain building disguises the turn-of-the-century bar, jazz musicians and the lively party downstairs. Once inside, you are transported to a time when jazz was hot.
The bartenders are friendly and unpretentious–a rare thing in San Francisco. The upstairs bar has a wide selection for every taste.
Just behind the upstairs bar is a room with an ancient typewriter on a desk and some plush, red antique love seats. Somewhere a Southern mansion is missing its lounge.
The stairs down are well hidden, intentionally, but not for the reason you might think. As you get close to the stairs, you would expect the sound emanate from the basement preventing everyone upstairs from enjoying their conversation. Welcome to Monarch.
Colorful glass lamps alight the modern concrete bar downstairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, standing no more than ten feet from the speakers, the door girl doesn’t need to raise her voice to talk with the people in line. Descending the stairs, futuristic decor, present-day and swing meet. Step inside, and you can have a conversation right in front of the speakers without yelling. Yet the music completely fills the space. The speakers not only look like stylized bronze jet engines, but they are also part of one of the most expertly-tuned sound systems in San Francisco.
The five-foot tall bass speakers could easily double as a pacemaker. And, in spite of the fact that you are in a concrete basement, there’s not one stray echo or high-frequency reflection. If you like DJs, this is the place to hear them.
A video montage of black and white movies changes with the beat of the music behind the stage and DJ booth. Downstairs Cyril Noir is already pumping out music reminiscent of the 1940s swing era with a modern house beat twist.
The crowd tonight is the same eclectic mix that Delachaux and The Klown have been drawing since the first Trapeze in August 2012. Happy, fun-loving, outgoing, excited, excitable, friendly, and polite. Trapeze draws a diverse crowd. Almost everyone is dressed for the occasion–men and women. Some excellent vintage suits and dresses stand out, even among the more current speakeasy attire. Swing era. Hollywood glamour. Even Steampunk makes an appearance. Clowns abound, as with all the Trapeze parties. A few folks have even taken the circus theme and put their own personal spin on it. The music brings all types of people into one room. The costumes alone are worth the cover. But don’t worry if you don’t have something fancy to wear, everyone is welcome at Trapeze.
One of the delightful and unexpected things you’ll see at Trapeze is partner swing dancing to this latest swing music revival. It is a little tougher when the DJs are playing music that sounds like typical club music with little swing (ElectroSwing). But all of them played some songs that keep the swing beat (BoomSwing) giving the swing dancers the chance to show off their skills.
Cyril Noir, who recently moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas, has been investigating the German side of ElectroSwing recently. It leans pretty heavily in the direction of house music. As Cyril Noir winds down the first DJ set of the night, bodies crowd the dance floor.
With the announcement of the first burlesque act, the crowd pushes towards the stage just a few feet from the DJ box. MC Emma Nation takes the stage with the first burlesque act balancing humor and summoning her inner dominatrix as master of ceremony.
Mojo Deville takes the stage. With her athleticism and style, she reminds you of Josephine Baker. The Double Dang Guo take the stage with an expertly choreographed tease. The two women–the blonde, Dixie Delish, the redhead, Roxy Reve–wear snappy red berets while dancing in time together. As Roxy mirrors her partner, Dixie, they bring the tongue-in-cheek humor of the old burlesque, spanking each other with French baguettes.
During Delachaux’s set the dance floor swarmed. Delachaux and The Klown and are ever-reliable for a good mix of BoomSwing and ElectroSwing. No one seems to be able to resist Dramophone by Caravan Palace recently. Maybe they’ve all seen the spectacular video for it, and got hooked.
It’s only eleven, and the club is full. Chenoa Fox takes the stage at around midnight with class and style evoking the flapper era with her black bobbed hair and flapper dress. In another era, the Kauai native might have been a Ziegfeld girl. A glimmer of her Tahitian dance experience shows in her burlesque act. Mz. K follows with her singing and dance act. Her voice fills the room and draws the audience in. If you didn’t rush to the stage when MC Emma Nation introduced the dancers, it was impossible to experience the power of the performances.
If the quality of the performers and Friday’s large crowd are any indication of the future of series of events, it won’t be long before Trapeze outgrows this unique space.
The caliber of the local talent who perform at Trapeze is difficult to duplicate. San Francisco should be proud. Having seen many Burlesque shows from intimate home parties and clubs in San Francisco to the Burlesque Hall Of Fame in Las Vegas, Mojo Deville, Mz.K, Chenoa Fox, Roxy Reve, and Dixie Delish are among the best. Mz.K’s resume, alone, is dizzying.
Following Mz. K’s act, the Klown’s set left little room for the swing dancers as dancers huddle closer on the dance floor. Shaki Bliss came from Los Angeles to spin at this month’s Trapeze. As with many of the others, Shakti Bliss’s set is sprinkled with a remix of her own. In her inimitable, charming style, she ends it with a classic swing song.
And we’re left anxiously anticipating the next Trapeze show–the only Bay Area ElectroSwing (and BoomSwing) party.