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Like Pandora for Dancing: Eight Bay Area Dance Parties for Music Lovers of All Tastes

The best places to be a Missy lover, bhangra banger, or B-Side Bruja.


This is one of many stories from San Francisco's February 2018 Bars & Nightlife issue. Check them all out here.


A party dedicated to R&B and rap from the late ’90s and early aughts is a cathartic exercise in sentimentality. So, So Anxious is hosted by DJs Gold Gills and Brigidope, whose set lists revel in Aaliyah and Busta Rhymes—a brigade of bangers from that bygone era. When was the last time you danced to Missy’s “Hot Boyz” in the club? Here’s to nostalgia that’ll hype you up, not leave you blue. Every third Friday, Starline Social Club, 2236 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (near W. Grand Ave.), Oakland. 

Club Chai is a borderless ode to international dance music. Founding DJs 8ULENTINA and foozool connected over their shared experiences as members of the Middle Eastern diaspora and started hosting parties centered on non-Western electronic dance music. Expect underground hits and rare remixes from all corners of the globe. Chances are, you won’t have heard of half of the artists on the play list. And that’s OK. About every other month, various Oakland and San Francisco venues. 

For newcomers, Non Stop Bhangra is an infectiously catchy introduction to modern bhangra music, which weaves Western instrumentation into Punjabi folk songs to create compulsively danceable, genre-crossing remixes. Don’t know if you have what it takes to get down to a dhol drumbeat? No need to worry: The party features lessons for the uninitiated, as well as savvy DJs who know when you need a break. About once a month, Public Works, 161 Erie St. (near Mission St.).

Bachata artists like Romeo Santos and Prince Royce are fast becoming household names stateside, which helps explain the success of Hue SF’s Hot Bachata Nights, which spotlights this seductive partnered dance from the Dominican Republic. The party is both a learning space and a two-floor dance extravaganza. While the bachata is a mainstay on one floor, the second alternates between salsa and kizomba, a sultry, slower-paced dance with Angolan origins. Once a month, 447 Broadway (near Kearny St.).

The all-girl, all-vinyl crew B-Side Brujas have been carting their crates around since last March. Self-described “witches on wax,” the Brujas play funk and soul from almost every continent—from the silky grooves of San Francisco’s own ’70s soul legend Darondo to funky singles from Brazilian singer Evinha. Dance your stresses out to rare gems from lesser-known artists and B-side cuts from those you already love. Almost every weekend, various Oakland and San Francisco venues. 

When the night calls for an unhurried pace and a dulcet melody, head to Oakland’s Golden Bull for Suavecito Souldies. DJs Rene Lopez and Cameron Thompson set the mood with soul and lowrider oldies. Think Mary Wells’s inimitable crooning, or the Jackson 5 cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You.” As it turns out, cruising to these ’60s Motown legends on the dance floor can be just as smooth as singing along from behind the wheel. Every first Friday, 412 14th St. (near Franklin St.), Oakland.

When a line of sharply dressed folks in pops of red and yellow slinks down San Pablo Avenue, it’s safe to assume that the New Parish is hosting Reggae Gold. Playing the latest dancehall and soca riddims alongside reggae throwbacks, it’s the kind of party where the DJ shares the stage with eager dancers, and showing off is encouraged. For Caribbean rhythms, it’s the next best thing to hopping on a flight to the West Indies. Every second Saturday, 1743 San Pablo Ave. (near 18th St.), Oakland.

Created in 2012 to provide a community for queer people of color in San Francisco, Swagger Like Us has grown into an institution. Besides showcasing local performers, founders Kelly Lovemonster and davOmakesbeats now book prominent national rap acts such as Trina and BbyMutha. It’s a dance party, but also a fashionable, high-energy gathering spot where otherwise marginalized people can come as they are—and dance until they’re bone tired. Once or twice a month, various venues in Berkeley and San Francisco.


Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco

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