This Sunday (SUNDAY, SUNDAY) you get to experience incredible robot bartenders serving you drinks, lovingly crafted with MAD SCIENCE by the finest competitors in the art of robotics and bartending.
You probably won't get wet. Probably.
Or disassembled. Probably.
I know I've posted about this a couple times already but that's because I legitimately love it so, and if you are reading this blog at all, I really think you will enjoy it as well.
We got a nice write-up in Make:
Each year the contestants are full of innovation and creativity. Past entrants who are returning include TikiTron by Dr. Bombay, which mixes eight cocktails from 12 ingredients and delivers them via glasses hidden deep in an active model volcano.
Another elegant robotic creation is the Tea Engine by Catherine, which serves tea from an antique 1920s coffee percolator that is ordered via rotary dial and served in fine China. There is an Arduino Uno in the rotary that reads the pulse dial for one of four options: plain tea, tea with peach schnapps, tea with ginger liquor, and tea with peach and ginger.
Prior to this! Can I interest you in Hubba Hubba Revue's Warrior Women show this Friday? The show opener will be a reprise of Dr. Kingfish and Ariyana La Fey doing their aerial re-enactment of the "Kill da Wabbit" bit from "What's Opera Doc". If you haven't seen this... you should see this.
And tomorrow being Friday the Thirteenth of July... it is the seventeenth anniversary of the re-opening of DNA Lounge on Friday the Thirteenth of July, 2001.
Seventeen years, WTF.
In other news, we finally sold our broke-ass La Marzocco espresso machine and bought a new one -- this time, an Izzo Alex Duetto IV. So that means you can get a delicious espresso now, right? Ha ha ha no. It's broken already. We can't have nice things.
Oh yeah, also we can't find our coffee grinders! We had two! They were like two feet tall and weighed a ton. I don't think we could have successfully thrown those away even if we tried -- our cleaning crew would have refused to take them. Which means someone must have put them "somewhere safe" that we have not yet located.
Anyway, come to some shows, k?
Always open with a joke, especially if it's a poop joke:
A guy walks into a bar and starts chatting with the manager. Suddenly the manager gets a radio call and says, "I gotta go, someone's poopin' on the sidewalk".
One of our regular local homeless crazies had gotten his hands on a framed painting of some kind. After running around in the street and harassing people for a while, he set the painting down in the middle of the street, took off his pants and squatted over it while cars honked and maneuvered around him. He could not be dissuated from this course of action -- everyone's a critic. Eventually, he completed the act.
After some time the cops showed up, and they said, "What do you call that?"
(Pause for applause.)
A little while ago, Barry and I happened to look at one of our calendar listings from a month in the early 'aughts, and we were struck by how few days we were open. For those first several years, we were open on average about 3 nights a week. It was pretty much every Saturday and most (but not all) Thursdays and Fridays, and a smattering of mid-week events. These days, we average 8 or 9 events per week, counting both rooms. We looked at that old calendar and said, "How the hell were we able to stay open??" Well, the answer is, we were losing money even back then. But not nearly as much as today! And we're also doing so much more business now -- and yet we're losing even more. How's that possible?
It's not just a "lose money on every sale but make it up in volume" situation. It's much simpler (and more annoying) than that.
Math time! Vague and highly approximate math!
Since those early years, our rent has gone up by around 2.5× and our insurance has gone up by around 4×. (That's counting only the main club side, and totally ignoring the rent due to DNA Pizza and Above DNA.) Minimum wage has gone from $9 to $15, plus now we have to cover medical benefits for all of our employees which we didn't before (which makes for an effective current minimum wage of more like $16.90).
Meanwhile, ticket prices have stayed pretty much exactly the same. Seventeen years later, people still expect small live shows to cost $8 to $12, and large live shows to be $15 to $18, or maybe $20 for a show that's going to sell out early. Big dance parties remain in the $12 to $20 range. People just won't pay more. Drink prices also have not kept pace with expenses, or even with inflation: I think our prices have only gone up by a couple bucks since then. A drink that cost $7 in 2001 still only costs $9 today.
Over that period, compounded inflation comes to 42%. That means that what you can buy for $1 today, you could get for 70¢ in 2001. If you were paying exactly the same price for it, that $18 ticket in 2001 should cost you almost $26 today.
In other words, the real cost of a drink or a concert ticket has actually gone down. Today's drink prices are 10% cheaper, and today's concert prices are 30% cheaper. What a bargain.
So we've tripled the number of events we do; and we now often do 18+ and all ages shows, which greatly increases the number of potential customers; and yet we're hemorrhaging even harder than before.
That's what happens when your cost of doing business increases by 3× or 4× but your income stays stable or decreases, even while you're moving 3× as much product! You have to run so, so much faster just to stand still.
By the way, just to fend off the Libertarians: I am completely in favor of everyone having healthcare. I think it should be considered a basic human right. But it sure would be nice if I didn't have to pay for the whole thing myself. Like, if we could maybe tax a billionaire or two?
Likewise, I'm in favor of people being paid a living wage for their work, but it's not like we have the option of saying, "Welp, our rent is crazypants, so now our cocktails are $25 and our weekend dance parties are $45. Hey wait, where are you going?" So the always-correct Invisible Hand of the Free Market is telling us, "Your product is not economical, therefore night clubs should not exist".
Or should be loss leaders for vertically-integrated multinational artist management cartels.
Everything is terrible, is what I'm saying. Join our Patreon.
Straws. Apparently they're the new Devil in town.
You may have noticed around town that straws in your drink are harder to come by lately. This is because we've all been hearing rumors for about a year now that some time soon a local ordinance is going to require plastic straws to be "by request only", so we've been giving that a try here at DNA for a little while now. Most people seem not to notice or care, so we're going through fewer straws. So that's fine.
Oakland recently went opt-in but it looks like the proposed SF ordinance is going to try to ban plastic straws entirely. And there's another proposed ordinance (or maybe it's the same one, I'm not sure) that would ban the use of all "single-use food service ware" (plates, cups, forks) on city property (which means every outdoor festival or street fair).
Some other SF bars and restaurants have already switched to paper straws, but mostly people hate those, because they get soggy and fail, you can't fuss with them at all without breaking them, and sometimes they feel like licking a popsicle stick (shudder).
Oh yeah, and they're way more expensive than the plastic ones. So there's that. Straws are a small part of the cost of each cocktail, but every little increase... sucks. A little while ago there was an article where someone from a local bar claimed that they were saving a bunch of money on their Recology bill because of diversion discounts due to paper straws, which sounded impossible to me. So I followed up on that, and yeah, they were very mistaken. So if you hear stories of how much more economical paper straws are, don't believe them.
And of course there's a paper straw shortage already, due to the sudden up-tick in demand. I just hope that by the time we're required to switch, the economies of scale will have driven the prices down. But more likely it's just going to be another instance of, "Great news, everybody! Your business just got more expensive to run!"
And this is all nonsense, anyway:
Plastic Straws Aren't the Problem: Skipping straws may be hip. But there are much better ways to fight pollution.
Two Australian scientists estimate that there are up to 8.3 billion plastic straws scattered on global coastlines. Yet even if all those straws were suddenly washed into the sea, they'd account for about .03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year. [...]
Using surface samples and aerial surveys, the group determined that at least 46 percent of the plastic in the garbage patch by weight comes from a single product: fishing nets. Other fishing gear makes up a good chunk of the rest.
The impact of this junk goes well beyond pollution. Ghost gear, as it's sometimes called, goes on fishing long after it's been abandoned, to the great detriment of marine habitats. In 2013, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science estimated that lost and abandoned crab pots take in 1.25 million blue crabs each year.
But something must be done, and this is something, so we must do it. I guess.
It seems to me that recycling at the individual or small-business level is nothing but a placebo. Only the massive industrial scale matters. The ecological damage done by BP's Deepwater Horizon in a minute totally erased all of the trash-sorting you did in your entire life. Even discounting the fact that almost all of your "recycling" used to be made to magically disappear by shipping it to China -- but they've stopped taking it. So these days much of it goes straight into a domestic landfill anyway.
Using different straws or sorting your trash isn't going to save us from extinction. Our only hope is the immediate dismantling of the fossil fuel industry, plus planetary-scale carbon sequestration projects.
But that's hard, so let's ban straws instead, because that will make us feel like we're making a difference.
Our fifth annual Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge is coming up on Sunday, July 15, which is about three weeks from now!
As you know, Bob, this is the event where people build robots that pour cocktails, hopefully in the most ridiculous way possible, and then you drink them. Sometimes the cocktails are good, and sometimes you get wet, but it's always fun to watch.
Unlike previous years, we've already got quite a few robot contestants! But we could always use more, so please pass the word along to your mechanically-inclined friends. (Or your drinkingly-inclined friends.)
This year, by request, we're also doing something new: if you want to bring your robot project just to show it off without actually entering the contest, then admission is free. So if your bar-bot isn't quite finished, or isn't really a bar-bot at all, sign up anyway! The more the merrier.
Hey, here's something glorious: using absurdly moralistic, anachronistic liquor laws as a force of Good! It won't do anything, of course, but as a piece of performance art, I give it an A+.
Trump Lacks Character for His Hotel to Keep Its Liquor License:
The Trump International Hotel in Washington shouldn't be allowed to serve alcohol because the hotel's ultimate owner, President Donald Trump, isn't of "good character," a group of religious leaders and former judges said in a complaint.
The group asked Washington's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to investigate Trump and ultimately revoke his namesake hotel's license to serve liquor. [...] The complainants say that the allegations and evidence demonstrates that Trump fails to meet the beverage board's requirement that only people of "good character" qualify for the right to sell alcohol in Washington.
Some photos from recent events:
SF Weekly's Best of SF is out, and once again, DNA Lounge was voted "Best Dance Club"! Hooray! Go team!
Also of note, "Best New Club" went to Hotline, last here on March 30. That award is a little awkward, because while we had been doing it quarterly-ish, there's not currently another Hotline event coming up any time soon... schedules are conspiring against us for a while. Maybe later in the year?
I always wonder how snide I'm allowed to be when talking about a popularity contest that we won, but let me just say that my big takeaway from the "Editor's Picks" this year is that we now live in a city where you can go somewhere and pay a "Bong Steward" to wipe off your bong for you. So that's where we are now. As a society.
So here's something funny that has happened twice now, by which I mean not funny at all. We have a urinal in one of the restrooms in the club that is feeling less than fresh. Twice now, a plumber has walked into the pizza place, and asked "Where's the bathroom?" They quite sensibly point random-dude at the restaurant's bathroom, where he proceeds to "fix" the non-broken urinal in there. If our plumbers would tell us the time, or even the day, that they are planning to show up we could do a better job of intercepting them with someone who actually knew what's going on, but ha ha ha ha that's just not how plumbing is done, Son.
"The DNA Lounge Story: Mostly Plumbers and Permits."
Tomorrow night: May The Fourth Be With You! Star Wars costume contest! Go-go dancers! Galactic raving! Sarlacc the Magnificent and the Execution of the Prisoners!
There was a time, and that time was neither long ago nor far, far away, when being a San Franciscan meant that you had a closet, and you also had a costume closet. At least once a month there was some costume-themed event; one had to be prepared. This was a town that knew how to dress up, and did so frequently and with vigor.
Less so these days. Our recent attempts at costume-themed events aimed at our traditional Death Guild / Hubba demographic have been received with, let's say, insufficient enthusiasm to make them viable. So this time we decided to get some real headliner DJs and make it a legitimate dance party instead. There's one community in town who are still wildly enthusiastic about dressing up for their night of clubbing, and that's the ravers.
I think it was Yoda who said, "I believe the children are our future."
Case in point: a couple weeks ago we had a Peelander-Z show that we booked at kind-of the last minute. We already had a four room So Stoked party booked that night, so we were going to do Peelander-Z as an early show... but then we thought, what the hell, let's just combine the two. So a weird Japanese cartoon punk band (and Chaki the Funk Wizard, who is hard to describe using any other words than those) were the opening acts at a candy rave... And it worked! In addition to the people who obviously came for Peelander-Z, there were a lot of ravers in the audience who had looks on their faces like, "I have no idea what I am seeing right now, but I'm definitely sticking around."
They say that the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.
So what I'm getting at is if you're a tired old goth who's thinking, "Meh, a Star Wars party sounds fun, but meh, meh, they probably aren't going to play any music that I already know, meh"... you're right! But you should give it a try! You can stand around at a dance party ignoring music that you don't know, instead of standing around at a dance party ignoring music that you were tired of by your sophomore year in college!
Speaking of the Olden Times, tickets are selling briskly for Killing Joke, and rightly so: they are a fantastic live band! Get yours before it sells out.
But you know what? If every goth band who has hit us up asking to open for Killing Joke had bought four tickets instead, the show would have sold out the day it went on sale... If only all of these bands showed similar enthusiasm for the remaining tatters of our local live music scene...
Further speaking of the Olden Times, here's a nice profile on Steve Koepke, keeper of "The List". I remember pouring over paper copies of that, back in the Late Cretaceous. And then in like... 1994? I vaguely recall that I wrote some code to download it once a week and cross-reference it with my music collection to give me an alert when I band I like was coming to town. It was a couple hundred lines of Emacs-Lisp. Since then, there have been a dozen failed startups that didn't accomplish much more. Good times.
Photos of recent events! And a few less-recent ones that I finally found galleries of.
The SF Weekly Best of SF poll is up again, so vote for us, won't you?
Relevant categories include: Best Dance Party, Best Dance Club, Best Live Theatre (Hubba Hubba Revue or Mortified), Best Live Music Venue, Best Late Nite Bite and Best Pizza.
A few weeks ago I posted about how bummed I was that Golden Voice is taking over the booking of Slim's and Great American Music Hall. I included some research on the corporate ownership structures of most of the clubs in town. A lot of people, even people in the industry, were unaware of the extent of that.
I'm told that some industry people got pissed off about that post. I'm not entirely sure why: "Fun fact, your business is owned by an eight billion dollar multinational corporation." "How dare you, Sir!"
Anyway, the East Bay Express recently published a great, long article on the situation: Will Corporations Ruin Live Music in the Bay Area?
I guess I'm mostly posting this to say, "See? I'm not making this up! Other people are sounding the same alarm!"
Here are some excerpts:
In December, [Anthony Bedard, a booker at Slim's and GAMH] learned that both venues, among the city's most celebrated independent concert halls, were partnering with entertainment giant Goldenvoice.
"Within a couple weeks, there wasn't really anything left for me to do," he recalled. "I thought maybe they'd keep me around to handle the local bills or something, but no." [...]
He was also dismayed, as a musician and concertgoer, to see the venues' longtime independence compromised by a partnership with Goldenvoice, an out-of-town subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group, a multibillion-dollar company owned by a prominent right-wing philanthropist. "I'm bummed because it's them, those guys -- Goldenvoice," he said. "I wanted to keep working for independent venues." [...]
When Dawn Holliday helped Boz Scaggs launch Slim's in 1988, Goldenvoice and Live Nation were hardly present in San Francisco, and Another Planet didn't exist. Clubs such as Slim's and Bottom of the Hill, like the Hemlock more recently, were tour destinations as much as they were local haunts -- a combination at the core of a healthy music scene. "They're small businesses, so as a talent buyer, it's like you're spending your employees' money, money you all made that week, and you're facing the ticket buyer yourself," she explained. "We were always independent -- Slim's and Great American. So, I've thought about this a lot -- the Goldenvoice partnership -- and it's a great source of a sadness for me." [...]
The corporate buyers, as Smith from the UC Theatre pointed out, often overbid for artists because it establishes history with emerging acts in the hopes that, next time, they'll draw larger crowds at a bigger venue controlled by the same company. "They'll outbid someone by $5,000 on the same ticket price and the same room size and just eat it in order to establish their mark," he said, adding that it's also about depriving smaller competitors of high-yielding shows. "So, the big boys have a corporate war chest that locks independents out of the market. We can't spread our expenses across 300 venues and lose money on normally profitable shows just to edge out competitors." [...]
Package tours, wherein an artist plays only venues operated by Goldenvoice or Live Nation, undermine the expertise of local promoters; that's how an artist with little San Francisco draw ends up in a too-big venue, without a well-chosen slate of local support. "So, what happens now is the agencies can push the mid-level acts that suck," said Holliday. "There goes the variety. Here's the same bill in every town." [...]
Bedard said that Goldenvoice's agreement with Slim's and GAMH is for more than 200 shows a year at each venue.
[Danny Bell, a Goldenvoice talent-buyer] declined to comment on the details. But he said little to assuage concerns that the company won't continue Bedard's curatorial vision, or that it'll neglect local music. "SF is a great music town. With any strong local music scene, there's a lot of great local acts," Bell said. "Is it a priority? It's tough to say. I think it just naturally happens. I know that we came on up here with one goal -- to do cool shit."
That last paragraph is particularly telling. Here's how I read it: The question put to the Goldenvoice rep is, "Now that you control the music industry in this town, what are you going to do to preserve the music culture that was here before you bought your way in?" And their answer is, "Hey, that's your problem, not ours."
It's the Gordon Gecko model of concert promotion: if at any moment, a thing is worth more money by cutting it up and selling it off for parts, do that. Then move on to raze the next thing.
And in news from the other coast, here's a pleasant little update on New York City's ongoing War on Fun:
Cut the Music: Inside M.A.R.C.H. -- NYPD's secret, venue-closing task force:
First came the police officers, who then led everyone else: reps from the Fire Department, Health Department, State Liquor Authority, and Department of Buildings, all at once. The group of officers stopped the show, made everyone leave, and proceeded to inspect the place, ultimately issuing a number of citations and fines.
These types of coordinated, multi-agency raids have become a thing of lore around New York's underground music worlds over the past few years. They are the scheme of an NYPD-led task force called M.A.R.C.H., which stands for Multi-Agency Responses to Community Hotspots. An operation that swarms and shutters venues during peak weekend hours, it has been described as unpredictable and SWAT-like, employing a mystified style of enforcement that keeps venues and business owners living in perpetual fear. The violations and fines are often numerous, and they come all at once, meaning the raids are often deployed as a tool for swiftly closing bars and venues. And as some venue owners report, D.I.Y. music spaces comprise only a portion of businesses affected by these operations. [...]
"No one knows how you end up on their list," says John Barclay, owner of Bossa Nova Civic Club and member of Dance Liberation Network. "They send everyone at the same time, at peak hours, and they write you up for every single thing under the sun." Barclay's club has been raided by M.A.R.C.H. a couple of times. "They take a flashlight, they go through all your bottles, potentially look through your office. We don't know why they showed up. They won't tell you. They just show up, they're super mean, they write a bunch of tickets, and they leave and go to the next one." [...]
"If the problem is noise complaints, why are they sending the health department to write you up for the way you are cutting limes?" says Barclay. [...] If you apply that to civilian life, let's say you have a number of parking tickets, I shouldn't send social services to see if you're treating your kids right."
So that's all horrible. But, knock on wood, it's been quite a while since I've heard horror stories like that here in San Francisco.
Oh hey, apropos of nothing, Watain part ways with guitarist after nazi salute photo surfaces. "Can't you take a joke?" defense deployed.
Also, here are the latest batch of photos from recent events:
A lot of our staff are also DJs, but now even our pizza boxes are getting in on the action. This is a kit that uses conductive paint to turn anything into a touch-sensitive MIDI controller, in this case, a DNA Pizza box!
Try one with sun-dried tomato, olive and air-horn.
I kicked a support band off of a bill because I learned that they are virulent misogynists. Then the headliner, who claim to definitely not be Nazis, cancelled the whole show.
You are probably aware that we do a lot of metal shows here.
That's not because I'm some big metal fan. Actually I don't give a shit about metal. We don't book everything based on my personal tastes. We do a lot of metal here because we do a lot of all kinds of music here. Our mission is to provide an outlet for a wide variety of music and art. We'll book pretty much anything, so long as we think it won't be a security problem, a legal problem, or lose us a bunch of money.
But you know what? We chose not to do business with misogynists, racists, homophobes and Nazis.
Not on purpose, anyway. Sure, some things have slipped through -- for example, Combichrist played here several times before I became aware of how vile they are -- but one does what one can.
With the world going to shit, I think it's more important than ever to make ethical decisions before financial ones.
So we had booked this band Watain, and they were bringing this other band Destroyer666 on tour with them. I don't know anything about these bands; don't care to, not my thing. But in January, someone pointed out to me that someone from Destroyer666 was quoted as saying, "Those #metoo cunts just need a hard cock".
Well, that's not someone I choose to do business with.
So I told my team, "Destroyer666 is not playing on my stage. If you can get them off the bill great; if not, cancel the whole show."
Well, the agent representing the headliner represents some other bands that we do care about, so my team took their time trying to work it out with him. The agent dragged his feet on it for months (and why wouldn't he? He chose to represent these people, his job is to get them gigs, and maybe if he ignores the problem it will go away.)
Well, the problem didn't go away, so we removed them from the bill in mid-February. I said, "We need to tell people about this", but my team were worried about antagonizing the agent and kept telling me "Uh, just give me a few more days", and of course nothing happened. So, that was a mistake.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago people finally noticed that they were not on the bill.
According to many, many comments aimed at me on Facebook and Twitter, the fact that I chose not to do business with a band over their rapey, abusive rhetoric makes me a "pussy" and a "faggot".
Let me be very clear about this:
If that's you -- fuck off.
If you passively tolerate that in your community -- you're part of the problem.
So among the shouts of "pussy" and "faggot" and "censorship" and "cuck" and all the "what-about"-ism, one of the funnier comments was one that said, basically, "Metalheads are just chill people who want to see a show with no politics, why are you picking on us?"
Yes, metalheads are a simple, gentle folk who merely want to enjoy their growled sexist and racist diatribes in peace!
Part of the problem.
And I'll bet the dudes who say things like "SJWs are ruining metal" are at the same time wondering why there aren't more "chicks" at their shows. Hmmmm, could there be a connection?
Also, pro tip, if someone accuses you of saying something virulently misogynistic and your denial includes the phrase "PC hysteria" -- dude, now everybody is sure that you said it.
Then it gets better: after this all started blowing up, people pointed out to me that Watain have been ducking accusations of being Nazis for a decade.
How about that.
Maybe they are, maybe they aren't, but do you know who has never been accused of being a Nazi? Literally everyone I know.
It's actually really, really easy to avoid being accused of being a Nazi. First, don't be a Nazi! Second, don't be Nazi-adjacent! Don't be that guy who says shit like, "Oh, they're not Nazis, they're just fascinated with the Third Reich", or, "They're not Nazis, they just believe in blood purity", or, "They're not Nazis, they just hate immigrants", or, "They're not Nazis, the just don't like how the Jews control the banks."
Or the best -- the best rebuttal -- "What, can't you take a joke?"
Or -- Watain's own rebuttal -- "Metal doesn't have anything to do with the world like you know it."
Anyway, we had been planning to go forward with the Watain show (minus Destroyer666) anyway because by the time all this bullshit came to a head, it was too late to back out of our contract without it costing us a lot of money and (more to the point) them getting paid anyway. But then at the last minute Watain decided to cancel the show.
Problem solved, I guess, and lessons learned: I guarantee you that my team will be googling things like "bandname nazi" more often in the future than they have been so far.
I understand that Watain and Destroyer666 will now be playing at Social Hall SF. Tickets purchased for the DNA show will be honored there. (Update: Social Hall SF decided that they didn't want it either. The show has now been cancelled and all tickets are being refunded.)
So, it's not cheap, having ethics.
If you would like to support a venue that chooses not to do business with misogynists and fascists, please consider contributing to our Patreon.