DNA Lounge: A Hacker Friendly Event Space
DNA Lounge is an all ages event space, live music venue, dance club
and bar that has been owned and operated since 1999 by open source
Zawinski was one of the founders of
where he implemented the earliest Unix versions of
Netscape Navigator, then Netscape Mail, and later was one of the
architects of mozilla.org
as they shepherded Netscape's release of the browser as open source.
The impetus for opening DNA Lounge, back in 1999, was not only to
build a friendly, inclusive space for a wide variety of art and
entertainment, but also to push back against the wave of
gentrification taking over San Francisco. The financial pressures
brought by the exploding Bay Area tech industry threatened (and still
threatens!) to turn San Francisco into a mere bedroom community of
Mountain View. DNA Lounge is an attempt to counter that, to keep the
underground spirit of San Francisco alive by providing a home for the
artists and weirdos.
Because of his heavy involvement in the free software community
since the mid-80s, the free software and open source principles -- the
idea that sharing information is better than hoarding it, that
openness makes the world better for everybody -- have carried over
into how DNA Lounge is run.
Behind the Scenes
From the day that remodeling and construction began on DNA Lounge,
the behind-the-scenes blog has
documented in great detail the process of building and running the
business, and all its ups and downs, with a radical level of
transparency hardly ever seen before in the nightlife or music
industries. Over the years, many industry people, both old-timers and
those just starting out, have praised DNA Lounge for being so open and
informative about how things work, and helping them avoid pitfalls and
run their own business better.
Also, from the day that the club opened its doors, DNA Lounge has
webcast every event, in both audio and
video, free to watch to anyone anywhere in the world. That is nearly
6,000 events, comprising over 30,000 hours of local live entertainment.
And all of the
software necessary to make all of that happen is open source,
of course of course.
Over the last eighteen years, DNA Lounge has been host to a
plethora of hacker-culture and hacker-friendly events, from the
serious to the whimsical.
In 2002, we hosted the first ever
a conference founded by Bram Cohen and Len Sassaman,
with a focus on software developers doing presentations
of technologies rather than products.
From 2013 through 2017 DNA hosted
B Sides, a community-run and
more technical and political reaction to the RSA conference.
Each year, it featured 4 simultaneous speaker tracks, lockpicking
lessons, and more.
Every year since 2012, DNA has hosted
an indie game developer event where the independent game developers in
town for the Game Developers Conference could demo their projects in a
more festive atmosphere, and with no corporate sponsorship. POW also
features live music by the biggest names in the
(a style of music heavily influenced by video game sounds, often
performed using modified classic game hardware such as circuit-bent
Astronomy On Tap
From 2013 through 2016 DNA hosted Atlas Obscura, which later became
a twice-monthly lecture series featuring talks on odd topics, both
scientific and historical, some present by experts and some by
Beginning in 2017, DNA has hosted
Astronomy on Tap,
an approximately bi-monthly lecture series featuring astronomers
speaking about their latest research and cutting edge science.
And then there's
starting in 2015, on the 20th anniversary of the classic film
Hackers, DNA throws a mostly-annual party openening with
a rowdy screening of the movie, and then moving on to a
Hackers-themed party, complete with head-to-head big-screen
Wipeout XL competitions, a costume contest, and even skate ramps.
And also, back in the early days, from 2000 through 2009, DNA
kiosks around the club. In the early years of the
century, before everyone had a cell phone, and long before everyone's
cell phone included a decent web browser, this was very convenient!
And it certainly gave a strong cyberpunk vibe to the place.
The umbrella of DNA is host to countless vibrant communities and
thousands of regulars. This venue has had many years of the most diverse,
weird, interesting calendar of any venue. A typical month here doesn't
include just bands and DJs, but comedy, lecture series, circuses,
robotic exhibitions, dance performances, hair shows... The club always
strive to provide a home for a whole lot of truly amazing art.
DNA Lounge has always been a political project: an attempt to move the
needle of culture in this city. To provide a forum for a wide variety
of art that makes this city a better place. DNA Lounge is putatively a
business, but it is also activism.
A political, cultural and artistic project like this does not come
cheap. While we consider DNA Lounge to be monumentally successful in
all the ways that truly matter, monetarily, the club has always
operated at a significant loss.
In the last few years, the financial situation has gotten particularly
dire, and we're trying very hard to figure out how to keep the lights
One of the ways we are trying to do that is with our
Patreon. Won't you
consider becoming a sponsor, or