Electronic-music fans unite in front of an enormous wall of LCD lights; shadow boxes showcase silhouettes that pulse to an electro sound second to none in San Diego. The lines are long.
The interior is a clever arrangement of walls, balconies, and stairs that separate a modest-sized venue into smaller areas, creating a seductive sense of space. Faint candelabras and random flashes from the stage illuminate the grunge/gothic decor. On a Friday or Saturday, the first floor is packed by midnight. It glitters with dancers, from head-banging fraternity bros to candy kids wearing baby pacifiers and colorful bracelets from wrist to elbow. That diversity is what makes this club special, along with its passion for electronic dance music and the interplay between the crowd’s mass mentality and the DJs’ self-expression.
755 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Beautiful women and men socialize on the second floor where a few cubby holes are provided as places to act civilized and escape the intensity of the stage-speakers. The space separates DJs — such as Gareth Emery, Cosmic Gate, and NERO — from fans.
Voyeur blends enough sex, ambiance, and bone-crushing bass to propel any EDM fan into a frenzy. Tickets purchased early can be discounted as low as $15, but if you wait until the last minute, be prepared to pay upwards of $50 for marquee names from progressive trance to dubstep.
Bottle service and VIP tables are available but unnecessary for anyone who’s there to dance. There’s usually no cover before 10:30 p.m., but you’ll likely spend the savings on pricy cocktails.
— Whitney Butler
2236 Fern Street, South Park
The Amandas at Whistle Stop
These days, dancing to a live band is rare in bars, so perhaps it’s fitting that the Amandas get people on their feet by skillfully playing covers of greats such as James Brown and Etta James. The first Friday of each month sees this soulful rhythm-and-blues band lay down a live soundtrack for dance-floor aficionados and amateurs alike at the Whistle Stop. Although most of the dance moves are individual expressions, you can spot classics like the Twist here and there. The Amandas have even instigated a Soul Train line — a human corridor down which dancers strut their stuff. facebook.com/theamandasband
1808 W. Washington Street, Mission Hills
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Borderline invisible between a liquor store and the always-hopping Lucha Libre Taco Shop, Bar D packs a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd for Friday and Saturday hip-hop nights. Smaller house and electronica shows on Wednesday and Sunday also pull in quite a few dancers. Special guest DJs will trigger cover charges, but other nights it can be free to dance the night away. The space inside is small but the PA is loud and the bass hits are tight.
Liable to appear on either side of the border every few months, Club Purple is a four-year-strong nu-disco dance night with a twist. The party, hosted by Miss Lady D, formerly curated by Monsterpussy (Makeout Weird), combines a dark dance and indie-band aesthetic, with art installations at venues that have included the Flame, the Office, El Dorado, and, across the border, the iconic Sixth and Revolución bar La Mezcalera, the Don Loope Cantina, and La Chupiteria. Guests such as Addiquit, Dr. Indulgent, Nguzunguzu, Dani Shivers, and Halloween Swim Team are but a few of the borderland artists on Club Purple’s résumé. Various locations: facebook.com/clubpurplenights
1030 Broadway, East Village
Every third Wednesday, hosts Mawkus and Bencey coat this happening downtown cocktail lounge with a rich layer of “future sexual chocolate” — a mingling of ’80s boogie funk, beats, baby-makin’ medleys, future funk, and Mawkus’s patented “future wife” jams, designed to please the ladies and facilitate the vapors. Sweet Cheeks debuted at El Dorado last month with obligatory Ring Pops on hand to accommodate dance-floor engagements. Coined after hip-hop slang, Trill (a fusion of “true” and “real”) showcases the future sounds of electronic music and live beats every first Wednesday, all to a backdrop of live art and craft cocktails.
500 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Ritual is the name of the current production at San Diego’s award-winning Fluxx, a nightclub that, as the name suggests, is constantly changing. Ritual takes a neon forest, mixes in some dreamcatcher magic, and tops it off with ceiling acrobatics just inches above the crowd. This tribal scene takes people out of their heads and into the forbidden forest. The show runs a few more weeks, then Fluxx and its design team will be back at it, transforming again. Even on house-music Thursdays, you don’t need drugs to get high.
618 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
It’s impossible to leave Swing Night on Tuesday at Henry’s Pub without a smile plastered all over your face. The Stilettos play live, classic swing music all night, while San Diego’s best swing dancers shake, rattle, and roll. In the background, men in newsboy caps scope out their prospects, onlookers sip delicious drinks at the bar, and Bettie Page strips in black-and-white on various TVs. The band comes on at 9:00 p.m. For the first hour you get the older-timers, but at 11:00, stiletto groupies come out to play. Take a swing class at Firehouse in North Park first if you want to avoid that two-left-feet feeling.
5373 Mission Center Road, Mission Valley
Swamp Thang. Baby Likes to Rock It. Slappin’ Leather. They sound like lousy erotic-novel titles, but they’re group dances held at San Diego’s leading two-step barn in Mission Valley. Over 20 years into its legacy, In Chaoots offers free dance lessons at 6:30 nightly (’ceptin’ Mondays), accompanied by some downright belly-branding booze specials. Skip the overcrowded “Big Wednesday” ($8 cover, $2.50 you-call-its, plus belligerent co-eds) and stop in on a Sunday instead for $2 you-call-its (free before 7:00 p.m., $4 after). The dress code is ridiculous, but they’re serious about it. If you can look like John Wayne (sans sidearm), you’ll be fine.
2812 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
Between the fringe bass and beats of Liquid Geometry, Critical Beatdown, Kill Quanti, and Doo Doo Roo, the tribal dubstep and liquid drum and bass of RealEyes Events, the experimental noise of Stay Strange, and the exploratory future jungle riddims of Dragon Lounge, this intimate Little Italy venue cultivates some of the most innovative underground electronic events in town. Of note is the always-packed, half-year-young Glitch Slap, which pairs out-of-town glitch-hop and bouncy-bass pacesetters with local thumpers such as Misk, Puppy Kicker, and urBn:LgNd. The sound is accessible, making for ecstatic dance parties that hit full capacity.
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