Category Archive for Nightcrawling

San Francisco Goth parties & gay nightlife. Wicked Grounds, Cat Club.

wicked ground san francisco fetish cafe

Yikes, I’m extremely back-logged with blog posts… but they’ll come hot and heavy from now on, I promise.

Let’s go back in time, to our Wicked Grounds drag performance party. Then I’ll run through the best Gothic, alternative and LGBT nightlife in San Francisco. Sounds good? Strike a pose, vogue, and let’s go-go-GOTH.

giant cupcake cake

You’ll recall that some of my best friends and I gathered in San Francisco over Memorial Day Weekend (you can read all our SF adventures to date).

We learned a big travel lesson: it’s extremely stressful to travel during this American public holiday, since the rest of the country is doing the same. Hotels were booked solid, traffic was choked up… It took far too many hours to pick up this birthday cake with a boot on it (don’t ask why) and drive the short distance to the venue.

goth drag queen makeup

Still, Die Schwarze Frau managed to get dolled up, and vamped in the alleyway before her big American debut.

human sized cage

We got to Wicked Grounds, the San Francisco kink cafe, and immediately felt at home. The space is a gathering-place for the alt community, and has regular events such as themed munches. Plus, they serve yummy food and drinks.

girl whipping boy

We took full advantage of the human-sized cage, and tested out the selection of floggers

tiger girl drawing

Die Schwarze Frau’s performance was tiger-fierce. She whirled around, screamed at skulls, stripped, and did drops to the ground. I’ll show you more photos from her Tokyo performance soon, and perhaps a video!

body drawing, sketching

To open the show, Naomiyaki did spooky live drawings on bodies, such as an overturned bottle of poison. (She also took most of the photos in this post.)

live drawing on human back

Naomi asked the audience to participate and made body-art the spot, based on this girl’s personality. Thanks to everyone who came to our event, and to Wicked Grounds for hosting us: we loved meeting you, and hope to be back soon!

dark shadows goth party, cat club

After, the shenanigans continued at Dark Shadows, a much-loved San Francisco Gothic night at Cat Club. Such a pleasure to meet many readers and friends at this event.

san francisco goth clubs, nightlife

We’re quite the motley crew to party with. Can you spot in this photo: a bear, blood, Covenant, unicorns, Frankenstein?

goth girls san francisco

The DJ played some of our favorite synth-Goth tracks, like Mylène Farmer’s Désenchantée. On the right: “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a… bat in a cage.”

sf goth party, events

If you aren’t ready to commit to a permanent tattoo, Goth body-art lets you be expressive for a night.

san francisco gothic nightclubs

Things with Trevor got a bit blurry…

japanese hakama, samurai skirt 袴

I’m wearing a hakama, or traditional Japanese skirt as seen on samurai. It’s a modern interpretation by J-Goth brand Despair.

muni san francisco metro subway

The MUNI (San Fran subway system) was an easy way for us to club-hop. We weren’t in town for Death Guild at DNA Lounge (every Monday), but we managed to see Bianca Del Rio at Trannyshack. Remember this post about how we met the RuPaul’s Drag Race winner?

can can dancers, Konservatory SF

I adore retro culture — can can dancers, top hats, burlesque — so we stopped by an Absinthe Party to honor Autumn, the designer behind San Francisco’s Dark Garden Corsetry.

autumn, designer dark garden corsetry

She was traveling to Paris to further study the art of corset-making. (Soon, I’ll do a post about the shops we visited in San Francisco, including vintage and Jpop boutiques).

Dark Garden Absinthe Party

We raised a glass of the green fairy, and bid her bon voyage.

bondage a go go, cat club

On another night, we went to Bondage-a-Go-Go, held every Wednesday night at Cat Club. BaGG has been running for 21 years, and is a fixture in the “kinky, fetish-y, gothy, nerdy, punky, leather-y” San Fran scene.

san francisco bondage fetish party

Photos aren’t allowed unless you have special permission, so be assured this is a safe and private space for play. That night, we saw dungeon demos by people in masks, and Go-Go dancers in cages.

castro gay district

The only San Francisco nightlife that didn’t live up to our expectations… was the Castro gay district. Long lines, unfriendly bouncers, and a slightly dingy atmosphere. Stick to the Goth / alt scene, and the lively T-shack drag shows, and you’ll have a grand time in this city.

lgbt san francisco clubs

Have you experienced San Francisco’s clubs and bars? How do they compare to the scene in other cities?

If we missed out on anything in this round-up, let us know in the comments! Coming up: coverage from New York, Cape Town, Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul…

A drag queen show in Israel! Tel Aviv gay clubs, LGBT nightlife.

Tel Aviv drag queen, Gay Nightlife

Are there drag queens in the Middle East? There certainly are — in Tel Aviv, at least!

I’m endlessly intrigued by how subcultures exist (and even thrive) worldwide, especially in regions where being LGBT is grounds for persecution. In the conservative Middle East, Israel is an anomaly: the ancient land is home to a progressive nightlife. And as you will see, it’s fabulous.

drag queen singing

On our itinerary, the Israel Tourism Board set aside time for us to explore gay clubs (yes, they are that awesome). The parties don’t start pumping until after midnight, and run until dawn or whenever the crowd decides to go home. My favorite was Evita (Yavne St 31, Tel Aviv), the city’s oldest gay bar. On Friday nights, entrance is free and there is a drag queen performance.

israeli man in drag

Everyone was so friendly at Evita; people chatted us up and got us dancing. The drag queens came to greet the regulars and goof around for photos.

tel aviv gay bars, parties

The club has a mixed crowd — gay, straight, lesbian, etc — giving the party a wonderfully inclusive feeling. In fact, this was one of best alternative nights I’ve ever been to, living up to Tokyo, Berlin, LA, NYC, London and more.

jewish club dj

DJ Shlomi Levi has the best name ever. He only broke his stone-faced expression once, to stick out his tongue.

gay club, evita tel aviv

The music was pure fun. Easy, fabulous dance tracks, with some hits and classics thrown in. The club brings in international DJs, like Hansel and Hansel from Switzerland…

jewish gays, hebrew lgbt

… and who can resist a taste of Italia?

big drag queen

I loved watching Osh-Ree work the stage. He’s been a nightlife figure for years, and you can’t help but smile when he sings.

אוויטה בר תל אביב

Between the songs, he and K-Long bantered in Hebrew. But the message is clear: “ohohohoh” and “Funtastico” are universal words in the drag queen lexicon!

man wearing women's heels

Osh-Ree told us the gay scene has come a long way in Israel, ever since it was legalized in 1988. Now, Tel Aviv is one of the world’s top LGBT travel destinations, with dozens of parties and a big annual Pride Parade. With no curfew, Israelis party hard and long. Osh-Ree also said, “In this part of the world, you never know when it might be your last night to dance.”

male stripper, tel aviv

So you might as well enjoy the male stripper and his tiny red undies while you can.

gay men party israel

He brought both men and women onstage, and did racy, “acrobatic maneuvers” with them.

lgbt clubbing, tel aviv rothschild

Drag queens in cities like San Francisco might stun you with their elaborate sets and dance routines. But I had just as much fun at Evita, where it’s all about having a raucous good time.

israel best gay clubs

The duo sings and dances — no need for lip synching or gimmicks.

My filmmakers are cutting together the travel video now, but here’s a preview of the drag queen show on VideofyMe. (Photography by me, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)

brown hotel, cocktail bar tel aviv

We checked out several other fabulous places in Tel Aviv. The Brown Hotel is a new, LGBT-friendly boutique hotel with a lobby decorated in retro-kitsch. So much fun, sipping cocktails at the bar and exploring the rooftop .

Ha'oman 17, haoman club

My team and I also went to a massive club, Ha’oman 17 (Abarbanel 88, Tel Aviv-Yafo), which has hosted international DJS like Paul Van Dyk and Tiësto. It’s also the site of Shirazi’s FFF gay parties

pride party, Haoman tel aviv

… and as you can see, they’re extremely popular! I’ve never seen so many men crammed into two floors, moving to the throb of electronic music.

hebrew neon sign

If you’re in the mood for bar-hopping, I suggest wandering around Rothschild Boulevard. This wide, tree-lined street is a center of Tel Aviv nightlife.

israel bartender

I’m a fan of Nanushka (Lilenblum 30, Tel Aviv), a nearby bar and restaurant that serves Georgian food.

nanushka tel aviv

I saw lots of groups of friends eating and laughing. On the walls, there were mannequin heads in military caps.

Nanuchka Restaurant israel

Nanushka has several funky rooms, including an outdoor space strung with Christmas lights.

hebrew postcards, eyepatch kid

I didn’t get a chance to try the Georgian food here (we were already eating so well in Israel!), but it’s a good excuse to come back.

hebrew writing sign

Did you know Tel Aviv has such a colorful gay scene? Are you surprised by the nightlife here?

Coming up — I’ll show you what the drag queen acts are like in Cape Town, South Africa!

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We met Bianca del Rio at Trannyshack, San Francisco! Rupaul’s Drag Race season 6 winner.

bianca del rio, Rupauls season 6 winner

San Francisco… where do we begin? How about with the fab Bianca Del Rio, current champion of RuPaul’s Drag Race!

Organizer Heklina (left) invited my friends and me to Trannyshack – the longest-running drag queen show in San Fran. (The name will soon be rebranded to T-Shack, since the “t-word” has taken on different meaning since the event started in 1996.)

rupaul winner, America's Next Drag Superstar

We were in for a treat… it was Madonna Tribute night, and the headliner was The Bianca Del Rio. Backstage, Die Schwarze Frau embraces the RuPaul season six winner. Read on, to be blown away by the feisty performance photos!

gothic scary drag queen

Die Schwarze Frau is Yukiro’s Gothic drag-queen persona. Before the show, she spooked up the San Fran streets. Those long nail-gloves nearly took out my eye…

japanese drag queens, makeup

Sucking on the blood of young cute boys. That’s the secret to staying forever young.

Chaka Corn Trannyshack megaman

That night, Trannyshack was dedicated to Madonna (they have various themes each time). The show began at 11:30pm with a Megaman drag act, performed to “True Blue”.

sparkly sugar skull makeup

We were impressed by the elaborate staging and choreography of each act — some had a dozen people on stage, prancing around with handmade props. The makeup and outfits were “top quality,” such as this glittering sugar skull trio.

bianca del rio drag performance

The sold-out audience went ballistic when Bianca Del Rio took the microphone. Heklina brought Die Schwarze Frau on stage, and introduced her to the crowd!

trannyshack san francisco, rupaul bianca

Bianca is one funny bitch. I was falling over laughing at her crowd observations, and witty repartee.

dna pizza, san fran gay nightclub

Trannyshack usually takes place at DNA Lounge (375 Eleventh St, San Francisco). There’s a DNA pizza parlor next door, covered in alt posters. Drag queens and pizza = best combo ever.

dna lounge, t-shack

Outside, we tottered around with these fabulous yet friendly people. Styles ranged from low-brow to avantgarde to punk, and everything in between.

divine drag mohawk makeup

How about this divine hand-flip in motion?

african american drag queen

We went back in for more intense theatrics. T-Shack is an institution, and brings in the top drag queen performers from all over the country.

rocky horror time warp audience

Doesn’t this photo remind you of the “Time Warp” dancers on the upper levels, in the Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Holy McGrail, san francisco black bio queen

We met Holy McGrail, a celebrated San Francisco performer who calls herself a “Faux Queen Diva”.

bianca del rio, rupaul's drag race

Bianca returned, as the stunning Evita. She waved manically, while lip-syncing to “Don’t cry for me Argentina” partly in Spanish. Oh, what a moment!

madonna evita dress, hair

During the instrumental break, she pretended to be bored and sat down on the floor. You can see how much the crowd adores her.

madonna music gay dancers

The show went on, with more incarnations of Madonna. “Hey, Mr DJ put a record on I wanna dance with my baby. Music!”

cross-dressing madonna tribute dancing

“Strike a pose, Vogue. Let your body move…”

japanese gay dancers

Even the backup dancers went all out with makeup and wigs. (All photos in this post by yours truly, La Carmina.)

heklina, Trannyshack drag queen show

Heklina announces the last performer, and a White Rabbit darts out…

alice in wonderland drag show

… to do a naughty Alice in Wonderland romp. Can you name all the characters represented?

san francisco drag performance

When it rains rainbow confetti all over, you know you’re in the right place. Travelers to San Francisco, you simply must experience Trannyshack (or now, T-Shack). Get tickets well in advance, since they sell out, and check their site for upcoming special events. Try to see the annual “Star Search”, a fierce smackdown to find the next “Big-Wig” of SF drag!

bianca del rio makeup wig

And congrats to Bianca Del Rio, for taking the RuPaul’s Drag Race crown. Did you watch this season, and cheer for her?

goth wig, velvet dress

This dark queen surely did. Die Schwarze Frau is performing her drag show in Tokyo, on June 15 and 22 — mark the dates in blood. Details to come on her blog.

bright blue dyed hair

Stay tuned for more of our ridiculous San Francisco escapades. Preview photos are on my La Carmina Instagram and Tumblr. And my next destinations are to be announced soon… any guesses?

Toronto Goth nightlife & concerts: Amy’s Arms live at Lee’s Palace, Gothic Industrial dance clubs.

alice's pig, off shoulder dress

I’m not your typical travel blogger. You won’t find me taking photos at Toronto’s CN Tower or Hockey Hall of Fame. Instead, I’ll be out at 2am, soaking in the city’s underground nightlife and culture.

Take my hand, and let’s explore Goth clubs, a Lenin-themed bar, and two Scott Pilgrim venues. Who’s with me?

lolita stained glass print dress, cat ears

On the first night, I took a taxi from my downtown hotel (One King West) to Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St West). Recognize the name? Lee’s Palace was the site of many an epic band battle, in the Scott Pilgrim movie!

I met up with Linda Tea, who you may remember from the Toronto Goth modeling post. Love the stained glass print on her dress.

black white victorian mourning dress

I also ran into Laura the Mistress McCutchan (editor of Morbid Outlook, management for Amy’s Arms, and director of tribal bellydance troupe, The Serpentina North Ensemble). She is wearing the “Odette” dress by Gloomth, the independent Lolita label run by our friend Taeden Hall. I love how she accessorized the high collar bodice with rows of ruffles.

karen o'keefe, gothic lolita singer

We were all here to see our comrade Karen O’Keefe, singer and founding member of Gothic band Amy’s Arms. Karen’s such a positive spirit, and has been involved in the Ontario Gothic Lolita community for some time.

amy's arms, live band performance

We swayed to their melancholy songs, which convey energy and passion through Karen’s vocals. All over the stage, she twirled with swan-like arm movements. Thankfully, nobody challenged the band to a “duel to the death” (as poor Scott Pilgrim suffered).

bokeh concert photography bands

Amy’s Arms had just finished tour dates in Ottawa and Montreal, earning new fans in every stop.

theramin performance, lee's palace toronto

David Owen charmed the audience with his Theremin theatrics.

purple hair goth boy, guitarist

A colorful stage presence by Justin David Minister (composer/guitarist) and Tyla Thea Bolte (vocals).

gothic boots on stage

The devil’s in the details, from the sound quality to the boots on their feet.

korg keyboard player, scott pilgrim concert hall

Brent Kervin on bass, behind a Korg synthesizer.

concert photography amy's arms

I haven’t been to a concert for the longest time, and Amy’s Arms reminded me of how uplifting a performance can be. For a taste of their Goth rock, you can check out their Facebook and site. (I also featured their music in my Vienna travel video episode!)

concert photography amy's arms

Amy’s Arms was touring with headliner David J, the legendary bassist of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. Moody, bluesy and classic Gothic… an honor to see him perform in the flesh.

sugarpill eyelashes, shrinkle false eye lashes

What I wore that evening: relatively neutral makeup, and spider-like eyelashes topped with gems, by my friend Shrinkle of Sugarpill Cosmetics.

pastel goth polka dot shirt, teal skull

My pastel Goth polka-dot top is by Spider Hong Kong (remember my Chinese Gothic fashion shoot with this label?)

pravda vodka house toronto

The next afternoon, I went for happy hour at Pravda Vodka House (44 Wellington St East)… a Communist-themed bar! You know I love weird theme restaurants, so this was right up my alley.

lenin head statue pravda toronto

Pravda is decked out in Russian Red memorabilia… including a giant, gold statue of Lenin’s bald head.

hammer sickle, pravda toronto russian bar

I saw hammer and sickles, a row of Russian dolls, and propaganda posters, and even a portrait of Chairman Mao.

interior communist bar pravda

The menu specializes in vodka, of course. Try the maple one, and the gravlax snacks. Nazdorovye!

sugar skull makeup dj, freaky fridays velvet underground

Later that evening, Karen took me on a Gothic nightlife tour. We started at Freaky Fridays, an alternative night at Velvet Underground (510 Queen St West). DJ Ivan Palmer was rocking the sugar skull makeup behind the booth.

nocturne goth club toronto

Down the road, we stopped by Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen St W), a favorite bar for punks and underground types. The entrance, a mass of mangled bicycle parts, is easy to spot.

A few more steps, and we were at Nocturne (550 Queen St W) — home to one of the longest-running Gothic nights.

toronto Rave, Retro, Synthpop, Goth club

Nocturne holds a variety of nights dedicated to indie and experimental music, such as rave, lo-fi, synth and futurepop.

toronto ontario alternative clubs

We came for Black Friday with DJ Osaze. He played an extraordinarily fun mix of Goth, Industrial, hard rock, EBM… including forays into highland dancing and flamenco. I didn’t leave the dance floor for more than a few minutes, it was that good.

tattooed female bartender, punk toronto

Did you realize Toronto, Ontario has such a cool underground scene? What should I check out the next time I’m in TO?

PS: I also wrote posts about Montreal and Vancouver alt nightlife, which I hope you find helpful.