There was the time M.I.A. climbed on a piano during her set, or when the crowd went berserk for Die Antwood’s colorfully-hyped stage antics. But it could have been the atypical crowd-surfing moment when a man whose wheelchair was lifted with him in it and passed around during Monotonix’ performance that rate as some of Dan Strachota’s standout Rickshaw Stop memories.
He should know since he’s been there in some capacity since the beginning whether it be bartending, DJing, or in his current role as the talent buyer who books shows. The centrally- located San Francisco venue celebrates 10 years with an anniversary show series that kicks off Tuesday by welcoming back Seattle punks, The Spits.
In fact, all the headliners in the series, which includes Mikal Cronin, Yacht and Geographer, have been asked back as repeat performers for helping make Rickshaw (a former TV studio used for shooting commercials in the ‘60s, later converted to an auto-body shop) what it is today.
“We have a good reputation, I think,” says Strachota. “The founders, partners and myself [he’s also a managing partner] want the crowd treated nice and the artists treated like artists.” It’s a place where the sound is “amazing” and “the drinks are strong”.
I bought a mixed tape from the merch table at my first show at the venue back when I moved to the city. The man selling them said in a distinctively deep, familiar voice that he made them himself. I didn’t recognize him as K Records-founder Calvin Johnson by sight, but he headlined that night and I put two-and-two together as soon as I walked away. It seemed mystical to me that independent artists who I followed would be the ones handing off their own wares, hustling a buck in such a personal manner.
In the beginning, Strachota says the two owners didn’t exactly know what they were doing and there wasn’t a precise formula for putting on events that equaled success. “Baby Brigade Happy Hour. There’s no money in that,” he deadpans.
But the club’s evolution and a see what sticks-to-the wall approach has lead to dance parties like the queer-themed, Cockblock and has also hosted Bardot a Go Go, a ‘60s-themed French pop night, which has seen a 15-year run that precedes the club.
“There seems to be a real rise in the amount of electronic music appreciation,” he says when pressed about current trends. “You’ve got to keep an open mind as much as possible at a venue of our size and book things that other people love that you might not like yourself.”
Despite changes in the city’s demographics and an uptick in what he calls “fancy nights”, where the “Marina types” are likely to show up, they try to keep their ticket prices reasonable. “We don’t just want six-figure salary people coming in. That sounds horrible.”
As for the décor, the founders, who were avid bikers and worked for a travelling company, apparently had functional rickshaws installed. Somewhere along the road one of Strachota’s friends got married at the SF LGBT Community Center and rode in a rickshaw down Market Street. It must have been an incredibly cute, picturesque moment as they headed to the club where they had their reception.
Strachota remains optimistic that artists will continue to thrive in the city and is impressed with the amount of enthusiasm and participatory nature of today’s audiences, like when The Sonics recently played and the “crowd went bonkers”.
The picturesque moments continue for six nights of celebration.
Rickshaw Stop 10-Year Anniversary Party: Tuesday, January 7th - Sunday, January 12. With The Spits, Mikal Cronin, Cool Ghouls, Geographer, Yacht, Leslie & The Ly’s and more. Tickets available here.