Popscene is Your Alternative Night on the Town


Most night clubs have that hedonistic, music video in-the-moment- atmosphere that you want when stepping out. But since the music itself sets that scene, what happens if the DJ’s dealing out unfamiliar or irritating tunes? When you dance, you should dance to what really moves you, and if Miley Cyrus and Rihanna or LMFAO aren’t doing the trick, it’s time to move on.

It’s uncomfortable to not have fun and be stuck in a crowd whose vibe you’re loathing. Fortunately, I’ve found that nights at Popscene entail none of this. Popscene is a weekly Thursday night club at Rickshaw Stop.  For an alternative girl like me, this 9PM to 2AM club provides excitement in the right atmosphere and features some of the best live indie music around. Founded in 1997, the alternative music scene in San Francisco treasures the legacy of hot bands first playing at Popscene right before they reached their prime – with bands like Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend gracing the stage at their Rickshaw Stop location (and before that at their 330 Ritch Street location) some time ago. Perhaps you’ll be there for specialty playlists, like 80’s throwbacks, or themed nights where big bands surface or guest DJ after playing their own show in the city.YBH

Even on regular Thursday nights, resident DJ Aaron Axelsen occasionally gets helps from radio DJs, such as Axelsen’s colleagues that host alongside him at local alt music radio station LIVE105.3. Clearly, these men are exclusively in on the latest, and the best rock tunes to play.

Even better than DJ nights are live performance nights. Wedged between the Hayes Valley hub and the San Francisco Symphony Hall at Civic Center, the venue would be a quick miss if not for the vinyl sign hanging over the backdoor or the building on Fell Street. But once you’re in, the magnificence of the high ceiling over the dance floor takes you in, and you feel mystified by the dark red velvet draping down the walls around the stage – like you’ve snuck into a gypsy’s caravan. This is the main room.  If you’re looking for a more relaxed night, head to the mezzanine above the bar, where you can take it easy and watch the bands from afar.


One of the best aspects of Popscene is that it caters to all age ranges.  This 18+ club is the ideal spot for a first time out dancing.  It’s is a game-changer for youngsters new to the city who want to experience San Fran night life beyond studio parties and home basement music gigs. Night life is exclusive, but you’re not settling for less at Popscene.

If you’re going to college in San Francisco, you need a good break on the weekends – and Popscene answers. If, like me, you’re over almost every overcrowded dance club in the city that blasts hip hop and sugary pop, get yourself some Popscene. So get out, look good on that dance floor, and create yourself fantastic memories from a night on the town with the right tunes and vibe for you.

PHOTO CREDS: Aerial View: Instagram@popscenesf; Popscene Logo: www.thefader.com; Young Blood Hawke Bill: sweetsoundbites.BlogSpot.com; Rickshaw Stop venue: sfweekly.com; Foster the People DJ set: sumblueguy41.deviantart.com.

About the author

Paris is a native to the San Francisco Bay Area, having grown up in the East Bay suburb of Concord. A graduate from the University of San Francisco, she enjoys the time she spends working in and exploring a city that Norman Mailer once proclaimed "is a lady." With a degree in creative writing, she writes short stories and nonfiction inspired by San Francisco. Paris has contributed to The Believer, the SF Foghorn, and writes from her own blog Paris Kim is a Writer.

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