Lost in the Night: Police Say It's Last Call at 222 Hyde
222 Hyde Farewell Party
Saturday, March 10, 2013
222 Hyde was the first venue where I threw a party. It was Cinco De Mayo, 2005, and I was a young soul DJ trying to my best to start something of my own that could compete with the established institutions of 1964 and Oldies Nite. The little club on the corner of Turk and Hyde was a very different animal in those days. There was no amazing soundsystem, the bar could only serve beer, and it was known more for the crust of its pizzas than the quality of its parties. Its first owners did their best given the circumstances, but the club was plagued by a neighbor who'd call the police if the music ever reached louder than a whisper. It was a frustrating time, and on our last night there, I remember being so upset that I hoisted myself up onto the bar and, much to the horror of the watching bartender, reached over to the hidden amplifier to give our last hours just a little bit more juice. Needless to say, that night ended badly. I like to think I've matured since then, but its comforting to know that Saturday night, on its own last stand, the club did much the same thing.
222 Hyde is the kind of place that inspires emotional attachment -- that much was made clear by the sheer number of people who convened on the club Saturday for its last party before closure. I was lucky enough to get there early, before it opened to the general public at 10 p.m. The mood was relaxed, with people busy draining the kegs and chatting while Lance De Sardi debuted a video project in the basement below. The current owner, Emilio "EO" Giraudbit -- responsible for the upgrade in 2009 that made the club into what it is today -- looked sad as he worked the room offering handshakes and goodbyes. I tried to grab a beer, but even by then all that flowed from the taps was foam. A girl I know took a sip from a cocktail and interjected, "You know, I can remember every bad decision I ever made here. I'm really going to miss it."
As the doors opened, the music began playing downstairs. The DJ was Atish, and he warmed up the already-moving dancefloor with a straightforward set of by-the-numbers house music. He worked carefully, smoothly blending in records with a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth. He wasn't the only one: the whole basement sat beneath a haze of smoke that changed colors with the rapidly pulsing lights above. Things weren't there yet, but the feeling was that this would finally be the party the club was always built to house -- the sort of all-night experience that should happen all the time in San Francisco, but doesn't because of our city/state/country's backwards attitude towards nightlife. Another friend: "Do you think they're going all night? I heard they're going 'til they run out of booze!"
As far as anybody could tell, the party was intended to last all night. Set times for the mammoth DJ roster accommodated slots running up to 11 a.m. the next day. With the casual attitude of the club toward its impending doom and any ensuing legislation, it felt as though a giant middle finger has just been erected on the roof. This carried over into the spirit of the party itself, which was a raucous affair that only got more intense as Conor stepped into the booth. Using his usual precision, he inspired screams as he pulled the bass and mixed from a dubby '80s garage cut into Mr. Flagio's "Take a Chance."
Meanwhile, the club had stopped letting people in. Stepping outside for a break to ease my claustrophobia, I was greeted by a line that stretched down Hyde and around the corner onto Turk. People, waiting to get in, chain-smoked cigarettes and drank from brown paper bags bought from the liquor store down the street. It was almost a party unto itself, though admittedly a lot drearier than the scene inside. Conor came outside to smoke a cigarette, which signaled the performance of live house outfit Polk & Hyde.
At this point, the basement was nearly unnavigable; in fact, so was the whole club. The act of moving in any direction was like pushing through a meat grinder of purses and elbows that fed toward a table just to the side of the DJ booth. There, the duo of Emilio Giraudbit and Jonah Sharp conjured hailstorms of jacking percussion from an arsenal of analog equipment. It was dark and at times sinister, but the crowd loved it no less. The lights above began shooting off in time with a militant burst of snares, illuminating the room like a harsh strobe before plunging into darkness.
And still, the night went on. Daylight savings time had long since hit and moved the clock an hour forward. Now it was Alland Byallo and Dave Aju's turn behind the club's rotary. They burned through set of soaring house cuts that lit up the party with songs like Motor City Drum Ensemble's "Send a Prayer Pt. 1," House Master Boyz & Rude Boy of House "House Nation," and Harddrive's "Deep Inside." Aju in particular was animated. He got on the mic and toasted over Byallo's tracks, playing the role of an energetic hypeman. And for a brief half-hour window at 3:30 a.m., it felt as though some euphoric peak had been achieved. It was like a rift in time occurred that separated the future and past to create a temporary bunker outside the confines of normal reality. The party was strong, the vibes were right, and it really did seem as though the morning had become eternal. And that's right about when the cops showed up.
It wasn't obvious at first -- they must have had a hell of a time making their way to the basement. The music continued pumping; Byallo and Aju had cranked the system to within an inch of its life. Flashlights and blue arms began shining down from the stairs, the shimmering disco lights above turned a monochromatic white. Aju got on the mic, "We' tryin' to tell 'em we're having the happiest wake they've ever seen." More cops in the room, but they're just standing at the entrance holding their flashlights in the air. One of the bartenders appeared and yelled, "Alright everybody, the party's over!" Bleary eyed dancers with crazed faces began to make their way towards the stairs. Byallo grabbed the controls of the mixer and threw on an acapella, "In the beginning there was jack! And Jack had a groove! And from this groove came the groove of all groov..."
Outside, eight squad cars had blocked off most of the street and more than a football team's worth of police officers milled around outside staring at the club. "Aw, Derek, you missed the ambulance and the fire truck, they just left," I heard. Despite the police presence, nobody was going anywhere. "I talked to a police officer and she said someone called in a fake shooting." Some things never change. Goodbye 222 Hyde, you were pretty great.