Clockwork SF

Clockwork SF is a monthly Steampunk club that started up in January, and I’ve been meaning and failing to go each month until now. The spirit was willing, but it’s been an incredibly busy year for me and things didn’t quite come together before.

Not wanting to miss it again I locked myself into attending by promising Diane Rooney I would be there come hell or high water. Once I knew I had no choice it seemed I might as well badger all my other busy or lazy friends into coming with, and in the end we got a nice little group together. So on Friday the 13th of March I got dolled up, met up with everyone and we headed over to see what was what.

Prior to attending I checked out the various pages for the club on Facebook, MySpace and Tribe and found some photos over on Flickr that made it seem promising. My main worry was that it would turn out to be a just a Goth club with a thin veil of Steam on top. Not that I don’t like Goth clubs, but I was definitely hoping for something more. And in fact, while there is naturally a great deal of overlap in style and demographics, Clockwork SF was a pleasant surprise, with very much its own personality.

The first thing I noticed that surprised me upon entering was how many fannish faces I recognized in the room, mainly those of fellow convention-goers. There was a nice variety of outfits, too; from straight up Victorian Goth to full-on Steampunk ensembles, trending towards the somewhat less elaborate end of the spectrum. Which, given the limitations of the venue, the impracticality of bringing large props, and no doubt the desire to dance without smacking your fellow dancers with your brass backpack, was completely understandable.

On the other hand there were a few decorative props scattered around the place. The first table we sat down at had a little wooden toy train and when we moved over to accommodate more people there was another toy, this time a jointed wooden dinosaur. Along the length of the divider that separated the bar from the tables a row of small animal skulls stood out white in the low light. The place could probably benefit from some more of this sort of thing since the venue itself isn’t particularly retro, but that’s really just nitpicking.

Julie’s Supper Club is a smallish space, with the bar and seating areas in the front room and the dance floor through a doorway to the right. This allows for a lot of socializing without having to yell over the music or feel like you’re crowding the dance floor. In the dance room there is also some seating for those who wish to take a break and watch the dancers. The size seemed about right for this event, making for a cozy experience in which I can imagine knowing most of the regulars at some point.

The drinks were better than I had been led to believe, although I mostly stuck to scotch and soda. Our group got there at around ten thirty and there were several tables available so we took a spot in the main room and spent the night alternating between chatting and popping over to the dance floor whenever the DJ spun something good. “Good” being a relative and sometimes contentious term, considering how the group divided, rejoined and divided again depending on the song. With three DJs over the course of the evening there was a good variety of sounds, and it’s a testament to their ability that everyone in our group got out on the dance floor at least once and there was a minimum of grumbling from even the bigger music snobs.

The flyer lists the genres as Goth, Darkwave, and Synthpop – which sounds about right to my musically illiterate ears. To me the music mostly sounded Goth-industrial, with some bona fide Steampunk like Abney Park and Vernian Process. There was also a fair bit of Brit-hop near the end of the evening which was fun but confusing. At one point a song that I liked but hadn’t heard before started playing so I went up to the DJ to ask who it was. He said “her” and pointed at the dance floor where Erica Mulkey, also known as Unwoman, was getting her groove on. Now that’s my kind of club.

SF/SF Issue #83, April 2009