You cannot deny that in the five short years since Holocene set up shop on the once-barren stretch of SE Morrison, everything has changed. We look at clubs differently, and thanks to Holocene, we expect more. The space, operated by Scott McLean and Jarkko Cain, celebrates its fifth anniversary with a pair of excellent (and totally free) shows this Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7. McLean and Cain take a moment from preparing their birthday cake to chat about the venue's early days (trenches and all), plus some highlights and lowlights from the past five years.
MERCURY: You spent a long time—about a year—researching and preparing before you opened the doors five years ago. Do you think that level of commitment has been paramount to the venue's success?
CAIN: That's actually just how long it took—to do it on this scale—with the resources we had available. There was a lot of planning/scheming time, but also a lot of plumbing/trench digging time. I do think being hopelessly committed to a project gives it a little critical extra soul; corporations would bottle it if they could. The way Holocene works today is different from what was in our heads in the weeks after we opened, but the dream is exactly the same. It's a funny combination of holding tight to a vision, and then frantically adapting to everything else.
Part of the appeal of Holocene is that it is not just a dark room for live music and alcohol, but a very welcoming space. Was it difficult at first to get the idea across that a nightclub doesn't need to be afraid of natural light or style?
CAIN: The loft-office-gallery, Tuesday-night party vibe was the most inspiring part of the San Francisco scene for me. It was work and art and party culture all making sense together. Any dingy room can be a good party—with cranked music, four Jamesons down, and a bunch of hot kids matted in a clump—but we always wanted to be a place that you'd like to be even on a mellow night, even early, even in the afternoon.
With the new amendments to the OLCC minor postings rule, does Holocene have plans to do some all-ages events in the near future?
CAIN: Totally. We'll never be primarily an all-ages venue, but there are certain events that want to be or just need to be open to everyone, and we're very happy that this will now be possible. It was a great move by the Commission—you have to love sanity.
Time to give some love: best show in the past five years?
McLEAN: Tie between Beirut and Justice. Beirut was just a wonderful, juicy, sloppy kiss of a show—Zach [Condon] with eight or 10 friends on stage belting out their familiar/exotic cabaret croon-jams. Justice was probably the biggest production we've ever had to accommodate. Cap that night off with one of our staff running into someone from the band having sex between their bus and trailer, and you have one of the best shows in five years.
Time to talk some shit: worst show in the past five years?
McLEAN: The second time Funkstörung played. No one came, the show sucked, we lost a ton of money, and the band wouldn't leave at the end of the night. They were just running around the venue drunk, and weirdly having the time of their lives.