Bay to Breakers
Sunday, May 20th 2012
The streets of San Francisco
The Bay to Breakers race is one of San Francisco's most definitive events, but not necessarily for the show of physical prowess as runners trudge the seven-mile course from the Embarcadero to Great Highway. Rather, hordes of eclectic citizens are attracted to the event for the fabled trail of booze, costumes, debauchery, and entertainment strewn about the closed streets once runners pass. Despite a concerted effort by local authorities to crack down on the party in recent years, yesterday's event saw droves of renegade bands set up along the street, impromptu dance parties erupting in front of garage-dwelling DJs, and other illicit performances for the inebriated, naked, and curious attendees. The blatant intoxication running rampant during B2B was particularly impressive considering that most of my research was conducted before noon.
Beginning particularly on Hayes Street, attendees were faced with sheer sensory overload. Blown-out house music emanated from an opportunistic corner store, bombastic dubstep poured from an attention-seeking tenant in the apartments above, and a four-on-the-floor beat crackled from a drunk teen's boutique fanny-pack boom box. Opportunism abounds during the B2B melee, particularly on behalf of the professional recyclers lugging massive bags of cans and bottles down the middle of Divisadero.
Vapid dance music was ubiquitous as the crowd climbed the Hayes St. hill, and its raucous temperament ascended with the grade. For some the steep climb, combined with gratuitous a.m. shots of liquor, ensured the final stages of heat stroke -- as was the case with one attendee in a Deadmaus mask slouched behind a bus stop.
Farther down on Hayes, Blondie's "In the Sun" blasted from one stoop and no one cared -- which isn't surprising considering the tragic overlooking of Blondie's best songs. But next door a DJ spun the Beastie Boys as a gold-body paint crew shared their box wine with chatty Japanese tourists. As I turned around, two girls clutching toy guitars appeared before me and introduced themselves as The Hot Mariachis. I suggested they get a synth player to fill out the sound and call themselves The Child Brides. My advice might have been lost on them, but they played a ramshackle "La Cucaracha" anyways.
A child berating a drumset in one driveway with enough volume to compete with the band performing a Black Crowes cover in the next made for a gripping medley, but then water balloons began to fall from the rooftop at Scott and Hayes, so I moved along. Veering from Hayes St. by way of Divisadero and taking a sharp right onto Fell revealed countless more dance parties spilling out of garages, catcalls from apartment dwellers, and clouds of pot smoke drifting out of the Panhandle. One performer crooned sensitive melodies above sparse Korg keyboard soundscapes with a frustrated scowl as frat children admired each other's "sick" tattoos a few feet away. Hopefully the Hot Mariachis spotted him, formed The Child Brides, and recorded their first EP due out on Captured Tracks this summer.
Not surprisingly, all of the officially sanctioned bands performing along the route were a complete and utter bore compared to the chaotic scenes erupting along the streets. A surf-rock group dressed as Hasidic Jews was interesting for a brief moment, but a more bizarre scene began to unfold that hijacked my attention: An opportunistic costume artist dressed convincingly as "Security" took a beer from the grips of a young girl, turned around, and cracked a sly smile as he swigged the rest of the beverage. Someone straddling the line between bat-shit-crazy kleptomaniac and party enthusiast carried a glitter-laden TV set nearby, and I recalled the line from Television's "Venus" that posits, "Hey man let's dress up like cops / Think of what we could do."
Musical talent displayed that was worth serious consideration: None.
Amount of penises and breasts counted by a serious looking gentleman keeping hash marks on a clipboard: 26 penises and 18 sets of breasts.