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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Jun 12 1996
Nothing like George Clinton and a big liquor sponsor to get a party really hoppin'. Last Saturday's Southern Comfort "Rocks the Blues" (whatever that means) 11th Street block party sold out around 9:30 p.m., leaving many a latecomer watching the fun from behind a metal street barricade just two yards away, beer-drinking dreams dying in their forlorn puppy eyes.

"C'mon, man, we came all the way from Pleasanton," says one such specimen, pleading his case to the staunch security force.

"Nope," says the heartless keeper of the wristbands. "All sold-out. Clubs are full-up. Maybe later, when a bunch of people have left, we could sell you a ticket and you could just sort of wander around on the street."

Mr. Pleasanton contemplates the notion -- not a bad one from where he stands -- then moves off to pick his way through the colorful tribes of disheveled neo-hippies who have spread out across the sidewalk like gypsies.

"We came down from Portland," smiles a peach-cheeked girl with disorderly blond dreadlocks. "We're here for the Haight Street Fair, but this is an added bonus. You don't even have to pay anything. George [Clinton] is playing outside, you can hear him from here."

Behind the street barricade, Clinton and his All-Stars are wrapping up a two-hour-plus set devoid of a single musical gap. In confirmation that Clinton may be funk's answer to the Grateful Dead, the sun-warmed crowd of over 8,000 seems to feed on its own energy, becoming more inebriated with every universal shimmy and heartfelt bump-and-grind until finally the sun slips from the sky and the onstage funkadelic party comes to a riotous close.

Under a large canopy of lights outside 20 Tank Brewery, a group of beer-baked revelers watches the party's migration from day-groovers to night-movers from the best seats on the block. Shadows take hold as lovers slip into little nooks and doorways where they can steal boozy kisses in relative privacy; the jumble of people waiting at the food tents gives way to noisy, yet orderly, lines out in front of Slim's, the Transmission Theater, DNA, and Paradise Lounge; the large outdoor beer tent is transformed into a moonlit dance party in which young hippie kids strut their stuff to the disco songs of vague childhood memory while Eleven's ever-so-chic clientele line up nearby, blowing smoke from extralong cigarettes into the night air.

"All the clubs are too crowded already," complains a Mission-dweller with bleached-blond hair and a nose ring. "I certainly don't want to wait in those lines."

As if on cue, a young lady in a skintight white miniskirt hoists herself onto a Slim's window ledge. Juggling her knapsack and teetering on small heels, she reaches over the top of the half-open window and attempts, with little success, to pull herself up and over.

Onlookers are thrilled by the slightly skirted window display. "Taj Mahal's playing right now," says one. "But she doesn't exactly look like a Mahal fan. Go figure."

High heels flailing, skirt rising, the intruder keeps trying until a jolly customer on the inside appears in the window to give her a hand. There comes an awkwardly long moment during which the woman's eye-grabbing posterior is stuck outside. The break-in eventually ends successfully when the woman is lifted out of public view. The crowd below applauds appreciatively.

"That's one for the books," says a bearded man. He's pushing his sleeping child's stroller through a street littered with the shrapnel of greasy food wrappings, cigarette butts, and beer cups. "I thought there would be more clowns and stuff," he adds with a wink.

"Oh, yeah," agrees a shiny-nosed man wearing a large, rainbow-striped Cat in the Hat hat, "I thought there would be more space-whales." He, too, winks and bounds off toward a group of flashy girls who are sucking greasy fried potatoes out of large cups with greedy gulps.

Nearby, a television cameraman zooms in on two clean-cut, somewhat sober-looking men -- a hard-to-find commodity -- and begins a quick street interview, only to be disrupted by a blaring, Braveheart-inspired shout of "Freedom!" from a group of revelers. A curt Peachy's Puff swishes by in a flurry of skirt and clicking heels. She smiles reluctantly at the freedom-group and waves a penlight at her tray of goodies before moving on.

"Ahh, there's nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars couldn't fix," comments one of the gregarious men, quoting Tom Waits with a gravity that completely baffles his comrades. "C'mon, let's beat it," he says, pushing through the thinning crowd.

Outside the barricades, four young boys with baseball caps and oversize T-shirts, their party-happy exuberance unable to be contained, decide to share their excitement with the neighborhood. Approaching the dark households along Folsom that are beyond the reach of 11th Street's twinkle-lights and fried-food smells, the pack leader rings a nearby doorbell and takes off running. "Join us! Join us!" the impish crew chants, giggling like maniacal extras of The Evil Dead as they make their way down the street. Disgruntled homebodies and already-snoozing carousers open their doors and peer out with bleary eyes. A balding man in a wrinkled Dead Kennedys shirt cranes out of his window. "Maybe next year," he shouts before pulling his head back indoors, still chuckling. Definitely, next year.

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By Silke Tudor

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