Starting Frolic: San Francisco’s Frolic party – interview with Neonbunny part 2
by Patch O'Furr
Interview series: Artists, animation directors, DJ’s and event organizers, superfans, and more…
Neonbunny is founding DJ and promoter of Frolic. The 90 minute interview has 4 parts, with one a week posting this month.
- Intro: The most furry place in the universe?
- Part 1) Counterculture to Furry – Neon’s background in the SF Bay Area.
- Part 2) Starting Frolic – Throwing parties and finding other furries.
- Part 3) The furry scene – Frolic’s venue: The Stud – Promoting and operating Frolic.
- Part 4) Controversy and success – Music, DIY culture, Furry events, sex, drama, and more.
2) Starting Frolic – Throwing parties, finding other furries.
For many furries in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area is the place to be. For many in the Bay, Frolic is THE most furry place. It isn’t the only center, but it’s an influential one. It’s not just the best Furry party… I’d call it the best party San Francisco has, period. Check out Frolic’s website, and read about it in The Bold Italic magazine.
Neonbunny, founding DJ and promoter of Frolic, met me for a long interview over dinner. His partner Jody who handles tech, lighting and animation was with us. It was a year ago, just after they got back from 2013’s Burning Man event in Nevada. Neon’s early trips to Burning Man led to discovering Furries:
(Patch) – So you got into throwing all these parties in San Francisco, in the early 2000’s…
(Neon) – My second year at Burning Man, I learned about furries.
We had this venue in 2002- a movie theater in San Francisco’s Mission district. Back then it was called Fandanga. It’s where Sherilyn Connelly (SF Weekly journalist who covers furry happenings) does her Bad Movie Nights.
I said, hey, lets show some bunny porn. I went online searching. Next thing, I was reading all about furries. I was totally fascinated. It was just after Fur Con, around easter time. It wasn’t until next year I went to my first furry event. That was Fur Con. It’s where I met Jody. It was his first Fur Con too, in 2003.
The owner of The Stud came to our first bunny party. He said it was his favorite party of the year. He would spend half his time in Hawaii, half in SF. He always came back for Bunny Jam.
We were into the wild crazy weirdness – more than just a dance party. If people wouldn’t complain about the music, we were doing it wrong. It was for the WTF factor. It was more an art happening than a rave.
So your bunny parties weren’t at Burning Man?
No, we used a different venue every year. That year had a movie venue attached to it. It was an old porn palace one year. Another party we did, “NIMBY,” was at an Oakland warehouse. There was “Other World”, another rave at an underground warehouse in West Oakland. We did a few nightclubs.
What kind of turnout did these get?
Maybe a thousand people. It got to a point where we had to underpromote it.
It reminds me of a history I read about the first rave in North America. “Woopty Ball” – in Oakland in the early 90’s, 1991 or something.
The first rave, or the first one called a rave? Well, the “acid test” the Merry Pranksters did were raves.
Maybe it had to do with the music they played.
The Merry Pranksters set up speakers in trees, and played electronic music. They had parties with weird Philip Glass type music. The Grateful Dead started as background music for their parties.
We never used the word rave, it was more an art party than dance music – it was more about art than music. We required people to dress up.
Was it visual art, sculpture, costumes, projection?
Yes, we spent days doing installation. One year we brought in sod, had bunch of branches, and spraypainted them to glow in black light. It was an indoor forest. We had weird experimental, collage type music. It was Cacophonist Society type stuff. Negativland style. The guy credited with inventing mashups came and played with us.
It sounds like a ton of work. Was it done for fun, for work, or in between?
A crew of us, 10-20 people, would help. It was not for profit, but not formal nonprofit. It was basically just for fun. We kept track of money. It paid for the billion bunny march.
We did Bunny Jam 10 times. It got to be too much work, too stressful… we moved on. The core team called it quits, but we had enough money from throwing parties for a thousand that it adds up. We funded artists to make stuff there. Sculptures, interactive installations, playgrounds.
So doing big parties took you through the 2000’s. Did it lead to starting frolic?
Even before Jody was involved, we did a few small things. In 2003, we did a Wednesday night party for a few months that was a Furry party, once a month at The Stud. It wasn’t a big crowd – 100 at peak, 15 at the slowest.
We started small, and did a few one-offs. When we found a venue we liked, we’d do a party. We’d find a space through researching venues for Bunny Jam. We’d say this place is way too small, but let’s do a furry party there.
Some of the parties we did were “Fun Fur All,” “Furball,” “Non Salon.” Another venue in the SOMA district was loft space we rented out. They did well … we at least broke even.
Were these underground parties? Was it under the radar of zoning or other stuff regulators don’t like? Was it risky or ever have trouble with the cops?
Some venues would have speakeasies, a bar with no permits. They charge extra for that – they keep bar sales as well.
We never had trouble. The people most at risk were throwing parties for underage kids. Some promoters might bring friends to sell drugs for profit. But we avoid that. It was mostly an older, mature crowd. We never had any problem with drugs or fights. It was more an art scene.
Was it mostly local people?
Yes, they were smaller, not a thousand size, other than Bunny Jam. For that we’d find a venue that was semi legal.
These were not for profit – I have a day job for that. It was a learning experience, also a creative experience, creating culture.
You must have a good team to work with for a long time. Who’s the cast of important characters?
There’s Jody, and Rayce does video. They did it for Bunny Jam. They camped at Burning Man, know the same people, still help with the special events team for local burns. The three of us are it for Frolic.
The venue itself must be a good partner.
We went through a period of big parties, like Bunny Jam, with 20 people making collective decisions. Also a period of volunteering to throw other peoples’. There’s no financial concern for that. Like helping FC, doing their dances. Also SF Pride – we produced the Faerie Village at Pride for a few years.
Part 3) – The furry scene – Frolic’s venue: The Stud – Promoting and operating Frolic.
The 90 minute interview has 4 parts, with one a week posting this month.
Check for more next week!