Controversy and success: San Francisco’s Frolic party – interview with Neonbunny part 4
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, finding other furries.
- Part 3) The furry scene – Frolic’s venue: The Stud – Promoting and operating Frolic.
4) Controversy and success – Music, DIY culture, Furry events, sex, drama, and more.
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 in the early 2000’s, and making friends to help throw parties. It turned into a scene connected to local counterculture. Since Frolic started in 2010, it’s had nice success. We talked about the wide roles of such events and their makers:
(Patch:) I thought DJing would come before promoting shows, but it’s the other way around for you.
(Neon:) I’ve always been musically inclined, just like I was inclined to wear animal costumes. When I was a kid, for Halloween, it was always a cat costume. My parents got me keyboard lessons. I was in a high school band, played drums, messed around with a punk band with some friends, and always into new music.
I pay attention to lot of electronic music, and gothic kind of stuff. I hang out on a forum that has people who are almost legendary. It’s like, “I was listening to your album when I was a kid.” This week I saw Gary Numan and met the guy from Cold Cave. Some is going strong since then, some is having kind of a renaissance.
I was into a lot of that in high school. I was always into punk rock as a kid. Electronic music has some of the same aspects, it’s about self publishing – there’s a DIY aspect. You don’t need a record label – it’s people publishing their friends.
That’s what I like best about furries. It’s DIY. It’s like, look at these costumes… you couldn’t get this anywhere else except direct from the artists. They’re taking the craft so high. Nobody else has one like it – it’s your own character.
Someone at Burning Man asked me where I got my fursuit. I said my friend made it. He was like, no way, a person couldn’t make that… Well this is not something made in China, packaged by Disney. It just happens to be made by an American.
Speaking of business, there’s always risks involved. Sometimes you’re doing all kinds of work, and are you getting paid for it… if you’re not, how much can you keep it going?
As long as you’re not losing money, it’s good. We don’t make a profit on Frolic, but we keep track – we pay people. The person working coat check, the door, the DJ’s… we pay everyone except ourselves.
We take extra money, put it into things like Furries in the Wild, buying an LED fur panel, more lights for the show, a screen. Any money we make, we put back into it. We spread it around to the community. We don’t do it for money- I have my day job for that. It’s for the creative outlet. I have fursuits too… even though I don’t get to suit as much as I’d like, too busy, but it’s creating the outlet.
Some other people are into fursuiting for children at the hospital… I like it for adults, my crowd. I like seeing random people who say, “I don’t know if I’m hallucinating or that’s real.”
You have to have things like that in life. Some people are like, “I’m working my job, gonna work here til I’m dead”… you have to live too, you shouldn’t leave that behind because you’re a grownup.
If I didn’t have these playful creative outlets I would go crazy… I wouldn’t handle a mundane job. Sure I have a creative job at a company, but it’s part of an industry, selling products.
On the other hand, when you get a bunch of people doing DIY culture stuff, not for money… sometimes there’s an element of ego. It’s not a job like building roads because society needs it… you can run into a wish for glory. It can make this reputation for drama among furries. When people try to promote themselves in a subculture, it can be the big fish/small pond thing.
You get that with DJ’s. It made me want to start DJing myself. Doing all this work for parties, spending all this money and dozens of hours, a DJ would show up 5 minutes before it opens, and take all the credit. It’s not the DJ who makes a party successful, it’s the people who create the environment to perform in. You do get that… not so much with the pro ones, but more the middle-of-the-road ones that have to push harder, have to tell everyone that they’re the best, the reason the party is successful, in hopes that they’ll believe it.
The more pro DJ’s don’t have to try so hard to get gigs, they’re the ones who say thank you. Some others don’t say thank you.
Some people come in and find a niche where they’re the big fish… That’s part of why I like doing smaller events. Big collective events can get too many chefs, and micromanaging. SF Pride has the entire budget itemized, so you have to justify every action to the entire community. Doing something smaller, you can do what works, what you like – not have to answer to a board somewhere, or have one DJ complain so rules get set for what everyone can do.
Cons can have that. I went to AC for the first time in July. It’s interesting to see how the biggest one is managed. They have their whole thing, “we’re family friendly.” They had this big message board, where you post little notes. You go around to the back – that’s where all the dirty stuff is. It’s hilarious. You pretend it’s not there, but yeah, it’s there. Maybe it’s in a private hotel room… well you can see why they do it. They have their thing, “this is how you deal with the media.”
The DJ’s and parties at the cons, that’s interesting too. Some cons say “we’re doing this as a party, not focusing on panels…” They have more dances. Some of the DJ events, I’ve heard them called a “morass”. There’s tons of DJ’s. Some are good, some are just there to have their name on it, and don’t even mix anything.
Some people are more into talking about doing things… if that’s what they want, I don’t care. I’m into doing things to do them… not so much for credit. I wouldn’t want to be involved in every single event.
I’ve been to cons and heard some people say, the dance of the con sucked… but Frolic was amazing. Sometimes it’s good to be doing your own thing for the independence. You’re near there, but not part of it.
I’ve tried advising about things some dances could do, people they could have to help. Some people choose to do what they choose, for whatever reason. It’s fine.
Sometimes you have to work with who you know, and it doesn’t always work.
There’s always room to make things better… it is what it is, whatever.
Why I think throwing an independent event really works… a lot of furries don’t really go to bars, night clubs. It’s a good introduction to get them out with people they know. It’s a more intimate, focused, high energy environment. At a con, it can be so big, open and sparse, you can almost see the curvature of the earth across the dance floor. At Anthrocon, I think they left half the rows of seats there. It’s such a big space full of chairs – it doesn’t feel intimate, it feels like a giant room that has a dance thrown in as an afterthought. We want Frolic to be a thought.
I had an interesting experience at the one-off Frolic in San Jose… I didn’t know who was going to be there. It’s an element of magic. I met this German Shepherd fursuiter. We were going to go back to the hotel room… I didn’t recognize who was inside the suit, until we got outside and could talk away from the music. Awkward!
There’s all these music videos coming out with animal costumes. It’s like a trend. There’s so many of them.
It’s been around for a long time- kind of an introduction that people stumble on to. Especially young people who don’t have much cultural outlet besides TV and Youtube. They discover furries through that. It might even focus on the negative but there’s one aspect that appeals. I remember when I was 12 or 13, I was watching some 60 Minutes show, and they were talking about some event where there was abuse… I kind of ignored all that, and I said wait a minute, who cares about that part – tell me more about this festival where people are going to the woods, living communally. It was actually a Rainbow Gathering. They sent a news crew and had a lot of footage- it was the first time I heard about the Rainbow Family. Even though the show was about this terrible thing, kind of like the Tosh.0 show they did recently… I can just imagine some kid watching, not paying attention to the part where they’re saying negative things… just saying, you can dress in a fox costume?
These music videos are not anything new- there was a Moby video 10 years ago. And the stuff on CSI. I was surprised that a lot of Furries were surprised that CSI was a negative show. It’s a show about murder- you can’t show anything too positive.
We watched that at the SF Furry Game Party a few months ago. I’d never seen it.
They consulted with a few Bay Area furs. The part where they walk through the con hallway- the extras had furries in fursuits.
By the time kids get to Frolic, they’re older- they know about the birds and the bees. We get the older people discovering new art scenes, new countercultures. Or ones who have been a furry for a long time, just turning 21. At a 21 and up venue, it’s not the fresh 16 year olds who don’t know much.
Have you gotten any hate mail about doing it at a gay bar?
Occasionally – it usually comes down to- they want to see more pussy. Furries have a very high gay population – gay clubs have a very high tolerance for differences and countercultures. You can get away with things at The Stud you wouldn’t have at a straight bar. In San Jose – when we do Frolic there – people are required to keep their shirts on. If you want gogo dancers- you have to have an equal number of female and male dancers. I know a lot of furry male gogo dancers, and don’t know one female gogo dancer. There’s just a lot of males in the scene, a lot of gay males. It’s a good reason to do it at a gay club.
Gogo dancing, furry style, is specific. I don’t think doing it in just a fursuit works. It’s gotta be sexy anthropomorphic. Kismet – he does a fantastic job. His style of costuming is very sexy, he makes an awesome gogo dancer. If he was in a full fursuit- they tend to be hot, hard to dance in, especially with a pole- they don’t work as well. Unless maybe it’s a set of briefs on top.
Is there anything else we should cover about Frolic?
We don’t know why it works.
It’s just magic. Some people just have a hit and don’t know why it happens.
It’s like TV shows. A new show will come out and it’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall, and you hope it sticks. If it doesn’t, you keep on throwing something else. If Frolic didn’t work, we’d keep doing other events. Definitely in the furry scene, it’s always been my home.
It’s great how everything happening in it grew organically.
It’s still growing. When I discovered the furry scene, I thought it was huge already. It’s so much bigger now.
There’s conventions all the time.
I think society in general, especially when we have the internet and different ways of finding very specific niche culture- I think subcultures are taking off. People like to party, socialize, and be around each other – and use the internet to find new ways to get together and be together in person, not just on the internet. The internet makes us feel a little isolated, and we try to balance that by going to these crowded events.
I remember reading an article that interviewed a bunch of people, they polled a bunch of different age ranges. They asked, would you rather camp in the woods by yourself, with your family – or go to a huge music festival packed with people? Younger people were way more likely to go to that large dense crowd, than older people. It’s changed in the last 10-20 years, and more and more people are seeking these crowds rather than getting away from it all. It’s why countercultures are thriving. It’s about events. Whether it’s a Furry convention, or Frolic, or other get togethers, it’s about events.