A SWITCHEROO is always good on the day after Thanksgiving. That is, the fourth annual Black Friday reunion of the old F/X nightclub takes place this week at a new location—Brix on South First Street in San Jose. In a side-splitting turn of events, the city’s nightclub history comes first circle this time around.
First, some quick history: During an era that now seems like the vanishing Wild West, F/X was an integral component of the original SoFA District alternative music scene 20 years ago—when local and national touring bands all supported each other many nights a week, orchestrating a Bohemian substratum all along South First Street. For an entire generation, it was the first time San Jose had ever produced anything to brag about.
When F/X was located at First and San Salvador streets from 1989 to 1995, it hosted a visionary conglomeration of live alternative music and dance nights, plus film events, costumed affairs, biker nights, touring bands and a wide variety of mishmash that helped spearhead the SoFA Street Fair, which lasted from 1992 to 2001. Nowadays, a pastiche of provocative characters that originally frequented F/X congregate every year to dance, drink and celebrate that particular rocking era of their lives, as well as the music.
When the club was active, the notorious Black Sunday events took place on a regular basis, so the reunions now take place on Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving. The fourth one promises to be even more provocative, taking place at Brix, located in the building that formerly housed both Sal & Luigi’s Pizza and Mac’s Cocktails.
This is not nostalgia. Not at all. Rather, the event has actually now evolved into its own unique annual club night, successfully redefining the socially networked reunion.
In 2008, when Facebook had yet to really infiltrate everyone’s lives the way it has now, original F/X co-owner Fil Maresca corresponded with some of the original F/X regulars to see what would transpire. Lo and behold, hundreds of folks emerged within a few weeks and the first reunion was born. At that time, “groups” were the collective entity on Facebook, and the whole process was still somewhat fresh. In fact, Maresca had never even used Facebook until he started organizing the first F/X reunion.
“I only joined for this party,” he recalled. “I had heard about Facebook, but was, like, ‘who cares?’ And then a couple of people said, ‘Let’s do this on Facebook and put up a bunch of photos.’ And now I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
The previous reunions all took place at the Blank Club, but this year’s affair will go down at Brix, a gay bar that will take an unprecedented move by allowing a non-gay-centric event to occur within its walls. This is an amusing switcheroo, because back in the day, F/X was officially a straight club, although gay-friendly. The owners would host a regular gay night, wildly called “the Back Door,” and admit patrons through the back door of the club on San Salvador. No other straight club at that time even attempted such an idea. Thus, it confused many of the regulars.
“In those days, you were either a gay bar or a nongay bar,” Maresca said. “There were still plenty of people who didn’t get the club. Is it a movie theater or a dance club? Is it gay or straight? Is it Live or DJ? There just weren’t places here that changed styles on different nights yet.”
Now, 20 years later, a gay bar down the block will do just the opposite—it will deviate from its normal clientele and host the F/X reunion. And some of the Brix regulars will surely arrive confused.
“The Brix owner and management recognize they are taking a chance with us,” Maresca told me. “Just like we took a chance when we moved into a former porn theater in the red light district. It will likely alienate some of the regular crowd who won’t get it. But I hope the mutual respect of the F/X crowd and the gay community will enhance the experience rather than detract. And if the experience is successful, we hope to make it a regular thing.”