You know spring has sprung when you start to see friends and the greater community beginning their annual AIDS/LifeCycle fundraising efforts. This year, some of the city’s top event producers have joined forces to launch a new event called SHIFT that will feature fantastic music, amazing visuals, and a gregarious crowd ready to have a great time – all in service to fundraising for AIDS/LifeCycle.
I sat down with some of the members of SHIFT’s production team to learn more about the event – and the community that it serves.
What led to the creation of SHIFT? <Executive Producer Victor Martinez>: I had just finished a third year of production working with P Tyrone Smith to produce PLAY T-Dance and was starting to think about producing some of my own events. I’d always loved the idea of helping AIDS/LifeCycle with a big fundraiser dance party, and PLAY T-Dance was always after the actual ride in June, so I knew it wasn’t the best fit. There were several smaller fundraisers already put on by different ALC teams, but there wasn’t one big unifying dance party with high production value to match the high-minded goals of supporting ALC.
Who is the team behind SHIFT? <Martinez>: I knew I’d need some of the city’s top talent if I wanted to pull this off so I went to work recruiting a team of creative, talented, and experienced party producers to help me bring this event to life. I got Mark O’Brien on board. He is one of the producers of the wildly successful Polyglamorous event and is known for the rollicking party at Burning Man called the Big-Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep (BAAAHS), a massive sheep-shaped vehicle that is both interactive art project and party bus on the playa. He has also ridden AIDS/LifeCycle four times so he is personally tied to ALC. I snagged him for for set design and creating an unforgettable environment for our event. Robert Portilla, our hospitality lead, I had worked with previously as part of past PLAY T-Dance productions. And I turned to many veterans of the REAL BAD organizing teams and was able to enlist Philip Grasso (production), Andy Lax (DJs and hospitality), Joanna Parks (talent direction), and Simon Tam (marketing and graphic design) along with Jonathon Polly, another ALC veteran, as community liaison.
Finally, I was able to pin down some of the city’s top visual artists with Visuals by Three, RAGErLAZER, and lighting designer Robert Sanders bringing their extraordinary talents to the event. Once I got all those cats herded and ducks in a row, I knew we were ready to create something fantastic. We checked the calendars of venues around the city and were very happy to see that Mighty was available for the date we wanted.
What is the dynamic behind the word SHIFT? <Martinez>: The team brainstormed over several weeks to come up with a name and vision we felt best evoked the vibe we were hoping to create and kept the focus on the AIDS/LifeCycle cause. We wanted to convey motion in a new direction, something fresh, and lively. An elevation of the spirit of giving that tied right back to the community. And of course, simply having a fun time dancing to great music with friends old and new. The word “shift” seemed to capture those dynamics and pointed us in the right direction as we started planning the event. We called the production group Paradigm to surround that concept.
How are the AIDS/LifeCycle riders involved? <Martinez>: We have 25 ALC riders and each of them is paired with a non-rider host. The rider and host are each responsible for promoting the event to their communities and inviting them to come have a great time at SHIFT. By partnering up with hosts, it doubles the fundraising impact for each rider, giving more back to ALC. Over 90% of the crowd that night will be friends and friends-of-friends so we think it will really create this very warm, familiar, friendly vibe that San Francisco parties are known for. Our production group, Paradigm, is a Community Partner of AIDS/LifeCycle.
How did you choose the DJs? <Martinez>: The team assembled a wishlist of DJs they’d love to have at the event. We needed a DJ with the talent to structure an entire evening of sound that was friendly and positive but also anchored in that true prime time circuit sound.
<DJ Committee Lead Andy Lax>: That’s when Brazilian DJ Edu Quintas popped up as a possibility. Ever since his transcendent turn at REAL BAD a few years ago, I’d stayed in contact with Edu, always trying to find a party to bring him back to the city to showcase his talents. After REAL BAD, he said he had a better sense of the vibe and crowd here in SF and couldn’t wait to come back again. Once SHIFT started to percolate, I immediately thought of him. We reached out to Edu to explain what SHIFT was and what we were hoping to accomplish, and he jumped right in. We were ecstatic. He’s already working on the evening’s set, and it is going to be a stellar mix. This is his chance to come back and reconnect with the city and friends and show us everything he’s got.
<Martinez>: The Mighty venue also allows us to have a secondary space for a more down-tempo, deeper house sound that offers a counterpoint to the circuit fun in the main room. It’s where you go to catch your breath or take a break from the main action. We’re calling it the Ride Hard Lounge.
<Set Designer Mark O’Brien>: Like Polyglamorous, SHIFT will have two rooms, each with its own DJs. I love to offer musical contrast and give people a chance to change their location to suit their mood throughout the evening. The Ride Hard Lounge will feature DJs CarrieOnDisco and David Harness, with plenty of space for dancing downstairs and room to chill out upstairs. Carrie is an amazing disco selector, who also rode ALC last year. David Harness is, of course, a San Francisco legend from the Club Universe days, and we are grateful to have him bring his signature style to the room.
<Martinez>: Overall, the sound of SHIFT will be exuberant and joyous, but is still grounded in the circuit sound that keeps everybody moving. And we will make sure the evening echoes the spirit of AIDS/LifeCycle and the fabled ‘love bubble.’
What is the Love Bubble? <O’Brien>: During the seven days of ALC, you have thousands of people collaborating on this journey – some riding, others providing support services, and over the course of this week what we call the “Love Bubble” develops. It’s a sense you also get at Burning Man and other intentional communities, which engenders a sense of trust, love, and support for one another because you are all in this together. We are hoping to give our guests at SHIFT a taste of the Love Bubble – both by engaging a group of hosts who are riders and their supporters, and through the production design of the event.
<Community Liaison and ALC Rider, Jonathon Polly>: Exactly. People treat each other differently during that week that we ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. After climbing a difficult hill, some riders will go back down and ride up with someone who is struggling to get up that hill. Many riders will stop at the top of hills to cheer others on, rather than just continuing on the route. There’s a lot of standing in line during ALC – you stand in line for breakfast, for coffee, for the bathroom, for just about everything – and instead of being impatient, you enjoy the time in line to meet the people around you and learn more about them. I’ve made a number of new friends just chatting with people in line. Some who arrive early to the night’s camp will set up the tents for others who have yet to arrive. There are so many instances each day on the ride where riders (such as The Chicken Lady) and roadies and even just random people who always show up every year along the route just to cheer people on and keep riders motivated – they are all part of the “Love Bubble” that makes the ride such a special event. Those small ways that people reach out and help and support and make each other’s lives more meaningful and vibrant on the ride. That intentional enthusiasm will also be a part of the SHIFT event. We’re mixing bits of that throughout the evening in the video projections and visuals and throughout the club environment.
What’s with the bear in the poster? <Marketing Coordinator and Graphic Designer, Simon Tam>: Our gay community is so fragmented nowadays. The heart of SHIFT’s marketing campaign is really about unity. We’d like our party to bring everyone together, all under one roof. Uniting our diverse community through love, seduction, and philanthropy. We wanted our poster to communicate that as well. We’re traveling on a journey together in the ‘love bug.’ Happy Bear at the helm represents the carefree, hedonistic animal in all of us. We plan on facilitating that for you at our party as well. When I brought up the idea of having a bear on our poster, Victor thought I was referring to the “bears” in our community. I then had to clarify that I was in fact referring to an actual bear. He wasn’t sure about the idea but he put his trust in me along with the rest of the Paradigm team and that’s how Happy Bear came to be. He’s since become our beloved mascot.
<Martinez>: SHIFT brings Happy Bear and the Love Bubble to the dance floor for a night of celebration and fundraising for one of the community’s biggest charities. We can’t wait to unveil what’s in store!
PARADIGM presents SHIFT May 7th at Mighty, with DJs Edu Quintas, David Harness, and CarrieOnDisco. Visuals by 3, lasers by RAGErLAZER, and lighting by Robert Sanders. More information and tickets at paradigmsf.com.