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Night at the museum

With cover fees slashed and alcohol for sale, party nights at the Bay Area’s cultural institutions are taking on the bars.

Many years ago, someone industrious realized that the fastest way to a city dweller’s heart is a lively party with a free-flowing bar. The last place where you might expect such a fiesta is a typically staid San Francisco museum. But from SoMa to the Sunset, the city’s cultural institutions have jumped on the honey wagon, sponsoring regular fêtes designed to boost their cachet. These nights attract all types: couples on first dates, art lovers looking for a cheap night out, and toddler-towing parents finally escaping the house.

The Asian Art Museum was one of the first to join the movement, and its Matcha first-Thursday series is still going strong. Some partygoers hang out in the South Court, alcohol in hand. Others take advantage of the discounted admission fee and check out the museum’s collection or line up for the Asian culture–themed activities scattered throughout the galleries, including docent-led tours, shiatsu massages, and martial arts performances. Anyone interested in doing it all knows to arrive early and down drinks fast—after all, at this get-together, there are things to do and people to see.

Matcha, Asian Art Museum, 7:52 p.m.

THE CROWD

The usual cool museum-night populace, ex-hippies fond of Asian culture, and besuited wannabe Gavins fresh from city hall.

THE SCENE

Friends elbow their way to tea tastings, while women with violently tousled hair and dazed looks stumble away from the ayurvedic-head-massage area.

THE SAUCE

Sake-based cocktails, like the Geisha (sake and pineapple juice).

EAVESDROPPING

“Excuse me, but do you know ‘Baby Got Back?’” A wise guy plans his song request for the traditional-Chinese-music ensemble.

Matcha, 5–9 P.M., First Thurs. through Nov. at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., S.F., asianart.org/matcha.htm

Elsewhere
Friday Nights at the de Young remain the gold standard, with free high-profile performances from bands like Von Iva and poets like Robert Hass. 5–8:45 P.M., 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., S.F., famsf.org/deyoung

Starting next month, Salon + at the Contemporary Jewish Museum will bring together 20- and 30-year-olds (who needs a yente?) for discussions about art, culture, and community. Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m., 736 Mission St., S.F., thecjm.org

Oakland Museum of California’s First Fridays after Five show off the city’s soul. The cafeteria’s offerings are poor, but who has time to eat when you’re boogy­ing down to local blues legends alongside the old folks on the dance floor? First Fri., 5–9 P.M., 1000 Oak St., Oakland, museumca.org