If you haven’t heard, when it comes to furry and rotund gay guys, one international event packs them in more than any other party worldwide. And while it’s never been a fête restricted to that segment of gay men (you’ll find bears, cubs, otters, wolves and muscle bears flanked by plenty of bear-admirers), Bearracuda is the gold standard of nightlife events for guys who’d rather burn calories on the dance floor than a treadmill.
The party’s mastermind, a guy who (naturally) goes by Matt Bearracuda, first put the party into motion 11 years ago in San Francisco. He tells us that back in 2006, the Bay Area’s bear scene was an underserved one.
“There were other quarterly men’s parties and a bear bar in San Francisco, but no monthly events where guys could dance and socialize,” he says. It wasn’t long before Bearracuda began to take place twice each month — something that lasted “three great years” at a dive bar in San Francisco’s Tenderloin.
But, oh, how the party has grown since then. As of this year, Bearracuda has taken place in 59 cities around the globe, in 10 different countries. “After doing the event in San Francisco, I followed in the footsteps of SF clubs like Bootie and Trannyshack and expanded to some of my favorite places,” Matt says. Among the cities part of that initial expansion were Seattle, New Orleans, Portland and Los Angeles.
“After breaking up with my ex, I put all of my energy into expanding the party as far as it would go, and it spread like wildfire after that,” says Matt.
More than a decade after bringing the party to life, nightlife looks a little different these days. But Matt says the goal of Bearracuda remains the same: getting people away from their computer screens and having them interact in real life — preferably shirtless on a dance floor.
“My reasons for throwing the party haven’t really changed,” Matt says. “Bearracuda is a place for people to meet, make friends and maybe meet a new lover. I know people who have met a love interest for one night, and I know people who have met their decade-long partner at Bearracuda.”
Asked which of his international events are at the top of his own must-do list, it’s only natural that Matt would have a few favorites. “L.A. is always a blast,” he says, “and my crew down there is so solid. Vancouver, British Columbia, is an amazing place with an adoring and appreciative crowd. Auckland, New Zealand, is my favorite party outside of North America — they’re just a bunch of sweethearts down there, and it’s always packed.”
Of course, nothing beats the hometown game, says Matt. “Our original home of San Francisco is really at the top of that list. Still being relevant and busy after 11 years is a feat and an honor in that town.”
We asked Matt to go through his flyer archives, and below are 10 of his all-time favorites from Bearracuda parties past.
1. Bearracuda Folsom, San Francisco, 2012
“This was our new designer’s first Folsom poster, and it was a knockout,” Matt says. “The models are our DJ, Steve Sherwood, and a decade-long supporter of the club, Tor.
2. Bearracuda London, 2012
“This was our very first party in the UK and one of the best collages that our designer has done,” says Matt. “London was the fourth of 10 countries the club has been to.”
3. Bearracuda Melbourne, 2012
“Parties in Melbourne have a high level of simplistic design, very eye-catching and artistic,” Matt says. “This was our second party in Oz after our sold-out Sydney debut.”
4. Bearracuda’s 150th San Francisco Party, 2013
“We had a special mosaic poster done of old Bearracuda posters and household items, by artist Jason Mecier,” says Matt. “I’ve been a longtime fan of Jason’s and wanted something special for our 150th party in San Francisco.”
5. Bearracuda Vancouver, 2014
“I love the 3-D effect on this artwork and the fun vibe you get from it,” Matt says. “Vancouver was the first city Bearracuda expanded to outside of the U.S., and it still holds the record for our biggest event of all time at 1,300 people.”
6. Bearracuda Folsom, San Francisco, 2015
“This was one of the most iconic Bearracuda images, shot by our original photographer, Eric Nielson,” says Matt. “Models Del and Ben have been longtime supporters of the party, and they had great chemistry.”
7. Bearracuda New Year’s Eve, Los Angeles, 2015
“Our designed really pulled off this classic movie poster style for our event in Hollywood during NYE 2015,” Matt says.
8. Bearracuda Provincetown, 2015
“We used our friends Peter and Bob [as models] because they look like boyfriend twins! The gradient on the logo and the vector graphics on the rest of the design really make it one of our faves,” says Matt.
9. Bearracuda Vancouver Pride, 2016
“This pic was shot for Bearracuda by Dusti Cunningham, and they were the first L.A. models we’ve used,” Matt says. “It was Pride in Vancouver, so there are beautiful splashes of color but a dark background and a sexy threeway of guys — which represented the actual party quite well.”
10. Bearracuda Atlanta, 2017
“Our models are so sexy here,” says Matt. “We flew to Chicago and shot Tim and Mikey in our hotel room for this poster. The depth of this artwork and ‘disco locker room’ feel made for a hot night out.”