Saturday Night Special

Take a Walk on the Wild Side


      Saturday Night Special is a Berkeley reading series with a taste for the wild side.

      “There are no boundaries,” says poet Mike Lawson. “It’s a very fiery, sexual crowd. There’s a lot of poetry on desire and attraction.”

     Lawson should know: He has not only been a reader but also bartends at the series’ home base, Nick’s Lounge (3218 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-652-6425), just over the Oakland border.

     Hosted by local authors Hollie Hardy and Tomas Moniz, the monthly event—7 pm on the last Saturday of each month—features a dozen-plus folks on open mic along with two featured readers who are on in the middle of the set.

      “Our audience is a wonderful mix of East Bay and San Francisco writers and local drinkers, along with SFSU [San Francisco State University] and CCA [California College of the Arts] alumni, who always represent,” says founder Hardy. “The bar itself, Nick’s Lounge, is integral to the series, like how setting can be a character in a novel. There are a surprising number of people in the neighborhood who walk to the bar for the reading.” 

      Both organizers brought a fairly substantial fan base with them: Hardy previously curated the Velvet Revolution series at SFSU, and Moniz runs the zine Rad Dad and mans the Lyrics and Dirges series at Pegasus Books on Shattuck.

      The Saturday Night Special series celebrated its one-year anniversary last summer, with a packed-to-the-gills venue and a lot of emotional support from the crowd of readers and lit lovers. It’s an inclusive crowd that welcomes newcomers and provides both inspiration and framework for aspiring authors.

      Lawson says that the first time he read, he was a “little bit nervous … but now I’m comfortable. The audience is very like-minded and open to any kind of reading.”

      Hopeful participants are provided with a theme (“secrets,” “broken resolutions,” “pick-up lines,” etc.) for each episode of the series, though any subject is simpatico with the organizers. Poetry is popular, though flash fiction and memoir make a showing, too. Open mic sign-up begins on the dot at 7 p.m., and Hardy warns that the list is sometimes closed by 7:03.

      “Our first event only had about 30 or 35 people,” says Hardy. “The second event had 50. And then we grew exponentially. … People come. They find the atmosphere and vibe to be lively, inviting, inclusive, and they come back again and again. Sometimes to read and sometimes just to listen. Word spread, and now Saturday Night Special is the place to be.”

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