The Late Show

Living it up with the freaks and geeks of Pioneer Square and beyond.

LAST CALL IS a lot like ScanDisk for Windows. Your brain suspends all functions for a few minutes and runs a system overview consisting of five questions: Are you alone? Are you horny? Are you drunk? Are you too fuck to drunk? Are you alone and horny enough to trade drinking for drugs and dry-humping? The rub: Unlike with ScanDisk, internal malfunctions are not automatically corrected.

While Seattle obviously can't roll with L.A.'s or New York's standards of debauchery, we can take brain cell–sapping solace in Belltown and Pioneer Square, our own miniature Sodom and Gomorrah for after-hours trance 'n' techno clubbing. Sure, paying for the privilege of rubbing rumps to the tune of club mixes with prematurely balding techheads and semiconscious, hand-holding suburban secretaries may not make much sense, especially while increasingly sober, but then again, neither does alternating between Red Bull and vodka, blow, and crystal, which appears to be the second most popular excuse for ending up there. To quote future laureate Steve Winwood, roll with it, baby.

PIONEER SQUARE boasts the most accessible cluster of late-late ass-to-ass, but if you must sample Belltown's Friday and Saturday skin shows, Medusa (2218 Western Ave., 206-652-0981) is the crème de la crème. A friendly cross-cultural mix grinds beneath catwalks populated by undulating babes in halters and hot pants. Complementary go-go imagery shines on flat screens, and multiple VIP areas are guarded by nattily clad behemoth bouncers. The bang nearly justifies the buck, which escalates to $15 on weekends after 11 p.m.

Wallet willing, Medusa's a rousing preamble to catapulting through First Avenue's fine assortment of strip joints, crackheads, and lepers en route to Pioneer Square, still the only neighborhood in the city in which one can experience firsthand the disquieting, almost palpable tragedy of a Girls Gone Wild infomercial. Luckily, Mantra Lounge (210 S. Washington St., 206-652-0981) offers tasteful, minimalist refuge from the tongue-wagging throngs of 24 Hour Party People. The dance floor is sometimes beset by shoe-shufflers crowding the perimeter, but hey, the operative word is "lounge." A slew of couches and "love seats" behind the bar engender an endearingly intimate atmosphere, but should you choose to cut it up, house rages on until 5 a.m.

If you're seeking something more visceral, i.e., vintage P-Square, tromp westward back to the Fenix Underground (109 S. Washington St., 206-405-4313), where Trent Von handles weekend wax until 4 a.m. The labyrinthine basement setup resembles Silence of the Lambs slayer Buffalo Bill's dungeon, but in lieu of "putting the lotion in the basket," you're rewarded with an abundance of ready-and-willing oglers and multiple, shadowy make-out nooks. Only buzzkill: Monitors sternly warn, "It's almost 2 a.m. Staff must remove all alcohol," well after 2 a.m., nullifying that perceived hand-in-the-cookie-jar sensation that after-hours merriment is all about.

On the outskirts of the Pioneer Square solar system is Contour (807 First Ave., 206-447-7704), open on weekends until 5 a.m. With the front window wide open, the club is half diorama, half peep show. The perspective is far more favorable from the dance floor, almost always inundated with writhing bodies and comfortably nestled far in back, safe from the junkies and streetwalkers beckoning just a few feet away. Contour's video screen is as adeptly employed as Medusa's; shadows of clustered freestylers flap up against swirling psychedelic imagery, a modern-day appropriation of Gremlins about to tear through the fabric of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

If you've ridden this gauntlet solo and have failed to acquire the accessories that can take you higher, Creed-style (and by that, I strictly mean a deeper understanding of the Lord and your place in his world), your last chance is Larry's (209 First Ave. S., 206-624-7665) back in the Square. They shut down the Top 40–heavy Ex'Capade at last call, but reopen at 4 a.m. for Dance Oasis at a low, low $5. If your body, mind, soul, and conscience haven't collapsed yet, at least you can sweat to sobriety as the sun rises and fantasize about replicated, crippling self-abuse next Friday.

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