The Funked-Up, Blacked-Out 15-Year History Of The Breakfast Of Champions Party

By Joe Kukura in SFlist.com

It’s hard to write a 15-year anniversary article on the Breakfast of Champions party because no one ever remembers what happened at the Breakfast of Champions party. The 6 a.m.-6 p.m. New Year’s Day afterparty celebrates its 15th year at Mighty this January 1, so SFist spoke with Breakfast of Champions organizers the Space Cowboys about the history of their annual party, known all over as mecca to 5,000 sleep-deprived New Year’s ravers too cracked-out to face reality and just go home.

Turns out the Space Cowboys’ original SF New Year’s parties were not on New Year’s Day and were not called ‘Breakfast of Champions’. From 1997-2001, the Space Cowboys spun at the San Francisco Motorcycle Club New Year’s Eve Party, a fairly standard New Year’s Eve affair that went from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. But those parties lacked that special Space Cowboys magic, that magic that comes from a combination of performers unwinding after big-money NYE gigs and fourth-pill stragglers refusing to accept that the party might be over.

“Starting a party at 6 a.m. New Year’s Day made sure it was only for the hardcore,” said DJ Sol, a longtime Space Cowboy who’ll spin this year at 10 a.m. on the Main Stage. “That’s why it’s Breakfast of Champions and has the taglines ‘only the strong survive’ and ‘until you cry uncle’.”

2001: The First Breakfast of Champions (Pier 23)

The first Breakfast of Champions was at Pier 23 on New Year’s Day in 2001, and was meant as an intimate get-together for DJs who’d performed the night before. The name ‘Breakfast of Champions’ was not applied until just before the event.

“I was working on the flyers and the party didn’t have a name.” said DJ 8Ball, who’s been spinning at Breakfast of Champions since its inception. “I just came up with ‘Breakfast of Champions’ because it sounded good. I was working on an MFA in writing at the time, so I probably was thinking about Vonnegut or something.  It seemed like the appropriate name for an afterparty that was really kind of an endurance race.”

“It was not necessarily a Space Cowboys event,” Space Cowboys managing producer Andrea Lundquist told SFist. “However all the DJs that played were Space Cowboys, and all the people there were Space Cowboys. But it was just billed as ‘Breakfast of Champions’.”

To this day, there remains an angry 1-star Breakfast of Champions review on Yelp from an out-of-towner furious that a breakfast course was not actually served at this event called Breakfast of Champions. So I guess I should explicitly state that the terms ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Champions’ are being used ironically, not literally.

2002 – 2009:  Breakfast of Champions Grows and Grows (Potrero Brewing Co. / Whisper)

The party moved to the now-defunct Potrero Brewing Company in 2002, for no better reason than the Pier 23 bartender who’d scored the previous year’s venue now worked at Potrero Brewing Company. The venue had no idea what they were in for. “From what I remember, we had completely sold the bar out both upstairs and downstairs,” Chip “DJ Mancub” Corwin told SFist, recalling mad New Year’s Day scrambles to liquor stores just to keep up with attendee demand for booze.

The Potrero Brewing Company folded, but Breakfast of Champions was still held there as the venue became Whisper. (Nowadays that venue is a chocolate shop). Word of mouth about the party continued to spread, and the venue continued having problems stocking enough booze to keep the crusty revelers happy.

2010: Shit Gets Real (Kelly’s Mission Rock)

What we now call ‘the Great Recession’ turned into what we now call ‘the tech boom’ in late 2009. This resulted in scores of Google, Twitter and other various startup bros and sisses partying through New Year’s Eve with their newfound wealth and descending en masse onto Breakfast of Champions. This totally overwhelmed the new 2010 venue, Kelly’s Mission Rock.

“I loved that spot. It brought us back to that nice view of the bay that we had the first time,” DJ 8Ball told SFist. “But unfortunately, Kelly’s, as beautiful as the spot was, was too small. We destroyed their sewage line.”

Yep, there were so many ravers on hand that raver-poop was flowing out of Kelly’s Mission Rock and onto Terry Francois Boulevard. Mind you, there were still people standing in line two hours deep on Terry Francois Boulevard. ”They had to get somebody from the Sanitation Department down there on New Year’s Day, in the middle if the day, to see what we’d broke,” 8Ball laughed.

Kelly’s Mission Rock is now thoroughly refurbished as Mission Rock Resort. And the Space Cowboys have invested in large fleet of porta-potties to ensure they do not have another shitshow.

2011 – Present: BoC Becomes a Block Party  and Teams Up with The SF Food Bank (Mighty)

The party is now a massive block party operation that hosts nearly 5,000 morning-after revelers at Mighty and on the streets of Potrero Hill. “You get to iterate on a party 15 times, each year you see a different problem and you try to address it,” 8Ball said.

Last year Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation did a surprise set, and the Cowboys have some surprises in store for this year as well. But they’d rather promote their vibe instead of their big names. “A lot of other parties are centered around headline DJs and whatever’s current,” 8Ball said. “This is a friends and family event. It doesn’t feel like a completely new event each year. It feels like a reunion.”

Space Cowboy DJ shOOey stepped up to make the event a benefit for the SF-Marin Food Bank. She encouraged attendees to bring food donations, but that didn’t work because high people cannot remember to bring canned or dry foods. The Cowboys did receive cash donations though, and now they generously match all cash donations. Breakfast of Champions attendees donated an impressive $10,000 at last year’s event, and the Space Cowboys matched that $10,000 in full. (Both cash and food donations will be accepted this year).

“It’s a magical day. There’s nothing like it at any party anywhere else in the world,” Ms. Lundquist said. “It’s a mixed bunch. You’ve got your Burners, you’ve got your homos, you’ve got your whoever-wants-to-dance, your househeads, your breakbeats, your drum-n-bass, there’s a DJ for everyone. It’s a friendly day where all these different groups come together. I can’t walk down the street without getting at least 20 hugs.”

Breakfast of Champions 2015 kicks off at 6 a.m. on January 1, 2015 at Mighty. Cash and food donations will be accepted for the SF-Marin Food Bank. There will be outdoor tents in case of rain, though the weather is expected to be chilly but dry!