Friday, March 30, 2007

Upcoming: Deep End Benefit at the End-Up 3/31

This Saturday, March 31st, the End Up will host a fundraiser for The Deep End dance camp at Burning Man. The best place to dance, roll, and get a sunburn on the playa:

Deep End Fundraiser at the End-Up

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Video Link: Rapping Rove

Oh, my god, the pain. First, Karl Rove is absolutely, totally, without charisma. I mean, how do you get to be this boring AND this evil at the same time? If you're an evil mastermind, you should at least have style. But then, then comes the rapping Rove. For all you foreign readers, this is the man who is single-handedly responsible for our country's political climate and the Bush presidency. Wow. It's not about the San Francisco scene, but jeez, people need to see this.

Rapping Rove at the Radio-Television Correspondent's Association Dinner

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Electronic Music Documentary "Headspace" Premieres in New York

A description of the film "Headspace," which focuses on the electronic dance music scene, from the New York Times:
[Headspace] tries to capture the essence of the music and the lifestyle associated with it. It’s experimental rather than expository, bargain-basement visionary work that deploys evocative filmmaking devices (slow dissolves, frame blurs, slow and fast motion, strobe-flash effects) to induce a 3-a.m.-on-the-dance-floor mindset, a feeling that time is suspended and that the only thing that matters is the beat (described by one interview subject as “fat kick always — boom, boom”).
Let's hope that it will make it to San Francisco as well; sounds like a good excuse for a party.

More News of the How Weird Street Faire

DATE:  Sunday May 6, 2007
TIME: 11:11 am to 5:55 pm
ENTRANCE: 12th & South Van Ness Streets, San Francisco
COST: Requested donation of $5 in costume, $10 without (kids free)
All proceeds benefit two Bay Area non-profit organizations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.HowWeird.org

A fundraiser and celebration for the World Peace Through Technology Organization (www.peacetour.org)
********************
Direct from Justin, Marketing Coordinator for the How Weird Street Faire:

Once again, the center intersection of Howard and 12th Streets will be filled with a mandala of grass – an urban crop circle – a place to relax and connect. This year will feature a special new area called "Ambient Alley" on Kissling Street, a place to escape with chill down-tempo music. The rest of the faire will feature seven dance stages powered by bio-diesel, and one sound system completely powered by humans on bikes! This will be the last event on Howard Street.
********************
The How Weird Street Faire got its start on Howard Street because that was home to the CCC,
aka the Consortium for Collective Consciousness, a commune-ish warehouse space filled with
the kind of kids who travelled
to Goa, trafficked in various doo-dads and clothes from the
developing world, and threw Goa Trance parties (which were
super exclusive, and if you were
dressed like a candy raver, you weren't getting in). It's a bit of a shock to learn that the How
Weird Street Faire will no longer be on Howard Street, and raises the question of where it will be located, if anywhere, in 2008.

DJ Philosophy II: "The Flow"

I first realized the importance of flow in a DJ set back when I was making party mix tapes with my record player and cassette deck. At first my concept of how songs should follow one another was intellectual and rather forced, in a I’ve-read-the-Rolling-Stone-History-of-Rock-and-Roll sort of way. By the time I got into industrial music, though, I had the concept that songs went together based on mood and musical elements more than who had previously been a member of what band.

Hearing psy-trance DJs was my first real introduction to mixing and the idea of a set as a journey through moods and ideas. I came to understand that flow was the name of the game, the way that a listener or dancer can be led from one vista of the mind to another without being conscious of the transitions. In this way trance sets reminded me of classical symphonies, with movements and motifs that would emerge over time.

When I listen to DJs now, or mix CDs, the flow is where I focus my attention. Anybody can play one record after another, and even beat-match an intro with an outro, but it takes real skill to create a flow. The challenge is not only in getting the sounds of two different tracks to work together, but to understand also their dynamics and mood. My greatest frustrations come when I’m working on a set and I realize that I’ve backed myself into a corner with a track, something that is impossible to follow with the music I have without creating a significant, noticeable shift in the flow of the set. If you tend to stay within a well-defined genre keeping the mood and dynamics compatible from track to track is not so difficult, but if you begin to mix and match, or actually intend to create a change in moods over the course of set, it’s a different story.

The best CDs I’ve heard recently in terms of flow have come from minimal techno DJs like Ritchie Hawtin and Alex Smoke. In terms of sounds minimal makes it easier to combine a variety of different types of tracks with one another because the layers of the tracks have enough space between them to accommodate new elements. And unlike other genres, like breakbeat, psy-trance, or even drum and bass, that have very defined structures and almost homogenized sound palettes, minimal tracks loop in a way that seems almost infinite, so that when one track comes in with another it’s difficult to tell that it is another track, instead of the introduction of another set of looped sounds. For me flow is what makes music truly psychedelic, rather than just more background sound in an already noisy, chaotic world.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Upcoming: Hey Willpower at the Rickshaw Stop

Queer popsters Hey Willpower appearing at the Rickshaw Stop this Friday, March 30.

Mesh Magazine presents
Hey Willpower
Rubies
Casy & Brian
DJs Jenny ("Fake") and Omar ("Popscene")

9 p.m, Friday, March 30th
RICKSHAW STOP - 155 Hayes, SF
$8 before 11 p.m., $10 after
18+

HEY WILLPOWER
SF's most fun synth/electro/dance pop band featuring Will from
Imperial Teen and Tomo of Tussle! Half Michael Jackson, half Justin
Timberlake, half Beyonce -- that's three halves of fun! "Hey Willpower
unabashadely wears its love of Top 40 pop on its sleeveless, too-tight
T-shirt." -- SF Weekly
www.myspace.com/heywillpower
www.heywillpower.com

RUBIES
Simone Rubi (ex-Call and Response) is Rubies, along with Amy Cooper,
Terri Loewenthal, and others. Sounds like harmony with ivory, sci-fi
disco, bubblegum, danceable folk, traveling (or maybe Sheryl Crow
fronting Ms. John Soda).
www.simonerubi.com/rubies.html

CASY & BRIAN
"Casy & Brian are a two piece (casio+drums) grime/punk band who will
knock your socks off with their awesome rock power." -- TheParadox.org
www.myspace.com/casyandbrian

Monday, March 26, 2007

New York Club: The Box

Today's New York Times has an article on the new trendy nightspot The Box. Sounds like a swell night out if you can get past the door, plunk down $600 for a table, and then shell out $16 for a Bacardi and Coke. So is it the club that's fun, or spending money to go there?

Monks on Mono: Super Techno Mixes to Download

The boyfriend first gave me the four Monks on Mono mixes, and I've been so jammin' on them while tippy-typing away at my mundane Monday morning work I just had to share with you all. The four mixes, plus many more, are available for free directly from MisterHonk, who created them. A super introduction to the oh-so-danceable side of minimal techno, with lots of acid, knarz, and just crazy crazy sounds.

Upcoming: Battling Breaks on Friday!

Two big breaks parties coming up this Friday, one at Mighty, the other at Wish. Note that the Evil Breaks kids will be putting on a Matt Jakes ghetto-tech tribute as part of their party at Wish.

Evil Breaks 3 Year Anniversary Bash!!!!!
Friday, March 30th, 2007
FREE before 1130 w/Guestlist & only $10 after
door is $15 if you didn't make the guest list
Located @ Whisper (535 Florida st @ Mariposa)
10pm - 4am
21+ w/ID
Guest List: http://www.evilbreaks.com
Line-up:

Deekline with MC Ivory (UK) - headliner
Aaron Jae
Bam
M.O.D.
Athena
Mozaic
Kapt'n Kirk vs Evinrude
Melyss
Komega - Live PA
Redstickman vs Actual Rafiq (Matt Jakes Ghetto-tech Tribute)
Jay Vigor vs Influence

Sunset Promotions presents
Kraak and Smaak Live (a full six-piece live band set)
at Mighty (119 Utah Street at Alameda)
with lotsa Space Cowboys and others providing support


Ducal Doin's: The Mr. Bunny Contest Rages On!

The contest for Mr. and Miss Bunny continued on Sunday at the Cinch, where Diamond Disco Duke Brian Busta convened his court once again for an Easter Basket auction to benefit the SPCA’s hearing dogs for the deaf. This time there was extra fun in the form of Gotcha, a shepherd mix dog who demonstrated for the crowd all the neat things she has been trained to do, like picking up keys when they get dropped, or making sure her companion knows that the phone is ringing.

The Cinch up on Polkstrasse was a great venue that brought out such luminaries as Miss Anna Conda and, making command performances, Juanita Fajita and Frieda Laye. In between performances various Easter baskets were auctioned off, and yours truly, feeling inspired by Gotcha and disinhibited by three of the strongest drinks I’ve had at a bar in a long time, walked off with two of them, including one that came with a painting created by the Duke hisself. The Mr. and Miss Bunny contestants, meanwhile, continued to sell raffle tickets in an attempt to boost their standings in said contest. And here’s where I’ve a bone to pick with the workings of the Ducal court.

So here’s the deal: contestants actually pay for the books of raffle tickets they sell, so essentially what happens is that if they have enough money of their own, they can buy the tickets straight out and don’t really need to worry about the re-sale. But my good friend Kitty, who is competing against Mr. SPCA whom I mentioned in the last Ducal post, is an underemployed graphic designer who is doing all he can right now to pay his rent and meet his other financial obligations. He got into the contest because of his personal friendship with the Duke, whom he wanted to help out, and because he wanted to do some community service work. Mr. SPCA, on the other hand, is fully employed and, no doubt, has plenty of friends with money as well. As I pointed out in my last post, there seems to be some conflict of interest with him competing in this contest when it’s being used to raise money for the non-profit that he works for, but I’m more concerned that this whole court business devolves, eventually, into classist system that favors people who have money, and move in moneyed circles, rather than people who are there because they want to do something for their community. I certainly hope that the final decision will be based on something other than just fundraising. I’m sure Mr. SPCA is a nice guy, and I will refrain from catty comments about things like hair coloring and how only Polk Street hustlers walk around with the middle button of their jeans undone, but I think the cards are being stacked in an unfair way against Kitty. The crowning will take place on Easter Sunday at CafĂ© Flore, so we’ll see how it all works out by then,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Upcoming Event: Lord Kook at Drunk and Horny

Lord Kook will be at Drunk and Horny again this Saturday, and since DJ Big Red has another committment that will have him showing up late, you can expect an extended set of kooky goodness.

Bar Review: Love It Wednesdays at Icon Ultra Lounge

At the last minute on Wednesday afternoon the Kontrol kids sent out an announcement on their mailing list (and why haven't you signed up yet) that they were going to be appearing at Love it Wednesdays at the Icon Ultra Lounge (formerly known as the Luna Lounge) on Folsom and 8th. Since the boyfriend was at Mezzanine singing along to "Trapped in the Closet," and I was besotted in the company of bloggers and feeling frisky, we decided that this was a good space to meet in-between, as it were.

I used to frequent the Luna Lounge some years ago when they hosted the Taco Portal psytrance parties on Thursday nights. It was a pretty non-descript bar with too-expensive drinks ($6 each for well) that had the one redeeming quality of selling deep-fried Mexican bar food (hence, Taco Portal). That regular night ended about two years ago, and after that the Luna Lounge passed into deserved obscurity. Now, as the Icon Ultra Lounge it has a lot more flair, but they need to pull their act together if they're going to keep this thing going.

The flyer said 9PM - 11PM, and since it was a school night, I was inclined to be there early. I show up at 9.30 and while the door was open, there was no music and it looked like set-up was still in progress. I took a walk to check out the SoMa street theater, and when I came back ten minutes later sound check was still underway, and the bartenders were still counting out their cash drawers. At 9.45 I finally was able to get a drink, and the tunes started up. Now, I know from experience that, especially on a Saturday night, 9 can mean 9.30. But on a Wednesday, when people are inclined to go out early and leave early, if you put 9.00 on your flyer, you better start at 9PM.

Also on the email flyer was a promise of Kontrol DJ Sammy D. djing a "darker side of light rock" set as Lark After Dark in the back room. During the Taco Portal days this room was closed, and I only saw it once during a big party. I was rather looking forward to this, since I was curious what Sammy's spin would be. However, when the boyfriend and I left at 11.15, this room still wasn't going. On the print flyer it says "KOIT's Storm presents Light Rock Inferno," but nothing was burning as far as I could tell. Again, if you put it on the flyer, you better be making it happen.

The boyfriend and I didn't really spend any time in the main room because we discovered a third room that I had never seen before, a kind of VIP lounge space in the shape of a narrow U in the very back of the bar. There was the standard leatherette banquette seating with a table in the center of the U, but the walls were covered with very narrow mirrored stripes. Seven clear lightbulbs with orange filaments hung from the ceiling, and their reflection in the mirrors created the effect of being in the middle of a shower of sparks, or, if you kinda squinted (or, in my case, took off your glasses), it was like looking out into a cityscape at night. A truly awesome optical effect achieved very simply. Too bad the room was empty, though we did find it a good place for a quick toke.

When we did make it out into the main room, just before we left, we found that it had been considerably reconstructed since the Taco Portal days. The DJ pulpit now towered up in the middle of the dancefloor, and the illumination was provided by red, circular lighting fixtures. Very ultra lounge. A small number of people had showed up by this point, but the party energy had yet to manifest and I was ready for the bed.

This space has a lot of potential, and from the upcoming line-ups on the print flyer it looks like this might be a great night during the week to check out some new tech house sounds. But if you're going to do a middle of the week party you can't be slack in how you set things up and make them run, because us working stiffs aren't going to be patient to wait for things to get up to steam. I'll definitely check it out again.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

bRave Your Ass Off! in Seattle

Though based in Seattle I can't help but make mention of the truly fun parties and overall swell attitude of the Simply Shameless crew. The boyfriend and I first met them some two years ago at their annual "Bloody Valentine" party, where I had a nice chat with Derek Fisher, an old-skool British raver who at that time was a main player in the Shameless crew. The best quote I got from him was "Yeah, whatever happened to the idea that parties were places to go have fun and get fucked up with your friends?" Indeed.

Simply Shameless has since gone on to become one of the main forces in the Seattle electronic music scene, dropping electro, techno, and whatever else they feel like at parties in clubs like the ReBar and Chop Suey, and have brought to town great new artists like ModeSelektor and Jamie Liddell. Whenever the boyfriend and I have to venture north for family affairs we always check out the Simply Shameless website to see if there's anything going down with these kids. I love them most because their concept of a good time still includes that now-despised word "rave." If you're up in Seattle and want to have fun at a party getting fucked up with your friends, check out the Simply Shameless crew.

SF Bloggeratti

Thanks to an invite from Ted Strawser of the San Francisco Party Party I found myself in the company of bloggers from SFist, BeyondChron, and other San Francisco mini-media empires at Zeitgeist last night, where I discovered that bloggers are much like their old-media journalistic counterparts when it comes to liver capacity. I had some great conversation with folks like E. Doctor Smith (who plays an interesting electronic instrument of his own invention) and Joe Eskenazi of BeyondChron, and got an editor of a major San Francisco weekly stoned. As we passed the pipe he introduced me to a friend of his who turned out to be DJ Smoove of the Space Cowboys (among other affiliations). We wound up having a discussion about whether or not another DJ who was a friend of theirs had recently turned into a "trance bitch," which of course got me going since I considered said DJ to be more of a progressive house DJ, based on the couple times I've heard him. The crux of the matter was whether or not progressive house was the same as progressive trance, and you can guess where I came down on that. Things concluded with the the acknowledgement that "progressive" could be applied to any kind of dance music (including breaks, kids, let's not forget about what breaks would be like without builds and breaks), and that there really was a difference between progressive house and progressive trance. This is what happens when you get into stoned conversations with a breaks DJ on one side and a techno/trance DJ on the other - lots of pissing to mark territory. The entire affair put me in a mischievious mood, hanging out with all these alternative media types and getting soused on a school night, and I look forward to the next gathering of the SF Bloggeratti.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Upcoming: Beats for Peace on 3/23, a Benefit for How Weird Street Faire

"Beats for Peace" - A Benefit for the How Weird Street Faire
Friday March 23, 2007
10pm to 5am
1015 Folsom St., San Fancisco
$20-30 sliding scale, $10 before 11pm
Limited $15 pre-sales ( available at www.wantickets.com/ )
21 + with ID

THE BENEFIT LINE-UP...

In the Main Room - A Trance Mix (by CCC + Tantra)

Penta (AuraQuake Music, Russia/SF) - Presenting his new album "Horn Please"!
KJ (CCC/Tantra)
Liam (Tantra)
Kode IV (Ceiba)
Cyril (Vaporvent)
Cybert (CCC)

In the Front Room - Beats for Life (by Raindance)

Liberation Movement (featuring Resurrector of Heavyweight Dub Champion, Jillian Ann + special guests)
Subal (Raindance/13 Moon Tribe)
Kraddy (Glitch Mob)
Boreta (Glitch Mob/Raindance)
Adam Ohana (Get Freaky/An-ten-nae.net)
Little John (Raindance/13 Moon Tribe)
Mozaic (Raindance/Nexus)

In the Bassment - A House & Breaks Mix (by Sunset + Music Without Borders + Raindance)

Jeno (Wicked)
Galen (Pacific Sound/Sunset)
Solar (Pacific Sound/Sunset)
Mochi (Waffle Beats)
Hypnotech (Addictech)
Friction (Yellow #5)

In the Back Upstairs - A Downtempo Mix (by Dub Beautiful + False Profit)

Sariah Storm (Terpsichore Group)
pureEvil (Space Cowboys/Glitch Mob)
maer (Dub Beautiful/Psyphy Machine)
DJJD (False Profit)
obi-J (False Profit)
funktion (ill)

In the Front Upstairs - An Eclectic Mix (by Lowpro Lounge + Symbiosis)

B.I.G Crew (featuring Subtek, Enzyme, Jamin Creed, DJ Munk)
Danny (Moontribe/Symbiosis)
Majitope (Lowpro)
James Christopher (Lowpro)
MC Child (B.I.G. Crew/Grime City)
Axiom MC (Beatropolis/Lowpro)
Goddess Alchemy Project
Absynth (Live Electronic Band)
Audette Sophia (Poet/Singer)
Ribotto (Symbiosis)
Taylor Maiden (Linguistic Seamstress)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Ducal Doin's: Mr. and Ms. Bunny

Among my many social acquaintances I count some San Francisco nobility, the Diamond Disco Duke Brian Busta of the San Francisco Ducal Court. The Duke's main activity is fundraising, and on this past Sunday the Duke gathered together his court at Marlena's, in Hayes Valley, to begin a fundraising effort for the SPCA which will be spearheaded by the contestants vying for the title of Mr. and Miss Bunny. Here's the deal: they sell raffle tickets (for actually good prizes, I'm working it for that 5.1 surround system and DVD player), and whoever sells the most and smiles a lot wins the title. My friend Kitty decided to go out for it since the Duke actually asked him to do it, only to find himself up against a guy from the SPCA who, by virtue of being part of the group that the fundraising is being undertaken for, should probably bow out, ya know? Along with the raffle selling and drink swilling, there were also the inevitable drag performances, including one each from the inimitable Juanita Fajita and Frieda Laye. This will culminate on Easter Sunday with the bestowing of the royal ears upon the royal bunny, so I'll keep you up-to-date on our Kitty's progress toward becoming a bunny.

CD Review: Alex Smoke, Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi Vol. 3

It's rare to find a mix CD that can really deliver an experience to the listener - most of the time what you get is a collection of tracks that, at best, are artfully sewn together but lack any intellectual or emotional cohesion. The result is something you can put on for background at your party, with an occasional track that might catch your attention, but rarely will you feel compelled to just sit there and listen. Volume 3 of the Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi series by Alex Smoke, however, is that rare collection that is capable of leading the listener along through seventy plus minutes of diverse sound that, at its conclusion, makes you feel that you have really have gone somewhere.

Deep house fans will hear much that is familiar in the tracks Smoke has selected for his mix, from the deep heartbeat bass and langourous organ chords in Model 500's "M69 Starlight" to the oscillating background waves of "Minor Explosions" from Stewart Walker Vs. Theorem. The whole vibe of this mix is very deep, and very house, though the minimal aesthetic governs everything; the tracks are complex and poly-rhythmic, but each track element has its own distinctive position and value. There's lots of space in these tracks, and it's this space that makes for such a compelling listening experience because it provides an opportunity for the listener to insert their own own mind and follow along. This can be in the form of intellectual amazement at the polyrhythms and interactions among the track elements, or emotional enjoyment of the vistas that begin to appear in the mind's eye. About halfway through, when Smoke brings in "Detroit: One Circle" by The Vision, the tempo picks up and the high-hats and hand claps evoke old-school acid house before taking us over into more abstract territory with "Xenia" by Thomas Brinkmann, easily the kookiest and most-good natured track on this compilation (with the hysterical "25 Bitches (Gaiser Remix)" by Troy Pierce a good second). Clara Intellecto brings in an electro bass line with "Peace of Mind," but this just provides feel-good downtempo setup for the most techno section of the mix, starting with "Juan and Alex" by Musica Charlista, moving through the glistening keyboard stabs and hip-hop inflected bassline of "Faktum" by Epy, and concluding with Smoke's own track "Pingu." "Pingu" sounds like it could have been put out on a minimal psytrance label like Traktor, with a slow build that then unwinds into a loping bassline punctuated by chopped and distorted vocal sounds. Smoke leads us out of this dark territory with "Squat" by Quixote and his own "Always and Forever," giving us a triumphant build into "Fokuz" by 2000 and One, another track that evokes the old days of rave with its acid lines, steady bass pulse, and chatter of high-hats.

The mixing of all this is flawless, with long mixes, the use of quick snippets (as in the beginning, where we move through three tracks in under six minutes), and the ability to borrow elements from one track to use in another. I suspect that this mix was assembled using Ableton or Traktor, but the mechanics of it all inconsequential in consideration of the art that is produced.

Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi Volume 3 from Alex Smoke gets the two rolling boys' thumb's up. No matter where your head is at, it will be someplace different by the time you finish listening to this mix, and chances are, it will be a happier, more satisfied place than where you started from.

Rhythm Society at First Unitarian Universalist Church

Back in the day the great thing about underground parties was the opportunity to step into a bubble for several hours, one in which you knew you could hang out with your friends, get high, dance, and act like a silly fool while still being basically safe. Though clubs offer many of the same activity options, the essential underpinning of the night is different - rather than a gathering of like-minded folks who know how to deal with trips different from their own, club crowds are made up of whoever can pay the fee at the door, and often these folks have very different ideas about the kind of experience they want, or are willing to tolerate, for the evening. In these situations, where bumping into some guy's girlfriend might bring a knife out on the dancefloor, or where the 'phobes might not look too kindly, especially after four or five drinks, on the boys making out next to them in the chill room, you can find yourself torn between the desire to let go and enjoy yourself, and the need to keep your guard up and negotiate the social complexities of the night.

What makes the Rhythym Society's quarterly parties special, then, is their harkening back to those old school events. Because everyone there has to have an invitation from a member (their sponsor), they already have some connection to what's going on, and the safety and security everyone feels can be seen in the willingness of families to bring their littlest ravers to the party, at least for the early hours. For me, this past Friday's event, "Sparkle," was just the thing I needed to let me re-discover parts of myself, and my relationship with my boyfriend, outside of the typical club environments, where we spend more time trying to deal with the crowd than we do enjoying the music, one another's company, or even being with our friends.

In terms of atmosphere, the best way I can describe these parties is "Burning Man without the dust." You get the same crowd, the same costumes, and the same hedonistic vibe, but when you're ready to leave there's your apartment at the end of a taxi ride, rather than a trek through the cold night to a dust-filled tent. The doors close at 11.30, and at midnight there's a ceremony to kick off the night. The music is close to what you'd hear at Burning Man as well - this time Sentient, who spins psytrance and promotes the weekly Synchonrize parties on Wednesdays at Il Pirata, opened with a set of what he called "user-friendly psytrance," followed on by breaks for the rest of the night. Aside from the main dance room there are two chill spaces, an outdoor courtyard smoking area, and open access to the main church Sanctuary, which can be a lovely place to sit and mediatate.

The boyfriend and I had several friends, and two kids who live in the same converted Edwardian as myself, to hang out with, but we spent more time on the dancefloor than anywhere else. At first the sound system came across as pretty weak, so that we had to stand in front of the speakers to actually feel the bass, a result, I think, of the dancefloor being completely packed. However, the whole event began to thin out noticibly after 1.30, and the sound improved as well - I think there are many folks who come early in the evening to socialize, then take off after the ceremony. It was the first time I've danced to psytrance in a long time, and I forgot how it breaks down so often, sometimes a bit too often. Sentient's mixing was a bit on the aggressive side, mostly mashing the bass of the incoming track up into the mix of the exiting one, but the measures were matched and the timing spot-on, even if I did find the flow from track to track to be somewhat occasionally perplexing, in terms of mood. When we needed a break there was the outdoor smoking area, with many folks eager to join in converstation. Around 2.00 we came back in for the end of Sentient's set and the beginning of some breaks, but the DJ was going for a style that was a bit faster and tweakier than we really were into at the moment. We found our friend Juan in the chill room and chatted with him until the DJ in there started spinning hip-hop, so we took our leave and went home to spend the rest of the evening in that lovely state of post-party exhaustion where you can just lay on the couch, listen to music, and shoot the shit until you begin seeing the first gray light of morning coming through the window.

As the boyfriend and I reclined in the living room I said "well, I think the re-start button got pushed this evening." To answer my own question, I think that's the value of parties like this; they give you the chance to step outside of the world for a few hours and then start up again the next day. They allow you to synch up with people in your life under a different set of parameters, and even if it is all ephemeral and subject to second-guessing the next day, we can at least have these moments when we feel safe, secure, and thus capable of giving expression to thoughts and feelings that have a hard time finding their outlet otherwise. There was a reason why the kids you raved with always felt like a special group; at "Sparkle" I remembered what that reason was.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Video Link: Swiss Cheese

Vampires are alive, according to DJ Bobo. This was the Swiss entry for the Euorovision 2007 contest. My favorite lyric:

I'm a vampire
I'm a slave
I sleep in the daylight
hence my grave.

"Hence my grave." Yeah. Feast upon the cheese: DJ Bobo: Vampires Are Alive

Friday, March 16, 2007

Shopping for Jeans

To celebrate going down a waist size, thanks to the advice of my new trainer, my ability to limit myself to one beer in the evening, and the avoidance of the pastry case at Starbucks when I get coffee, I decided to treat myself to a new pair of jeans. Not just a new pair of Levis like I wear to work all the time, mind you, but nice jeans, something I could wear out to all these fabulous clubs and bars that would have some actual style to them (while, of course, showing off the results of all this body modification). After a grueling week of hunting high and low for that perfect pair, I am now ready to share with you all my impressions of the state of the jeans shopping experience in our fair, foggy city.

Here were the criteria: less than $200 (I know, you're groaning already - I couldn't take the boyfriend along to some stores, because if he saw me spending more that $75 on anything clothing-related, it would have been nothing but grief for weeks), some "decorative" elements (it's all about the back pockets now, you know, but I still love my faded and nearly washed-away raver jeans), and a general dashing, boy-about-town style. Color and fabric preference: medium blue, "distressed," no raw denim.

First stop: Macy's Men's Store. On a lovely Saturday afternoon the boyfriend and I hit the third floor of the venerable department store and found that they were in the middle of their winter season clearance. Racks and racks of jeans at 50% off, so those $250 jeans I thought were cute in September were now $125 dollar jeans that were just as cute. Unfortunately, nothing in my trim new waist size, aside from stuff that had been rejected by legions of gay boys already. Too plain, too decorative, too long (why does everything come with a 34" inseam these days?), fit funny in the ass, fit funny in the crotch. Repeated visits over lunch hour the following week did not bring any hidden treasures to light, and even when I started checking out out new jeans at the sub-$200 level, my overall impression was "eh."

Walking down Market later in the week I saw a boy in front of me with a nice pair of Energie jeans, so I popped into their store on Grant street for a look. Some nice styles, but again, the fit was bizarre, either way too long or way too tight in the "crucial" areas while puckering out around my waist (I mean, do the boys who model these things not have butts or what?). And then, there was the staff. I might have been more inclined to spend time trying on some other pairs had I gotten a bit of advising on the bewildering away of styles, but they were all too busy fawning over someone who was apprently buying a whole head-to-toe outfit to pay any mind to a guy like me in a baseball shirt and pair of Levis. The really fun part about designer jeans stores, kids, is when you walk in and you can see the staff give you the up-and-down. In those two seconds you've been totally judged for how much money you have, and how much money you're going to spend, and they're going for the cash-rich targets.

For comparison purposes I then went over to G-Star Raw on Geary, less than a block away. The boyfriend loves their reconstructed military look stuff, and I have a black sweater of theirs that makes me look like an officer on the bridge of a space marine assault craft, so I thought maybe they'd have some fun jeans as well. All I can say is that I left Virginia so that I could get away from a world where everyone looks like an auto mechanic.

Later the same day I went into the Diesel store on Geary, which was more of a sensory assault than I could bear, with pounding techno streaming out of the doors and onto the street. All the jeans styles were displayed high up on the wall above the bins where they were stored, so I had to walk up a flight of stairs to actually see them. In the "collection" section in the basement I was a bit overwhelmed by the aura of EuroJapanoTrash shoppers, and decided that anything these guys would wear would probably be a bit much for me.

Having overheard someone at Macy's say that Nieman-Marcus was having a 40% off sale on Antik Denim, I put my better judgement aside and headed for the glass-walled hell of the upper classes. Here is where I discovered that you really can find designer denim for more than $250, and walked out pretty quickly after being given the googly-eye by a clerk who was wearing gear that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe.

In frustration I decided on one last foray, this time into the familiar territory of the Castro. Coming out of the MUNI stop I looked at the Diesel store and thought, hell, why not, I've been to worse places already today. Inside a very cute guy with a faux hawk and brown doe eyes actually went to the trouble of helping me pick out a pair of jeans with the fit, color, and style I wanted. The first pair I liked he was rather dismissive of, in an uber-cool gay boy sort of way, but then I let him do the shopping and came out with a pair of pretty-much perfect jeans. So now I am among the hordes of Diesel-clad gay boys wandering the Castro. But at least I knew to draw the line at rhinestones on my ass.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bye Bye to the Roxy

Though it's New York news, it's still worth noting the passing of The Roxy, last of the big-name NYC gay bars. I guess Crobar now ascends the throne, but I do have the sense that an era is coming to an end. Where will Peter Rauhoffer hustle his tribal wares now?

New York Bids Farewell to Gay Hotspot The Roxy

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bijou at Martuni's

I've never thought of myself as a Martuni's kind of guy; sure, I like big strong drinks, but I don't like to pay $7-$8 for them, and I'm not usually into sitting around a piano and singing along to showtunes. However, Trauma Flintstone's Bijou variety show at Martuni's is always a great way to spend a Sunday evening, especially when folks like my friend J White are performing.

Bijou might best be thought of as a kind of gay cabaret, though plenty of folks in all varieties of gender and sexuality perform - I've seen drag queens sing Ethel Merman, tranny boys belt out folk tunes, and a Macedonian wedding song performed in duet by a lesbian couple of fifteen years. My friend Varian once performed a version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" entitled "Somewhere Up My Asshole," and J usually comes to perform on ukulele. This, however, is not your Dad's ukulele music, but something far more poignant and complex that requires extra-dimensional finger positions to perform. There are regulars who come out to show off their latest tune, many of whom make their living as professional performers but come to perform at Bijou for tips. When you add in two (or three, or four) of those killer Martuni's drinks, the overall atmosphere becomes one of fun and camaraderie, and if you're lucky, you'll get to do a singalong to Trauma's signature tune "Tittyfuck." After you've spent the weeknd trying to be supercool and sophisticated, wondering about where that next buzz is going to come from, Bijou is a great way to spend a Sunday evening with people who are sure to become your new friends, having a drink, a laugh, and a good sing-along.

Battlecry Brings Fresh Chicken to San Francisco!

Walking around the Castro with the boyfriend on Saturday we noticed an increase in packs of scruffy adolescent and barely-legal boys skulking about, many with cute Emo haircuts, piercings, and tattoos. At first we thought that housing prices had collapsed overnight, bringing some much-needed variety into the Castro boy market, but then we guessed that all these younguns were in town for Battlecry, the Kristian Youth Movement's version of the Nuremberg Rally (pix and mind-blowing quotes here.) We couldn't imagine what they were doing in the Castro, perhaps they were torn between a desire to look into the face of the beast and to do a little shopping at Rock Hard. Of course we had our own ideas about the Castro tour we would give them, one that would ultimately demonstrate, no doubt, that their fantasies about life in the Gay Mecca were far more interesting and outrageous than anything that could possibly exist in reality.

Bar Review: Jet on Market

Jet is in the space once occupied by The Detour, a fading leather bar that had definitely seen better days. The interior has undergone a total rehab, and is super-slick: black patent leather wall, ergonomic foam-formed bench seating on the back wall, cabaret-style seating in the front with a stage (where I've been told you can sometimes find go-go dancers), and plenty of mirrored surfaces. The most amazing bit of interior design is the stainless-steel wall of lightbulbs that goes up behind the bar and onto the ceiling. This creates a really interesting optical illusion in which the back wall seems to tower about sixteen feet high, when in fact it's a fairly low ceiling. It makes the space seem much bigger, and overall the vibe is very lounge-sophisticated.

I'd heard that Greg Bronstein, the owner of Jet, had plans to make it a "hip-hop lounge," and that was certainly what we heard coming through the system when we came into the bar. I'm not a big fan of hip-hop, but I'm especially not into the R&B style of hip-hop with its overly-emotive vocal stylings. In a bar this can be especially difficult to deal with since the vocals compete with the ability to have a conversation, and when you get into the more aggressive beats, or songs with layer upon layer of vocal tracks, it just becomes too much. Though we took advantage of the two-for-one drink specials, I was more than ready to leave after my first drink.

For a Friday night after 9PM there weren't many people in the bar, maybe a dozen older guys, a couple younger guys with their hags, and a small group of lesbians out and about. All seemed to be stopping in on their way someplace else, and I didn't see many signs that they were settling into the space for a long night of drinking and carousing. When we went to The Bar on Castro afterwards, in contrast, the place was packed with lots of guys and girls who were obviously there to have their good time for the night.

In sum, Jet is a fabulous space in need of a different musical vibe. I don't know why Bronstein decided that the Castro needed a hip-hop lounge; perhaps there is an attempt here to pull in a greater degree of diversity than the typical Castro bar, but I didn't see any sea of homongenous faces at The Bar that spoke to me of a need for diversification. The hip-hop orientation could work with a more acute track selection, since later in our visit there were some deeper tracks that came on and gave the space a warm vibe, but from the small number of people we saw there on a Friday night at prime drinking time, the Jet concept as it stands now doesn't seem to be catching on. The boyfriend and I agreed that we would come back and check it out again on another night, but it needs something more compelling and interesting to keep me there past the first drink.

Overheard at Drunk and Horny

Kid handing a slip of paper with the afterparty address to another kid in the back smoking area:

"I'm only giving these out to the cute ones, if you know what I mean."

Those overhearing this were not recipients of said address, therefore, they must not have been cute.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Start of the Burning Season

Daylight Savings Time begins early this year, and, for me, so does the Burning seasion, with my Burning Man camp having had our first major planning meeting last night. We're still two months away from the How Weird Street Faire, the event that kicks everything off , but already the fundraisers are happening. This is it, kids, that time of year when San Francisco finally comes out of hibernation, you begin to feel a sense of anticipation in the air, and all the dealers start to stock up for their annual Burning Man Blowout Sale. So, if you hear of any good fundraisers, let me know, okay?

The Fox and the Hound Take on Gloss Magazine

The Fox and the Hound, who bear a striking resemblance to two people with whom I am intimately acquainted, have a podcast in which they discuss many matters relating to the world of gay San Francisco (and, occasionally, zombies). Recently they undertook a page-by-page dissection of Gloss magazine which, well, listen for yourself.

The Fox and the Hound Podcast

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Zen City Records Closing?

A few weeks ago, just before being incapacited by illness and derailed by death, I was motoring past Zen City Records on Valencia Street in a friend's car and noticed a big "For Lease" sign up in their window. Could this be the end of another San Francisco DJ vinyl shop? While I mentioned in a previous post that I never bought records there because all they stock is house, and another record store proprietor told me he didn't know how they stayed in business, it's still disheartening to see another record store disappear. Are they being driven out by online shops, or is everyone just switching to CDs these days? Or perhaps there just isn't the demand for DJ tracks in general that there once was. If that's the case, it's a sad sign for the SF scene.

Upcoming: Rhythm Society at First Unitarian Universalist Church

The Rhythm Society (formerly St. John's Divine Rhythm Society, but they had a bit of a problem with St. John's Church) is probably the closest thing you will find to an old-skool rave still happening in San Francisco. In December I was fortunate to attend one of these events for the first time, and all I can say is "Burning Man Without the Dust." The music was good funky breaks with special guest DJs from Space Cowboys, everyone was friendly and happy, and early in the evening there were even some lil' ravers running around. Attendance is by invitation only, and members are allowed to only invite six guests, so if you are lucky enough to score one of these highly sought-after invites, be sure to get your butt down to the First Unitarian Universalist Church on March 16 and prepare for a true All Night Dance Celebration.

CD Review: Triple R - Friends mix

Sometimes the jaded DJ is a bit late to the game, as is the case here with the Friends mix from Richard Riley Reinhold, originally released on Kompakt in 2002. According to a review on Dusted, Reinhold, founder of the Traum and Trapez labels, two essential labels for the minimal movement, asked twelve of his buddies to contribute tracks for this mix. With buddies like Michael Mayer and Luciano, you can't help but put together something that is at least decent.

The mix starts off in dreamy territory with "Easy Woman (Rhobag Wruhme Mix)" by MetaboMan and "Gigolistic" by Dialogue. The metal-on-metal sounds and electronic buzz of the first track lets us know that we're in techno land, but the moment that the deep bass and languid female vocals kick in we also know that this is going to be a house groove. Gigolistic picks up a bit with a nice shuffle beat and crisp high-end snaps, but the bass stays fat and deep - you might bob your head to this, but it's not going to make you sweat on the dancefloor. This feel, with the addition of long, slow organ notes and some female vocals, continues through Ada's "Blindhouse." This track is the kind of easy-going lope you might expect from Ada, and the female vocals turn into a repeating motif of this mix - this is probably the most female vocal work that hasn't been chopped down into tiny phonemes that I've heard in a mix in a long while.

Gears shift slightly with Luciano and Lea's "Franky (Featuring Lea)." Lea sings in French against some very electro bass beats, and every now and then gives us a little giggle. She sounds like a petulant girl in a black dress with a cigarette, and if you dig that kind of thing, this is a great track. But Process' "Pelican (Oliver Hacke Remix)" coming right afterwards is definitely one of the stellar selections of this mix. That deep house bass disappears behind some highly tweaky, reversed, delayed, and generally chopped all-to-hell percussion that finally brings the energy out in this mix. There are some nice reverbed acid lines in here that remind me oh-so-slightly of chill psytrance, and which, for me, open up much more interesting vistas than dissolute French chicks. With "Boots and Pants" by Broker/Dealer we take off into space disco territory, with synth horn crescendos and a soaring vocal chorus, before coming back down into "Double Yum" by Jeff Samuel. This is a fun, kinda wacky techno track that restores some snap and motion to the mix after taking off into the heavens. "Byrthe" by Sami Koivikko is on the more serious side, with a much more insistent drive, but we can hear those space horns in here again, and while there's plenty of thrust, it doesn't feel like we really get anywhere, like it's just the bridge to bring us into "Kind of Prayer (Michael Mayer Remix)" by Pwog. Here the more traditional heartbeat house bass gets matched to a rapid, machinic high-hat that really dominates the song, keeping that depth there but not letting us drown in it. And then, halfway through, there are these distorted muted trumpet sounds and knarzy acid lines that remind us that, oh yeah, this is tech house.

Now, if it was up to me, this is where the mix would stop, because the last three tracks just don't make any sense. "Tanz Mit Mir (+Elodie)" by Schaeben Und Voss, while a fun track, is on a different map than the territory explored in the previous four tracks. The female vocal is back again, this time in German, speak-singing "Tanz mit Mir" over and over and over again, and not even on the beat. It's almost kinda kitschy, to be honest, and while it's got a deep, insistent bass thump, I can guarantee that this is the point where I would decide it was time for another drink.

And then comes "This is the Dream (of Evan and Chan) (Superpitcher Mix)". I like "This is the Dream (of Evan and Chan)" - I even have fond associations of it with my boyfriend. And I generally love everything by Superpitcher. But this chocolate does not go with this peanut butter, and this song certainly does not fit in with this mix. I'm sure RRR thought "Oh, hey, this is great, but where am I going to put it? I know, the end!" However, this is not the end. No, the end is Oxtongue's "Delight." Another lovely bit of electrotechnohouse, but again very vocal heavy, and far too light to work with what has preceded it.

The mixing of all this is very smooth and slick, and I wonder (as always) by what method it was put together - I do notice that at the end of "Oxtongue" you can hear the sound of a needle scratching against the label and a tone-arm being lifted before the mix ends. In listening back over it all, this is an interesting mix with some distinct moments, but I think it would be far better with the first three tracks, and the last two, gone. There's also not much here that's really exciting, or strikes me as being different from things I've heard before - but then, this mix *is* five years old. Perhaps when it first came out I would be more impressed, but it now seems more historical thant cutting-edge. Overall there's a sense of competence and discernment behind this mix, but it's more something I would put on while making dinner than something I would want to pawn off on my friends as the next cool thing I found.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Open Thread: Why Do We Care?

The recent death of my maternal grandfather, with whom I had a very close relationship up through my early college years, has underlined for me many of the existential questions that are part of my mind's background hum: specifically, what is the point of all this? When we lay on our deathbeds, what will we think of as having accomplished in life?

When I listen to NPR or read the paper or even walk into a bookstore, I find myself in the presence of people who have, at least for some moment, accomplished something: they have brought peace to war-torn nations, they have climbed up the mountain of Moloch, they have created something that others find pleasing, or intriguing, or thought-provoking. Then, there's the rest of us: going through our lives, earning paychecks, coming home at night, going out on weekends.

When I was in graduate school I first came upon the idea that there was real value in parties; for me, they were about bringing people together and seeing what happened as a result. When I got into the rave scene I loved the utopian idealism of it, the idea that PLUR could unite a diverse group of several hundred people for a night, and out of that, new things might be born. As the scene hit its heights around 2000, I began to see a darker side to it, and when September 11 happened, it had the effect of making me doubt everything I had believed; while we partied and rolled and engaged in hedonistic rites, other parts of the world were suffering, and their resentment against us seemed justified. It was at this point that the voice of that ancient curmudgeon, Ecclesiastes , began whispering "vanity, all is vanity" in my ear. When I stand on the edge of a dancefloor now I hear those words echoing in my mind along to the beat, and I find it hard to take anything I'm experiencing very seriously. We're all foolish, spoiled children, I think, and any joy I might have once felt seems like a purely personal conceit.

And yet, I still buy CDs, get excited to go out, and spend hours every week thinking and writing about what I've experienced. Something about this still seems important to me, though I have a harder and harder time understanding what that is. In dark moments I think that it's all about convincing myself that I live in an exciting, vibrant time and place, that I'm somehow important for knowing about and experiencing these things, and that they are worth chronicling, when in fact all this is an attempt to compensate for the fact that I work in a job I find unsatisfying, I know I'll never have that much money, and, chances are that I will die in obscurity. In brighter moments I like to think that this is all about seeking that ephemeral moment of dancefloor trascendance that has come to me on precious few occasions, and that all my critique is an attempt to separate the crassy commercial and mediocre from the potentially genuine and uplifting. If I'm occasionally cranky and bitchy, it's a measure of how frequently I have gone in search of this moment and been disappointed.

I would genuinely like to hear from others who are into music, DJs, and going out who have wrestled with this question: why do we care about these things? In thinking and writing about them, in applying critical yardsticks, what is it that we hope to achieve? Are we just nerdy kids trying to pass ourselves off as cool, or is there some use to it? Is it worth even thinking about parties and DJs in artistic terms, or are we simply servants of commercial interests that trade in trends? What do we say to the ascetic who whispers those words in our ears, and then turns away from us, ashamed?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

On the Consolation of Music

The scene has been quiet recently, owing to my needing to travel back to the East Coast for the funeral of my grandfather, Guy P. Mantz, Jr., who died in his sleep after hip surgery on February 27. In the midst of an emotionally trying experience I was reminded of how there are moments when music can speak to us in a way that goes beyond a cool beat or a witty lyric, when it connects on a level that unites us soul-to-soul.

After I arrived in Charlottesville and went to pick up my car at the Hertz counter I was asked which I preferred, a Malibu or a Mustang. Thinking that I should have at least something enjoyable in all of this, I went with the Mustang, which also had satellite radio installed. I tried out the Area 33 channel with its terrible bombastic trance and tribal house, but it was the Chill station that felt most appropriate as I drove to the graveside rites on Saturday. After the service, in which my grandmother broke down and cried from the depth of her soul while laying her head on my shoulder, and then passed out as we tried to walk her back to the car, we went to the Church where I exchanged mostly false pleasantries with relatives I haven't seen in 20 years and never really liked that much in the first place. The whole experience made me feel like I should get at least a +1 on my Existential Angst rating. When I got back into the Mustang to return to my grandparent's house and turned the key, bringing the radio to life, I heard Tracy Thorn's voice singing the chorus from "Protection:"

I stand in front of you
I'll take the force of the blow
Protection

I can't say the the lyrics were especially relevant, but in Tracy Thorn's voice I could hear the knowledge of having felt something like what I was feeling at that moment. If I could have driven off to a bar, lit myself a cigarette, had a couple drinks, and just listened to Everything But the Girl for an hour or so, I think I could have found a solace that would have been far more satisfying than readings from scriptures and prayers to a God I don't believe in. When death makes all human activity seem like mere vanity, when you see people you love stripped down to the emotional bone, when loss hollows out all joy, at least there is music to connect us with others who have felt the same way.