Monday, April 14, 2008

Event Review: Timo Maas with Hercules & Love Affair and Honey Sound System at Mezzanine

Timo Maas with Hercules & Love Affair and Honey Sound System had the strangest vibe of any club event I've attended recently, but I had a great time dancing to Maas' set, and he is showing a definite evolution toward a techno-influenced sound.

The strangeness of the vibe came from what felt like two separate parties going on in the same space; during the DJ set from Hercules & Love Affair there were lots of toga-clad gay boys on the dancefloor who immediately retreated to the upstairs lounge where the Honey Sound System DJs were playing when Maas came on. Some of the advertising for the night (including some that was up in Mezzanine's bathroom) made it seem as if Hercules & Love Affair were the headliners for the night, with Timo Maas' name in tiny letters down next to the address for Mezzanine, and these partygoers seemed to think that was the case as well. As a fan of Timo Maas I must admit that this bugged me, since Hercules and Love Affair have released exactly one album and two singles in their year of existence, where Timo Maas has been a headlining DJ for over fifteen years, released five albums of his own material and DJ mixes with contributions from artists like Nenah Cherry and Brian Molko, and remixed the likes of Madonna, Depeche Mode, Moloko, Tori Amos, and Jamiroquai. I assume that this was an attempt to promote the event more directly to a gay audience, with the assumption that no one who was into Hercules and Love Affair would also be into Timo Maas, but I also have it on very good authority that Timo Maas is gay (consider the lyrics he wrote for "Pictures" if you doubt this, and the fact that he has performed at the Community Dance stage at SF Pride), so you'd think that if the marketing was all about the sexuality of the performer, Maas would have gotten a tiny bit more respect than he did. I'll resist my usual tendency to over-analyze what I think was behind all this, as well as the exodus that took place when Maas came on, and just say that it happened, I was disappointed that it happened, and that I think Maas should have been given just a little bit more respect for his contributions to the world of dance music.

I didn't catch that much of the DJ set from Hercules and Love Affair (which was really just Andy Butler), but what I did I felt was pretty "eh." Granted, I wasn't particularly pre-disposed toward liking it to start with, but what Butler served up was a pretty standard foray into disco house that, in terms of flow, struck me as very muddled, and, in terms of programming, was what I have come to expect as standard gay DJ material. I also have to say that, after the Joakim party I went to a couple months ago, I've become very leery of these producers-touring-as-DJs; if someone is a big producer, then when I go out to hear them I want to hear their material performed, and if I want to go dance to a DJ, then I'll go to hear someone I know as a DJ. As with Joakim and other producers, the problem seems to be that the original material doesn't travel outside of the studio, since most of it is assembled on a computer anyway, so the only way to "tour" is as a DJ, which generally means just playing a bunch of tracks that you like. In Butler's case he does have the experience of having DJed parties for Chocolate Thunder Pussy in Denver, so he his transitions were clean (if rather sudden, I didn't hear much in the way of mixing going on) and his tempos matched, but if you didn't know anything about the success of Hercules and Love Affair in the bloghaus scene you might have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Maas' set started off a bit weak for my taste, but by the time we'd gone out for a smoke and come back it had built into a steady groove that kept us moving for more than an hour straight. There were a couple odd programming choices, as when he dropped in a vocal track toward the beginning of his set that completely changed the vibe, and then again around the 2.30 mark when he downshifted rather abruptly, but overall it was a smooth, seamless journey. He's moved away from the breakbeat rhythms of the Pictures album, and way away from the progressive approach of Music for the Maases, to embrace the steady burn of techno, though in his track selection you can still hear the very synthetic sounds I associate with deeper trance. Our only complaint was that he seemed a bit detached from the dancefloor, chatting with people up in the booth and not really tweaking around with the tracks, though the dancers who were there were quite enthusiastic about his set. My main thought for the evening was that it was nice to go out and hear someone who takes a real old-skool approach to DJing, who is a master of the long mix and can keep a steady energy flow on the dancefloor, who is up there behind the decks not because that's a constraint imposed upon him, but because it's where he creates his art. I hope that, if Maas comes back to San Francisco in the near future, a few more people might come to hear what he's up to, not because of whatever scene he's associated with or his sexuality, but because they want to be moved by world-class DJ and producer who is always ready to bring something new to the dancefloor.


Lord Kook said...

Heads up :: I'm pretty sure Brian Molko of Placebo wrote the lyrics to "Picutres", but Timo certainly gets points for producing.

Anonymous said...

You might want to ask Honey Sound System what was up with those flyers.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it was a Frankenstein bill.

Some of the promotion emphasized Timo Maas and some Hercules. Assuming that Honey did the gay promotion /toga party, perhaps they gave top billing to Hercules because unlike Timo, he had never played in SF before.

There are some other clues in the interviews on
Both Honey and Hercules share musical tastes and affinity for things like Horsemeat Disco, Larry Levan, Butt Magazine,early chicago house ect.

Anonymous said...

imagine how empty mezzanine would of felt without all the toga clad partiers there to revel in the sounds provided by hercules and love affair. or imagine andy butler's first impressions of san francisco as a dj to play to an empty room as most attendees would of arrived later to catch timo's set.
i doubt the boys of honeysoundsystem can be blamed for the exodus of dancers to the upper mezzanine dance floor.
as far as dj/ producers go, both andy butler and joakim are accomplished dj's in their own right. and joakim has in fact performed live with a full band in san francisco and hercules + love affair is slated to return in a few months with his full crew, vocalists and all.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Well, imagine what Timo must have thought to have seen all these flyers in the club with his name in tiny little letters down at the bottom, and what he must have thought when half the dance floor left to go upstairs. Perhaps that might explain some of his detachment from what was going on.

I don't think the club would have been empty in the first half of the night because people would only show up to catch Timo's set; I think Hercules and Love Affair have a strong enough following to bring out people who wanted to hear them (in fact, when I saw the bill on the Mezzanine site, I immediately wanted to go because I wanted to hear them both). And, if Andy Butler as a DJ can't draw people in on his own to hear them, well, that's why he's there as an opener in the first place.

I know that Joakim and Andy Butler are also producers, and I'll look forward to hearing H & LA come back to perform with the whole crew; what bothers me is when someone like that gets put on the bill, you go expecting to hear them perform their own material, and then they do a DJ set. In this case, I don't think it should have been advertised as Hercules and Love Affair, because it wasn't; it was Andy Butler of H & LA doing a DJ set, which is a totally different thing. When Joakim did his DJ set at the Glass Candy show it also wasn't advertised as a DJ set, and so I went expecting to hear his own music. When producers are put on the bill, it should be made clear whether they are performing their own stuff or DJing.

Christian said...

Maas gay? I doubt that very much.

Regarding the 'evolution' to techno-influenced sound - I happen to be born in the city where Timo played in the nineties. Those were the old techno times in Germany. The evolution is more of a reverberation.

You (or I) honestly don't want that exact sound back though, that was trance and hardcore.

Search on YouTube for "Hanomag 97" or "Hanomag 94" and see for yourself.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Well, I do have someone whose veracity I trust who told me that he is gay, but it's really not that important.

My first exposure to "techno" was also in the mid-90s, in Berlin, and thought I enjoyed it at the time, it definitely sounds very dated now. What I meant was that Maas seems to have picked up on the sounds coming out of the minimal techno world now, going for a harder, deeper sound that eschews the progressive elements of his earlier DJ mixes.