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.