Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Blast from the Past

Hello everyone, been a while (like, a year) since I last really posted. It's been a hurly-burly time, what with the moving and the teaching and all that, and while I'd like to say it's been a great adventure, so far it's mostly been a great trial. I could tell you all about it, but there's no fun in that, and of course no place is going to ever compare to SF, especially in terms of people and community.

Anyway, while cleaning out a storage unit I came across a box marked "rave flyers and stuff," which, among other treasures, contained Jul:Aug 2001 issue of Urb magazine, the cover of which is scanned in below. I've had a wistful few moments thumbing through it, thinking of this moment in time and how, just a month later, everything would change completely. As the decade draws to an end I find myself thinking about dance culture then and now as well. When I first went to the Love Parade in 1995 I found myself drawn to a a culture that was expressing genuine utopian desires, and when Amp was on MTV, and I first started really getting into the scene a few years later, I really believed that a cultural revolution was taking place alongside the technological one. In hindsight, I was pretty naive, but it was a nice dream while it lasted.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hello, hello, is this thing on?

Hey, it's hard to see all the way to San Francisco from Baltimore, anybody out there?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Event Review: Junior Boys at Bimbo's

There was a moment at the Junior Boys show at Bimbo's on Thursday when I thought I had stepped into the filming of a John Hughes movie prom scene: there was the name of the band in neon-like EL wire at the back of the stage, the diffused red spotlight playing over the stage, the smoke machines, the OMD-like tunes, the stone-faced technician working the electronic controls, the lead singer crooning a gentle paean to young love, the swaying bodies of the audience. And, just as in a movie, the performance of the band seemed completely scripted, leading me, Kitty, and the boyfriend wondering what exactly was the point of seeing this band live.

In our household the Junior Boys often get played after a long night, when we're wanting some easy electronics to lull our senses and ease the transition from our evening's activities into sleep. I've never thought of them as particularly rocking, but I hoped that, in a live performance, I'd hear some new aspect of the music. I did, in fact, realize how closely related their sound is to the New Wave ballad, but this isn't exactly what I had hoped for. Like Royksopp, who we also heard at Bimbo's, they played straight-up album versions of every song, though the inclusion of a live drummer was a nice touch (except for those moments when the afore-mentioned technician and the drummer got slightly out of synch with each other).

The workman-like approach to the music might have been made up for in actual performance, but the stage set-up was more reminiscent of a studio layout than an attempt to present the band as living, breathing, emotive human beings. Center stage was a table of electronics and gear, with Johnny Dark working the controls. During the entire show he did not look up, dance to the music, or show any expression beyond focused attention. Jeremy Greenspan, meanwhile, was relegated to a side of the stage, where he spent half the time in shadow as he sang and played guitar. Greenspan has a wonderful voice in the tradition of so many smooth, R&B-influenced crooners, but for the majority of the time his attention was focused on addressing the microphone rather than the audience. There was no chat or banter, just efficient movement from one song to the another, wrapping up in a tidy hour. If I had seen a video of them recording a track, I'm sure it would have looked much like this performance.

The Junior Boys make some of the best shoegazer electro-pop around, but their show at Bimbo's was another lesson in how fantastic studio bands are often challenged by taking their music into a live performance setting. If a band like this is going to take their sound on the road, then there should be something about the live experience that brings something new to hearing the music; otherwise, hearing them from my own stereo is just as satisfying, and far less expensive.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Event Review: Gui Boratto at Paradise Lounge

For me, Gui Boratto is the guy who brought joy back to techno music. As sophisticated, cool, and deep as techno can be, it never lifted me up the way that progressive trance once did, at least not until I heard Chromophobia. With tracks like "Annunciation" and "Beautiful Life," and Superpitcher's remix of "Like You," Boratto was able to re-inject a note of happy positivity in a scene that is often focused primarily on the heady when it's not on the sexual.

Boratto played to a packed, almost too full house at Paradise Lounge on Friday, bringing in a crowd not just of techno heads, but a number of folks who probably spend most of their clubbing time at Ruby Skye or in the Marina - more than any other techno show I've attended recently, this one showed the ability of an accessible artist like Boratto to attract folks who still think that "techo" is interchangeable with "house" or "trance." Watching from the mezzanine around the dance floor, the crowd was clearly moved when Boratto (who smoked like a fiend behind the decks) dropped his biggest and most expansive tracks, but what he played between his big hits often came off as monotonous and not nearly as inspirational. The boyfriend noted that his tracks mostly use the same drum kit, and many structures, such as a snare hit on the three count, were commonly shared. This made for some extremely smooth mixing and transitions (Boratto was working primarly from a set-up of his own gear, including a Lemur), but after hearing a soaring anthem like "Beautiful Life," what followed often seemed more like a DJ tool to get to the next track. As thrilling as some moments of Boratto's performance was, I left thinking that, as a live performer, he needs to put more into the pacing and structure of the experience.

Local Hatchback opened for Boratto, and the very end of his set was among the best stuff I've heard from a San Francisco producer in a long while, with elements of space disco, classic synth pop, and the balearic anthem combining into a "naturally epic" sound, as he describes it on his myspace page. I'll certainly be keeping an eye peeled to catch more performances from Hatchback.

I still believe that Paradise Lounge is one of the best venues in the city, but this show made me think they're starting to have growing pains. Blasthaus sent out an email on Friday saying there would be an open bar from 10 - 11 PM, but when we arrived at 10.20, the doors were open only for those paying cash; those of us in the will-call line weren't allowed until after 10.30. Then, as we ordered drinks at the upstairs bar, we were told that the free drinks were downstairs only. We also discovered that neither of the upstairs bars had limes for drinks, and for the rest of the night we were served vodka and soda every time we ordered vodka tonics. If I'm going to pay $7 for a drink, then I want the right drink with the right garnish, please. We also inadvertantly stumbled into the "private bottle service" area when we went looking for the smoking room; believe me when I say that a velvet rope on a catwalk in a dark club, without anyone there for security, is going to get walked over. We were nice, though, and didn't take any of the booze we found back there, just smoked and left. By the way, at $200 for a bottle of Skye, and $250 for a bottle of Grey Goose, I'll take the Grey Goose, but I wonder why anybody would pay ten times the wholesale price for a bottle of booze and get stuck back in a room where you can't even watch the dancefloor.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Brief Update

It's been over a month since my last post, a period that's been, honestly, a bit depressing. Since being laid off I've spent a lot of time job hunting, creating the syllabi for my classes I'll be teaching in the Fall, and trying to work out the logistics of a cross-country move (cats, I should tell you, make everything more complicated). Although I have free time in abundance (a bit too much, honestly), I have not been taking too much advantage of my ability to stay up late and sleep in later, at least not in regard to going out. Since it's looking increasingly likely that I'll have to stretch the few funds I've accumulated and my unemployment checks until we leave in August, frugality has been my watchword, and it's hard to justify spending money on tickets, cover charges, and overpriced cocktails.

The boyfriend and I did catch Tipper at 1015 a few weeks ago (Tipper was great, the dubstep DJs who proceeded him not so much), and have plans for Gui Boratto at Paradise Lounge, Junior Boys at Bimbo's, and then back to Paradise Lounge for Superpitcher. Overall, though, it seems like there's not that much going on that makes me feel compelled to drop the bucks associated with a night out. Some of this can certainly be attributed to my need to detach myself a bit from the scene, but conversations here and there have made me think that I'm not the only person who finds the scene just a bit deflated right now.

When I went through 54 weeks of unemployment starting in the Summer of 2003 the situation was a bit easier to deal with, as I was spending a lot of time insinuating myself into the life of The City; if I didn't have work, I still had plenty to explore, people to meet, opportunities for hanging out. Now, though, as I'm in the process of disengaging, being unemployed is a pretty big bummer. Along with the usual depressive effects of being laid off and unable to find work, the drop-off in social engagement has begun to make me feel as if I've already left San Francisco, that I'm daily fading away as a presence in my social milieu.

I know that the street faire season kicks off soon, and I'm sure that clever Friscans will soon start coming up with recession-appropriate activities, all of which should provide me with an opportunity to beat my unemployment blues but, for the first time since moving here, I've begun to feel beaten down by The City.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Upcoming Event: Pulse at Paradise Lounge, Friday February 27

We had a great time at this last month, sorry for the late notice but it's well worth checking out!

Dory (Listed / Pacifictime / Dialogue, LA)
Forest Green (ForestGreen.org / Cute Fang Recordings)
Mozaic (Nexus / Raindance)
Eric Sharp (Rock It Science / Flavor Group)
+ Pulse Resident's Dhamma (Pulse) and Alixr (Pulse / FnF / rEvolution)

M.O.D. (Evil Breaks | Strategik)
Dulce Vita (Opulent Temple | TheFreakShow)
and Melyss (Opel | Sister SF)

All proceeds benefit Kids for the Bay

Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom Street (11th x Folsom)
9PM - 4AM
$10 before 11, $15 after

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Big News from the Jaded Gay DJ

It's been pretty quiet here at the scene since I got laid off - that happened on a Wednesday, I spent a couple days "in my cups," as they say, and then, the next Monday, just as I was getting ready for a Tahoe trip, I got the metaphorical life-saving phone call from the Governor - I was offered, and accepted, a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of English and New Media Studies with a university in Baltimore, Maryland. I left for a couple days, got a horrible cold, came back, and have been trying to regain my mental balance ever since. Hence, the silence that has descended over the blog; it's taken until today for me to figure out what to write about, since so much has been going on.

If the teaching job seems completely random, it's actually something I've been pursuing since October. Most folks who know me personally also know that I have a PhD, in comparative literature, and that I've taught at a big-name public university (as a Visiting Assistant Professor) and have published a few academic articles as well (mostly on Thomas Pynchon, and, in the theory realm, on systems theory and online communities). Since a friend of mine from grad school was on the search committee, and I had a good on-campus interview visit, I felt pretty confident of getting the job, it was just a matter of waiting for the committee to make the offer.

Given the layoff on Wednesday, Monday's news was good, though it raised a big question: what to do for the next five months before the boyfriend and I move? I had been banking (literally) on coasting through my old job until it was time to hit the road. Now my only option for making money was through contract or temporary work, and given the current state of the economy, and the paucity of jobs being posted on Dice and Monster, the situation was looking dire enough to require one of those dreaded phone calls to Mom. However, yesterday I got a call from a staffing agency about a three-month contract job, and now things are definitely looking better. If I had sat down to write this post yesterday, as I briefly considered doing, it would have been distinctly bleaker in tone.

And what about the blog? I plan on keeping it going until I leave, though it's probably going to get less of my attention between now and then. I'll continue to post about upcoming stuff that I think is interesting, and to write reviews, but mostly I'll be using it as a channel to reflect upon my San Francisco experience - I've now lived here longer than anywhere else in my adult life, and I think it's fair to say that San Francisco has shaped who I am to a large degree. I should be quick to add, however, that one of the reasons I sought out this job in Baltimore is that I, and the boyfriend, have been ready for a change in our lives for a while, and if I have learned anything living here, it's how hard this city can be despite the happy face it shows the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Upcoming Event: All Vinyl All Night Techno Party, Friday February 13

Greg Bird's Official Birthday Celebration

Sammy Dee
Marc Schneider
Nikola Baytala
Clint Stewart

Underground Location
$20 RSVP ONLY at nothingbutvinyl@gmail.com

Upcoming Event: Juan Atkins at Paradise Lounge, Saturday February 14

Continuing with their stellar programming, Paradise Lounge and Donuts presents techno legend Juan Atkins for your Valentine's Day date! With DJ Support from Pickpocket, BT Magnum and Kelley B, and live performances from Dam Funk and Hot Tub.

10PM - 4AM
Paradise Lounge, 1501 Folsom

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Layoff Blues, Part II

Well, it's happened again, and this time within 10 months of the last time - I got laid off. I hope to have some mitigating news in a week or so, but, in the meantime, if you all know anyone who needs a (technical) writer for a project, pass the word.

Soundworks Closes

Walking down Valencia Street a week or so ago I noticed that yet another of my old record shop haunts, Soundworks, has closed. Owned by Sam LaBelle, Soundworks was known for its record pool, and when I went in there on Sunday afternoons I could always count on seeing some of the better-known gay DJs in there, trading gossip with Sam and picking up their pool records. Much of what was in their bins was older stuff, but it was a great place to pick up old acid tracks, or crazy late 90s trance. Their techno selection was okay, but it always seemed to veer a bit too much into the harder Belgian/Dutch stuff for me.

The closing of Soundworks means that, in the six years since I've moved back to San Francisco, every record shop that I used to frequent, with the exception of Tweakin' Records, has gone out of business. That roll call includes:
  • Housewares
  • Zen City Records
  • Soundworks
  • F-8 (and Reverb Records)
  • BPM Records
  • Open Mind
Say so long to the independent DJ vinyl store, it was really nice knowing you. Here's what an afternoon of record shopping was like back two years ago when I started this blog.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Event Review: Pulse at Paradise Lounge

"It's like we're at a rave," the boyfriend said to me as we sat with our friend Toka in the smoking area at Paradise Lounge last Friday during Pulse. It was easy to see what gave him that impression: a large, very diverse crowd of friendly people; two rooms of music, breakbeat up and techno down; visuals that were oh-so-early 2Ks; and an overall vibe of "yeah, let's party till dawn!"

There aren't many events that I can recommend without qualifications, but this one is definitely among them. I found myself thinking back to the Thump Radio parties that used to happen at 550 Barneveld, which were a big part of my intro to San Francisco rave culture, mainly because, like those parties, there was a diversity of music and people and physical space that always provided fresh stimulation. When Alland Byallo's set at Pulse got a little abstract and inaccessible for me (one track sounded like listening to a drunk horn section on K), we just went upstairs and danced away to some breakbeat. When we got tired of that, we could go into the bar lounge area and just chat, or into the smoking area and strike up a conversation with someone (in fact, one woman we met in the smoking area became very, um, attached to us on the dancefloor later).

The other thing that impressed me about this event was its spirit. First, the proceeds from the event all went to a non-profit, and each month it looks like a different organization will benefit from our good time. Second, no one "owns" this event, but, rather, the organizers' intent seems to be to present, every month, a new selection of local DJs within the major genres. This month it was Alland Byallo, Christian Martin, Solar, and Galen, among others, certainly a stellar line-up. Next month it will be Forest Green, Mozaic, and Eric Sharp, among others. There are resident Pulse DJs, but overall this feels more like the kind of thing Lord Kook and I tried to pull off with FSLD, where we wanted the event to be about the community of DJs we knew and thought should have more exposure.

Finally, I really liked all the music I heard, from the neo-psytrance sounds of Kirrill to the tech-infused house of Solar and Galen to the breakbeat I heard upstairs - in fact, we danced more at Pulse than I have since the Sunset party on New Year's Day. Perhaps it's just because I'm not that connected to these people, but this felt much less like a "scene" to me than a group of people coming together because they like to play music, dance, and party. After all, that's all raves were in the first place, and I for one would love to see that very basic spirit re-awaken through events like Pulse.

Bar Review: The Bar on Church

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while probably already know what my opinion of The Transfer was, but for those don't, I regarded it as very possibly one of the worst places to hear DJ music in the entire city. It was laid out poorly, with half the patrons huddled over a bar on one side, and the other half trying to find some flow between the pool table, bench seating, and standing tables on the other. The sound was horrible, and way too loud to boot, and there was no place to just hang out and have a drink and a conversation. I stopped going to events there because, if they were good and crowded, you spent the whole night with a drink in your hand, constantly moving around to find a resting place, and if the night didn't go off, it felt like the shitty little dive that it was.

The Bar on Church, Greg Bronstein's replacement for The Bar on Castro, is a one hundred percent improvement over The Transfer, with great red lighting (very reminiscent of BOC), comfy padded banquette seating (ditto), and a layout of the bar along the long back wall instead of off to one side. The space feels balanced, comfortable and chic.

However, in continuing with the traditions of the Bar on Castro, the music is wholely mediocre. The boyfriend and I stopped in last Friday around nine as we were headed down to Pulse at Paradise Lounge, and after hearing the TingTings' "Great DJ (Calvin Harris Mix)" we thought, oh yeah, this could be good, only to bear witness to the playing of two Prince tracks within the span of 10 minutes, an electro mix of a Coldplay track, and a remix of "Circus" by Brittney Spears.

For a typical Castro bar, this is the kind of thing I'd expect, and at least there was a little innovation in the tracks we heard, but adhering to the usual formulas of lowest-common denominator dance music, a la 92.7, is not going to work for a bar that's off the beaten path. In the Bar on Castro you could get away with this sort of thing (and worse) because people weren't coming there for the music, they were coming there because of the location. With The Bar on Church, though, it's a destination, a place you have to go to on purpose, and you need something to draw people in there that's not just a replication of what they can more conveniently obtain at (shudder) Qbar, Badlands, The Cafe, or even Jet. The Transfer, though it was a dumpy hole, at least held out the promise of presenting innovative club nights, from Frisco Disco to Bender, where you could hear good music and dance. If the Bar on Church is going to be anything more than an out-of-the-way version of a Castro experience, it needs to return to the kind of innovative programming that The Transfer was developing a reputation for.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Friday and Saturday Guide for January 30 and January 31, 2009

It was a quiet weekend for yours truly last weekend (the boyfriend was off at event that, as of last year, I can never attend again, so I indulged in having the flat to myself), but there's lots of fun stuff coming up for this weekend. Unfortunately, I have to catch a flight to the East Coast on Sunday, so my hi-jinx will be somewhat curtailed, but there's no reason why you all have to be in bed early, is there?

Friday, January 30

Pulse at Paradise Lounge
The debut of a new techno night in a swell space, and all proceeds are donated to charity. Downstairs with: Christian Martin, Alland Byallo, Galen, Solar, Kirill. Upstairs with: Aaron Jae, Bam, Tamo, j9.
$10 before 11 PM
9PM - 3AM

Saturday, January 31

Suppervision at Supper Club
iii presents another night of performances, music, and revelry at Supperclub. Lord Kook will spinning from 9-11 in the side room, while Honey Sound System will play the main floor apres performances. Partial proceeds to benefit Comfort and Joy.
$12 in PJs, costume, or instant make-over, $20 in street clothes
9PM - 3AM

Lindstrom at Paradise Lounge

The master of space disco live, that's all that needs to be said. With Beat Broker, Conor, and TK Disco.
10PM - 4AM

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Upcoming Event: Moldover and Komega Present LoveTech, Saturday January 24

My friend Mitch (of TV-B-Gone and BrainMachine fame) recently introduced the boyfriend and I to Moldover, a controllerist who makes really cool music, and really cool electronics for making music (he's also very cute in that geeky alternaboy, brainy musician sort of way that makes me positively weak). Moldover has recently located to the Bay area, and this saturday will be putting on his first event, which includes a workshop in the early evening, live electronic dance music fun for the rest of the night, AND the premiere of Moldover's album, which has been three years in the making. Deets and his own description are below, but I can't think of anything else for this weekend that promises to be as much of an "event" as this.

Komega & Moldover present
Live : AssShakin : Electronic : PartyRockin' : Music : Community


Saturday, January 24th
The Ranch
All Ages, BYOB

Early evening workshop with TIMO
Roominant Installation by KOMEGA
TIme Machine by Rich DDT

SF and NYC are coming together to create a Community for Music and Technology, that Transcends the Technical Hurdles of Pure Geekery to Achieve a Higher State of Musical Understanding. Bringing together the elements of Science and Booty Shakin', Komega and Moldover endeavor to conjure an event of unrivaled innovation. We LOVE Technology: as a people, as a culture, and as individuals. We LOVE Music: especially music that blows our minds. We all see the fusion, now we want to show you the people who make it happen WHILE YOU WATCH.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Event Review: Space Cowboys at The EndUp

Saturday night the boyfriend and I assembled a small crew to check out The Space Cowboys putting on this month’s The Show at The Endup. We were fairly excited at the prospect of a night with a Burner vibe and some kick-ass breaks, but by the time the breaks actually got going, we’d had enough of the electrohouse mush that proceeded it, along with a vibe that was more like a frat party (albeit a very cool one), that we decided to cut out before we spent any more money on The Endup’s now astronomically expensive drinks.

In my experience, there are two sides to the Space Cowboys. On the one side you’ve got, next to Evil Breaks, one of the very best crews for putting out, and popularizing, kick-ass breaks to the general party populace. And then, on the other side, there’s this tendency to take it all down to the lowest common denominator of all-out booty. In this case, booty definitely won out. At first it was nice to arrive and hear some pretty easy-going dance music that was a bit out of the normal vibe of ubiquitous EndUp house, but after going back and forth from Latin club to a Daft Punk remix to something that made me think I was back at a mid-90s acid house party, it was becoming more and more difficult to find any consistent vibe to hang onto. There were plenty of folks shaking it on the dancefloor, and I’m sure many of the girls who showed up in their playawear got freaky with it later, but I’d come wanting to hear breaks, not the kitchen sink of electronic dance music. This was what put me in mind of a frat party; lots of people out to get fucked up and freaky, with the DJ going for the easiest party pleasers in his bag.

Since the DJ who took over at 1 finally started playing breaks, and the party itself had several more hours of life left in it, I might have been willing to stay a little longer, but the prospect of spending any more money on drinks was starting to make my wallet hurt. When I ordered my first vodka tonic, it came back as costing $7.50. Well or call seemed to make no difference, the bartender always charged me $7.50. Drop another dollar for tip, and figure on 4 or 5 drinks over the course of the night (not that crazy if you show up early, as we usually do, and then even switch over to water when the bar closes), and suddenly you’ve dropped a huge wad of money.

This has become something of a problem with almost every time I go to The EndUp. Everybody knows that the place really gets going after 2AM, and so the whole night becomes back-loaded. It seems like every time I go there, mostly for Kontrol, I spend the first couple hours waiting for them to get around to the music I came to hear, and wind up spending too much money on drinks, so that by the time things really get going, it’s getting to be later than I want to be out without the substantial chemical assistance that will keep my fellow clubbers going until 6AM and later. Of course you can come later, but then you get to pay $15 - $20 on top of what you’ll spend for booze. The EndUp is a classic spot, with much going for it from ambience to soundsystem, but if I’m going to go there and spend the kind of money that a night out there seems to require, then I want the first couple hours I’m there to be just as intense, and interesting, as the early morning ones.

Event Review: Aural Therapy at Paradise Lounge

Friday night the boyfriend and I took a walk down to Paradise Lounge to check out Auralism’s third-Friday party, Aural Therapy, which, for this installment, featured Berlin’s Franklin De Costa behind the decks.

This was the first time I’ve gotten to check out the entire Paradise Lounge space, and we were both impressed with the upstairs bar and second room with its near-perfect sound isolation. Right out of the gate Paradise is booking some very interesting nights, from the retro-bath house Honey Sound System Sundays to an upcoming show with Lindstrom, and at least two regular techno events, including the premiere of Pulse on January 30th. With a license to stay open until 4AM, I think Paradise is about to give Mighty a real run for their money with a better space, better sound, and much more innovative bookings.

When we first arrived the techno was a bit on the mushy side – a generally okay sound, but nothing solid enough to make us want to get on the dancefloor, so we wandered down to The Cat Club to check out a new party that PeePlay of Honey Sound System is involved with, Black Friday. We ran into DJs 6 and Donimo of Lucky Pierre and a couple other friends, and then left just after we heard the trifecta of music you never need to hear again, “YMCA” followed on by “I Will Survive” and then “The Hustle.” Much to his credit PeePlay jumped onto the decks after this, and without even letting “The Hustle” play out completely he had dropped us back into much snappier contemporary territory. I would have liked to have stayed and heard the rest of his set, but it was approaching midnight at that point and we knew Franklin De Costa would be starting soon.

We made it back to Paradise Lounge just before De Costa started playing and had a chance to scope out the crowd. Though the dancefloor was packed, it was a very cool crowd, lots of real obvious techno heads, and still plenty of room of dancing. De Costa played a very minimal, abstract set, but the energy was absolutely banging. The boyfriend and I danced for over an hour straight, something that rarely happens these days. I would describe De Costa’s style as being what I think of as “real German techno,” lots of abstract loops that, when you mix them together, have their own emergent structure and dynamic. There were times when I could recognize the structure of individual tracks, but overall the impression was of sections phasing in and out of one another, a steady drive with moments of auditory surprise that would then make your body shift in another direction. The nice bit, though, was his selection of tracks with warm, more organic, almost house sounds that made it easy to engage with the music at the same time that the rhythm drove you relentlessly forward.

This was only the third time Aural Therapy has been held at Paradise Lounge, but I’d say it was an experience that certainly bears repeating. A more intimate and varied space than The Endup, and without that club’s seeming need to cater to the more general expectations of SF clubbers (how many times will I go to Kontrol and hear generic house for the first two hours?), Paradise Lounge and Aural Therapy have the potential to become a major monthly destination for the SF techno scene.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some Recommendations for Saturday, January 17 2008

Oy, I've been really bad about keeping up with ye olde Events Calendar, but really, it's getting harder and harder to find things I would list there anyway. And has anybody else noticed how flyers have now completely disappeared from The Castro, thanks to the poster nazis known as the Castro Beautification District? Glad I'm not trying to promote a club right now, as I don't know how we'd get the word out.

Anyway, a couple things coming up this Saturday you might wanna check out:

Chrome with Husband
Chrome is the ongoing queer rock social at the Gangway, where you can go and hear your favorite rock/metal/indie etc. tunes and hang out with the TL hipster boys. This installment's DJ is Husband, aka Marc Kate of local techno outfit Silencefiction, who promises a night of goth/metal/punk tunes.

The Show with The Space Cowboys at The Endup
Now this sounds like fun, and I'm sure the place will be packed. My likely destination for the night. Be sure to use the link to get on the $10 guest list.

Eggs at Paradise Lounge
Safety Scissors brings back Eggs, a showcase of quirky, fun, and danceable techno. With locals Eats Tapes, Safety Scissors, Alland Byallo, and Frivolous from Berlin.

Superego at DNA Lounge
Oh, and good thing I have people to remind me of these things. For your "culture blender" choice this evening, how about SuperEgo: Music/Dance/Glam with electro, techno, indie remixes, crunk, disco, and glam. Featuring The Tenderloins, Shaun Slaughter, Sarah Delush, and DJs Kid Hack and Mario Muse.

And the Bar on Castro Will Now be Known As . . .

Qbar. Yes, Qbar. That's what it says on the sign for application of change of ownership.

Qbar. I keep trying to figure out the conversation that must have taken place between the new owners as they were coming up with that.

"What are we gonna call it?"
"I dunno, The Bar always sounded really good."
"Yeah, but we can't call it that. We need something new, something different, you know?"
"Something that says 'this is it, this is THE gay bar on Castro'".
"Hey, I know," one of them says, his eyes lighting up. "Let's call it QBar - you know, like Queer Bar!"
"Yeah, I like that, you know, it's still got the Bar part in it, and it says just what kind of bar it is!"
"Yeah, it's like The Bar, but more! QBar!"
"That's it baby, file the papers!"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Adbusters Busts Up the Hipster

Maybe the best thing I've read about "hipsterdom" ever; it very nicely sums up the feelings I had while watching a hipster fashion show at The Knockout recently. When all you do is live for the cameras, be prepared to become as flat as the image you desire to be.

Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization

oh, and a great companion piece from Time Out New York:

Why the Hipster Must Die

My favorite quote:
If they can vanquish the Sweet, the path for the Vicious is less obvious. A good first step might entail purging the lawyers and bankers lurking in their company. But on the other hand, those guys are good at footing the bill. Another tactic would require the conversion of snark to self-criticism, and that would necessarily involve ignoring no-talent celebrities, and mean an end to playing it safe. The safest game in town—in fashion and music especially—is retro, and if there is no Ezra Pound in corduroys out there to say, “Make it new,” let me be the one to say, “Stop making it old.”
Can we get a little dose of that self-criticism around here, you think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The BAR Gives the Scoop on the Bars

A great article by Matthew S. Bajko in the online version of the Bay Area Reporter sums up all the changes going on in the Castro bar scene. Just keep in mind that you read most of it here first.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Event Review: Mass at 1015

And now, a guest review from SFScene pal and special field correspondant Kitty:

Let's just get one thing out of the way. How long has 1015 had the monopoly on big club parties in SF? Quite a few years now. So why is it that 1015 acts like they just opened last week?

Why am I there (even though I do now and always have hated this particular club)? Because it's New Year's day and DJ Phil B is having Mass for the first time in years. Back at the cusp of the new millennium (when we still had some hope for the future), Mass was the Sunday evening t-dance that provided the perfect progressive house ending to a weekend of big gay parties. Big music. Big lights. Big fun.

This party at this place has special meaning for me. It's the scene of one of my few transcendent experiences in the gay party scene. Those moments of joy and connection when the people/place/music burn themselves into your brain. You know... that Zen singularity that we all spend our time, money and brain cells trying (and often failing) to achieve.

I've grown up enough to know that I can't get that experience back again. But I'll definitely pay $20 for the chance at getting groovy on New Year's Day. And I was willing to bet that there were plenty of other guys thinking the same thing.

Ticket in hand, I arrived at 1015 at 6:30 pm. That's when the complete ineptitude of the club's door personnel smacked me in the face. There were two lines to get in, but the majority of patrons were forced to wait in a line that snaked around three sides of the building. Why? The second line was only for those possessing a shiny, Wonka-like golden VIP ticket.

Needless to say, those of us who had purchased regular tickets before the party were pissed about standing in the wet cold for up to 20 minutes or more. My only source of amusement during that wait was watching other partygoers arrive and scramble dejectedly for a place in the ever-increasing line. Sometimes schadenfreude is my only joy.

Poor planning created the misery of a line, but douche-baggery was salt-in-the-wound. The lone security dude checking IDs insisted on asking each guest how their evening was going. He would not be satisfied by a tepid "fine" or "good" from cold, trembling patrons in tight t-shirts. In fact, if such bland vocabulary was used, he pulled the yearning patron out of line until they could come up with something more creative. I pitied those frozen souls with poor verbal education.

When my time came, I held back the scathing reply that had been boiling inside of me for the past 10 minutes. It had accumulated variously heated particles of speech over that time until becoming a mass of molten anger. And I really did want to say it to him. Oh how I yearned for it. But my voice of reason firmly insisted this would not be the way to gain quick entry to the club. So I piped out a half-hearted "fan-fucking-tastic" and was on my way.

Next step in the process is checking my coat. In other words, waiting in another pointlessly long line. But I did have the opportunity to observe a scene that made my night. A loud, braying queen standing behind me called out to his fag-hag that "there are children!" Sure enough, a shockingly respectable family was coming out of the downstairs bar.

After he made a spectacle of himself trashing the harmless straights, the family picked their way up the crowded staircase led by a darkly handsome guy, his arms protectively draped around two young girls. As they passed the shade-throwing sister, a voice called from the crowd, "Gus! I didn't know you had kids!?"

The man with the girls (now revealed to be Gus of Guspresents, the promoter of this party) shouted back, "Ha! These are my nieces. Today was my birthday!"

As a loud mouthed fag who regularly puts his foot in it, I felt really bad for that big-mouthed queen in line behind me. (But maybe not that badly.)

The party itself got off to a fun, energetic, and friendly start. The Gus's nieces danced and got onstage with the flaggers. Every gay man that they passed was smitten with them.

After a few drinks I was in a good mood and dancing on the edges of a packed floor. Even at that distance, the heat of the shirtless, sweating crowd made my skin flush and tingle. Phil B began his 6-hour set with some standard gay house shakers. Good stuff, but not particularly inspiring. Particularly the full-on diva house cover of Pink's "Better Get This Party Started."

But with each song, Phil B brought up the tempo. And as the beats picked up, the songs got harder. Somewhere about halfway through the evening, he's spinning progressive house so powerful it's bordering on Trance. Just what I like.

After another hour or so of moving on the floor, around the floor and through the floor I just couldn't move any more. The club was now completely filled with boys and girls, men and women having a great time. I love that feeling of euphoria that comes from almost everyone I pass. Bit I am also very tired of tripping over and stepping on people.

Billed as a "Reunion" dance, strangely I did not see anyone I had known from those days of going to Mass. But I did have a good time without having it torpedoed by the neurotic hang-ups that haunted my back then. Maybe not "fan-fucking-tastic," but still a good time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stonehenge: Paleolithic Trance Venue

As reported in Discovery Online, a British acoustics expert, Rupert Till, has been looking at Stonehenge and has "discovered that Stonehenge's megaliths reflect sound perfectly, making the stone circle an ideal setting for listening to repetitive trance rhythms." The article goes on:
Till speculated that most likely Stonehenge's music consisted of a simple rhythm played in time to the echoes in the space, at the same tempo as the echo, or at a multiple of it.

"This would be at a tempo of about 160 beats per minute, a fast tempo. It is interesting that this is the tempo of fast trance music, of samba...It is at the top of the range of musical tempos. It is also at the top end of the range of the human heartbeat, the same as the heart might beat if you were doing really vigorous exercise, or dancing really energetically," Till said.
Dancing outdoors at night sure makes me feel like a pagan, but 120-130 bpm works just fine for me,that gabba stuff just wears me out too fast.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Event Review: Dirtybird 4th Anniversary Party at Mezzanine

After going to see The Unborn on Friday night (surely one of the most ridiculous movies in recent memory - the boyfriend has agreed that I get to pick the next couple movies after he suggested The Unborn and Lifeforce in the same weekend), the boyfriend and I walked two blocks over to Mezzanine, where the Dirty Bird 4th Year Anniversary party was getting underway. It was 100% improvement over last year's anniversary bash, simply because it was in a larger space with a much better (meaning, not deafening) sound system and I didn't have to endure Khia's "My Neck, My Back."

My general take on the Dirty Bird sound is that it has become more assured and less dependent on some of the more gimmicky elements of their early releases. You can still hear the ghetto-tech influences, and there are occasional cartoonish moments when it sounds like the carnival coming into town, but I was impressed with the overall deeper vibe of the tracks. The boyfriend pointed out that they still seem to depend on a tribal 1-5 beat, and all the rhythm action happens in the bass, but in the two sets we heard (the Martin brothers, I believe), there were some really great grooves that kept me on the dancefloor for a long while.

The crowd was good - we ran into a couple gay boys of our acquaintance, and my gaydar registered some hits on the dancefloor, but this party was much more about the Dirty Bird loyalists and hipsters who have been following them since their first parties in Golden Gate Park. Unlike last year's party at Mighty there were far fewer cocktail dresses and guys wearing bad cologne, and no fights! It was a huge turnout by the time we left at 1.30 (I was feeling poorly and woke up on Saturday with a 103.5 degree fever), and I was really thrilled to see the Dirtybird kids enjoying their well-deserved success as one of San Francisco's most interesting and exciting new labels.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hunter S.Thompson, Motivational Coach

From the sloshspot drinking blog (I love that idea, btw), comes a series of motivational posters featuring Hunter S. Thompson. My favorite is below, but these all deserve to be framed in your particular workspace to inspire you and your colleagues.

Upcoming Event: Dirty Bird 4 Year at Mezzanine, Friday January 9

Four years of success for one of San Francisco's most-recognized techno/tech-house/ghetto-tech labels, and I'm glad to see that they took my suggestion from last year's anniversary party (ha!) to move to Mezzanine, a much better space all around than Mighty.

Upcoming Event: Reflective Records Underground with Move D, Saturday January 10

"The irrefutable king of the deep house revival" as he's billed on the site, Move D from Heidelberg is making his first SF appearance since 1994 this Saturday at an underground warehouse location in SoMa. Click the link for more details. Support from Mike B, Jonah Sharp, JOHNJOHN, DJ Timmiii, and Velocette (live).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Donovan Who?

This past Sunday I happened upon an SFGate Sunday Style piece that should go down as one of the worst pieces of nightlife-related journalism I've ever read: a profile of Donovan, "one of San Francisco's busiest nightclub DJs," who is trying to start an upscale clothing and jewelry line.

Now, apart from the fact that he has no background whatsoever in the fashion industry, jewelry, or design, the thing that came up in my mind as I read this article was: Who? Funny, if he was "one of San Francisco's busiest nightclub DJs," you'd think I'd have heard of him, seen his name on a flyer somewhere, maybe even danced to one of his sets? I had to go many, many (too many, in fact) column inches into this article to find out where he even played. Let's see, he once played the basement room at 1015 (after a friend lied to the promoter about who he was), and he's played parties at (can you believe it) The Fairmont Hotel, Top of the Mark at The Mark Hopkins, and Slide off Union Square. Oh, the fame!

Putting aside the fact that this guy comes off as someone who caters to overdressed douchebags, I have to ask this: aren't there plenty of other DJs in this city, real, major DJs, with interesting lives and aspirations and projects, who would be better served by being profiled than this guy? And what editor let this writer get away with breathless assertions in the lede like "one of San Francisco's busiest nightclub DJs" without actually backing it up with facts before you get twenty paragraphs into the article?

This is the kind of writing that drives me crazy, perpetrated as it is by someone who obviously has no knowledge of the scene they're writing about, and gives both DJs, and the nightclub scene, a bad rep by making it look like it's all about money. It's groups like the Space Cowboys, Comfort and Joy, Honey Sound System, and all the other crews in the city who give our scene vitality, out of love for the scene and music, and they're the ones who deserve to have their efforts rewarded with the attention of our local press, not this guy. Maybe some day the mainstream press will wake up to the real stuff that's going on around us, rather than pimping for a guy who's all about the bling.

DJ Donovan sporting his solid gold logo necklace and diamond-studded ring at his fourth-floor SoMa loft condo.

RIP Ron Asheton

According to the AP, Ron Asheton, guitarist for The Stooges, was found dead in his home today. Way back when The Stooges were just starting out my cousin's wife dated Ron Asheton (and had a brief dalliance with Iggy too), and inheriting their two original albums from her was a big moment in my introduction to punk rock and all that has come since then.

Club News: The End of Pink, Bar on Castro = Bar on Church

According to the SFWeekly All Shook Down blog, Pink closed its doors this past Saturday, putting an end to the last club dedicated to House music in the city. That's kind of a sad thing; House was once the dominant form of dance music in this city, and there have been times when I, even as a dedicated techno and trance guy, have missed its presence. House is great when you want some easy-going 'choons to get you through the night, or through you hangover, and it's great music for socializing on the dancefloor. But Pink, as a club, is not something I'll really miss. It had a weird layout that made it uncomfortable when it got crowded, and, as numerous Yelp reviews attest, it had a pretty high douchebag factor, and was always trying to be more upscale than seemed warrented. I remember when that space was Liquid, and it hosted awesome nights full of people who wanted to go out and party and dance; when it turned into Pink, it seemed to be more about handbags and bottle service, and now that times are tight, I guess people are looking for a different kind of club experience, one that's less pretentious and more focused on the basics of music and fun.

Walking past The Bar on Castro this morning I noticed a sign for the inaugeral launch of The Bar on Church on January 20th. I believe this was formerly known as The Transfer. Having looked into that space recently, it's undergoing some tremendous renovation, but it remains to be seen whether it will be able to attract the same crowd as is former location. I suspect, though, that Bronstein's real efforts will be focused on Jet, with the BOC serving more as a secondary player in his club lineup. There's an article about it over at gay.com, with information about the (yawn) weekly line-up. Nothing to get excited about here, folks.

Monday, January 5, 2009

More on the Broken Taxi System

Long-time readers know I have a serious beef with the San Francisco taxi industry, and the New Year's holiday has only added fuel to the fire.

To drive a cab in San Francisco, you have to have a taxi medallion. These are in limited supply, and so, a situation has developed in which holding a medallion, and renting it to others, can become a more profitable enterprise than actually driving a cab. In fact, one of the arguments you constantly hear against medallion reform is that medallion-holders depend on renting out their medallions as a way of having retirement income. Meanwhile, those who do hold this precious commodity fight tooth and nail against issuing any more medallions, using the specious argument that more drivers mean fewer fares for individual cabbies. However, no one has actually looked at what the real market for taxi services is in this city, so no one really knows what the optimal ratio of taxis to population should be.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day provided an excellent example of how broken this system is. I watched, amazed, as people almost literally fought for cabs at 3.30AM outside SomArts and the Sea of Dreams party. Thousands of people in a two block area, all looking for a way home, and the taxi industry doesn't think it would be worthwhile to put more drivers on the street, and let those guys earn a good night's money (to say nothing of improving public safety by making sure fewer fucked up people were on the streets)? Then, at Cafe Cocomo the next evening, again, no cabs, and no sign that any were going to show up. So, when a black car gypsy cab pulled up and offered to give three of us a ride for $25, do you think I refused? Taxi industry flacks would have us believe that these gypsy cabs are stealing their fares, but where was the taxi I could have taken instead? They also make noise about these gypsy cabs being unlicensed, you don't know who you're getting in the car with, etc., but I've had plenty of taxi rides with obviously intoxicated cabbies driving wrecked-up vehicles. And when I want to go home at the end of the night, I want to go home, period. If an enterprising guy with a car wants to give me a lift, then you better believe that I'm going to do it. If a taxi wants my fare, then they need to be there to earn it, it's that simple.

I wrote a couple months ago about the Taxi Commission being brought under the Transit Authority, which I applaud as a good move. Taxi service needs to be treated as an arm of public transportation, rather than as a protectionist racket that serves only the interest of medallion holders instead of the public at large.

Event Review: Stompy New Year's Day at Cafe Cocomo

Whatever I felt was lacking in terms of grown-up style and sophistication at Subeterra was well accounted for at the utterly superior Stompy New Year's Day party at Cafe Cocomo. After breakfast at 2 in the afternoon, the boyfriend and I headed over to Cafe Cocomo with our friend Toka, and there met up with some friends from Comfort and Joy. By that point, around 4PM, the party was already very lively, populated by many people who, like myself, had probably not gone to bed yet. Despite whatever was razzing our nervous systems along, the crowd was friendly and smiling - I even had a random guy buy me a drink and a shot when I pulled up next to him at the bar. "I've got the credit card out," he said "seems a shame to buy only one drink with it."

The dancefloor was full the entire time we were there, and I re-developed an appreciation for well-mixed, and well-selected, progressive house. The system was perfectly tuned for the space; we were standing right by the left corner stacks and could hear everything perfectly, but still have conversation while we were dancing. Stompy delivered everything I had wanted from Subterra the previous night, with good uplifting music that wasn't intended to overpower the senses, a happy crowd of party professionals, and a great space to chill and dance with my friends after a loooooong night into the New Year.

Event Review: Subterra NYE 2009 at SomArts

As I wrote a couple weeks ago in the New Year's Eve Guide, there wasn't a lot in the way of parties that felt really compelling to me this New Year's Eve. After some hemming and hawing, the boyfriend and I, at rather the last minute, decided to attend Subterra at SomArts with a couple of our friends. It wasn't the coolest party I'd heard of, nor the biggest, but was the one where we were most likely to run into other random friends, which is what we were looking for on this occasion.

We arrived around 11 and spent the time leading up to midnight mostly standing around outside in the smoking area. We checked out the three rooms of music, but nothing really grabbed us - psytrance is psytrance, the "techno" room was sounding pretty trancey itself, and the middle room, which was dubstep at the time, seemed to be the place where the kids were going to get their freak on. Eventually we did get some dancing on in the techno room, but that was well after midnight, at the point where I began to wonder what we had paid $40 for.

It was a well-attended party, with a vibe that was overall very ravey. This has its good and bad points; on the one side, ravey is fun, on the other, it's pretty adolescent in its energy. We saw a lot of kids who were obviously feeling their rolls, and at one point we watched as a half-naked couple was getting it on in the chill tent. As two Guido guys walked by the couple the boy, who was on the bottom, did a devil's horn salute to them, and they gave him a thumb's up back. Though I think it's great that there are opportunities for the 18+ set to go out and party, I find myself looking for a different kind of energy these days, one that is maybe a bit more sophisticated. This was the thing with much of the music we heard as well - very well suited for folks looking for a driving, freaky, go-for-broke beat, not so well suited for deep grooving. Though we were able to find a less aggro vibe in the techno room, the sound system there also seemed that it had been tuned for size over subtlety, with the bass swamping out everything in the mid-range and making normally crisp minimal techno sound soft and spongey.

We split around 3.30, though the party had gotten its second wind. After a lot of standing around, we were all ready for some sitting and tripping out on our own beats. It was a decent way to bring in the New Year, and we enjoyed running into random friends and acquaintances while we were there, but for next year I think we may need to check out a party that's a bit more suited for grown-ups.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here's hoping everyone's New Year's festivities included a few sugarplums dancing in your heads.