Friday, February 25, 2011

More on Burning Man Moving to the Mid-Market Neighborhood

According to this post from the SF Bay Guardian Politics Blog, the deal to move Burning Man HQ into the Warfield building at Market and 6th has fallen through, but Larry Harvey, BM head honcho, says "We are determined to move into the mid-Market area . . . The city has been telling us and proving it with their actions that they really want us down there." Let's hope it works out; as I said in my previous post on the matter, having BMHQ in the heart of the city would be both an acknowledgment of the role that BM has played in shaping The City's culture, as well as making a difference in a part of The City that really needs it. As Harvey is quoted as saying in the blog post, "If we can get a foothold down there, those are the values [self-expression, community collaboration, and a decommodified gift economy] that we would demonstrate. We're nobody's window dressing and we never will be,” Harvey said. “We want to find common cause with the resident population. We know what it's like to break into a community and win people's trust.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Save the Rave Hearing on March 22

Once again, electronic dance music is under pressure from the authorities, and once again folks are stepping up to the mike to make their voices heard. On March 22 the SF City Government will have a special hearing on Electronic Dance Music Events - go with your two minute speech about why electronic dance music is important to you!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changes Afoot at Pirate Cat Radio

From Mission Local comes news of changes afoot at San Francisco's favorite scrappy, underground pirate radio station, Pirate Cat. It's unclear exactly what's up, but it seems that the founder, Daniel Roberts, has turned his attention to a low-wattage radio station he's "acquired," sort of, in Pescadero, leaving it up to the current PCR crew to reform the radio station along more collective lines. A quick check just now confirmed that their iTunes stream is down, and since I'm not in the city I can't tune in to see if they're broadcasting at 89.7, but here's hoping that the Pirate Cat will soon be back on the air.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Upcoming Event: Honey Sound System "SPKR" Benefit, March 12

My friend DJ Mermaid, Queen of Disco, claims Bobby Viteritti as her all-time favorite classic disco DJ, so, thanks to the boys of Honey Sound System, you can go kick it old school and contribute to the worthy project of the LGBT Historical Society at the same time.

Honey Soundsystem, in association with San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society, present:

An amplified history of San Francisco’s queer dance floors
Saturday March 12, 2011
Public Works
Music by Honey Sound System, Steve Fabu, and Bobby Viteritti
$50 VIP Catered Reception // 8pm - 10pm
Public Event & Gallery Show Opening // 10pm - 3am

Tickets Available Here

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Upcoming Event: Trentemoller at Mezzanine, April 16

You want to know why I'm moving back to San Francisco? Shows like this are why I'm moving back to San Francisco: Trentemoller at Mezzanine on April 16. The Trentemoller Chronicles on vinyl and The Polar Mix on CD travel with me everywhere I go, and if I was in The City I would look forward to this as one of the events of the year. It will be epic, go and give praise that you live in a city that brings you the chance to experience nights like this.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust: Bar on Church and The Edge

The Scene is admittedly a bit slow in keeping up with the current SF club industry news, what with being on the East Coast and all, but word has finally reached us, via Grubstreet, that the Bar on Church and Castro stalwart The Edge are shutting down and changing hands. The end of BOC comes as no surprise, since, when I reviewed it shortly after its opening in 2009, I asked why, though it was a nice bar, anybody would want to go there when it was offering everything that could be found more conveniently in the Castro. The end of the Edge is a little more surprising, though I suppose there can only be so many Daddy bars in the Castro, and this one always seemed a bit more grim in vibe and clientele than the others.

On Laptop DJs

This past week I had one of those unfortunate moments when my cranky Lester Bangs side got the better of me, leading to a deep insertion of foot into mouth. A guy contacted me from one of "those" websites, and his profile pic was of him, shirtless, DJing at a party. "Whoa," I thought, "now this looks interesting, what can I say to impress this guy?" At first glance it looked like he was playing on turntables with mixer, so I shot back "hey, I like that you're spinning vinyl, I find laptop DJs kinda annoying." I hit "send," and then, oh only then, did I look closer and realize that he was using CD players and, yes, a laptop. Oops. An exchange of emails ensued in which I tried to extricate said foot from said mouth, but, as of this writing, they have come to an end on his side, and I seem to have lost a shot at a bootie call.

Aside from the obvious lesson that I should not listen to Lester when he whispers things in my ear (I've come to think of Lester and Michael Musto as the scene devil and scene angel, respectively, sitting on my shoulders as I write), this incident also provided a moment to reflect on my opinions about laptop DJing, opinions that, I have to admit, are in no way informed by having actually tried to DJ on a laptop, but are largely the result of my resistance, as someone who really fell in love with DJing on vinyl, to the very idea.

I must first admit that everything my respondent in this exchange brought up about laptop DJing is absolutely true: working in Traktor, or Ableton, gives you an infinite amount of greater control over the tracks that you're playing, and opens up creative possibilities for live remixing and layering that were nearly impossible (unless you were Carl Craig or a super turntablist) in the era of vinyl. Things like beatmatching can be largely handed over to the software, leaving the DJ able to focus on other manipulations, and being able to watch the waveform, set cue points, and loop multiple sections let the DJ create not just seamless mixes, but entirely new mixes on the fly. From a rational standpoint, where the laptop helps you overcome all the technical issues associated with DJing on vinyl and CDs, from hauling around a lot of equipment to making sure it all works together, laptop DJing makes infinite sense. And, from the standpoint of "DJ as manipulator," it is a creative tool without compare.

However, I also think that as we go from vinyl, to CDs, to laptops, it changes DJing and the kind of mixes that DJs produce. I've heard a tendency of laptop DJs to "slam" tracks together without much in the way of real mixing, what I've come to think of as the laptop DJ equivalent of the "train wreck" in other media; in both cases, things are being put together that sound terrible in the mix, but the trainwreck, with its battling beats, is more obviously a "mistake" than the "slam." In any medium, there are good and bad mixes, so I don't think there is a way to qualitatively rank vinyl against laptops in that regard. What interests me more is whether, because of the way in which one interfaces with the music, there is also a change in what we think of as "DJing," as well as what kind of mixes that person produces.

When I learned to DJ on vinyl, I saw it as a challenge. One of the first recorded mixes that really impressed me was Sasha and Digweed's Northern Exposure: Expeditions, and around the time I heard it I read, in an article about Digweed, that he was known for his "long mixes," in which he could hold two tracks together "for two minutes or more." That became my goal; to produce a smooth, seamless mix that would be experienced as one continuous track, and which would be the result of my being able to execute long mixes. I spent hours practicing mixes, figuring out which tracks went together, which didn't, honing my sense of structure and my ability to hear the effect of my EQ and fader manipulations. When I was able to produce a recording of a mix that contained no mistakes, no wrecks, no serious distortions as a I trimmed up a beatmatch on the fly, I felt it was a serious accomplishment (some of those mixes can still be found on my WaxDJ site).

Given my own understanding of the limitations of turntables and mixers, I was all the more impressed by those DJs I saw performing live who could accomplish things that were well beyond my capabilities. This became part of my appreciation of their performances - they were like virtuoso violin players who had mastered the most complex passages of Paganinni. I knew that I would never be the amazing mix master, but I could still aspire to be the smooth trance DJ, and enjoy some sense of accomplishment as such.

Laptop DJing, it seems to me, has rendered moot much of what I felt to be the physical virtuousity that I admired and aspired to on vinyl, and this seems to be the real source of my resistance to it. What I learned, and practiced, and put so much time into, now seems to have been outmoded by the machine. It also seems that the style of DJing I was into, one that was shaped by the limitations and challenges of playing music based in a physical medium, is also obsolete; what's so great about the long smooth mix when you can do so much more?

As I sit in my living room and look at my shelves of records and contemplate moving, and as I look at my roadcases of gear and think about how it could all be replaced with Traktor, I see the rationality of making that replacement. I can even understand how making the move to the laptop could open up new creative possibilities for me. But it will also be hard to not experience it as a kind of concession, and a loss.