SUPER EGO Three signs that our nightlife spring has sprung, sure as the annual return of the swallows to Blow Buddies: the Sunset season opener party, Hard French’s outdoor re-emergence, and the star-studly LGBT Center gala Soiree.
Our queer old-school soul treasure Hard French (Sat/5, 2pm-8pm, $8. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com) will pack El Rio’s patio every first Saturday here on out with the joyous sounds of frugging and jiving. Later, all the drag, queer, and club luminaries will brighten up Soiree (Sat/5, 6:30pm-midnight, $95. City View, 135 Fourth St, SF. sflgbtcenter.eventbrite.com) — the proceeds go for job and economic skills training for LGBT youth, many of them homeless. This year’s theme is “A jazz tribute to the Beat generation,” so don’t forget your beret and bongos. Performances galore.
Sunset (Sun/6, 11am-7pm, $5–$120. Stafford Lake Park, Novato, www.tinyurl.com/sunsetopener2014) is one of our most storied party crews — this is its 20th anniversary. And the huge, yearly season opener blast is like one big, very big, family picnic. There are rave babies, and their own rave babies! And thousands of smiles. And of course special surprise guests and a raging afterparty back in the city. Bring your picnic basket.
Good ol’ four-on-the-floor house, with a bit of ethereal heft behind it, from this prominent, hunky New York DJ. With the UK’s Leon Vynehall, whose glorious “Step or Stone (Breath or Bone)” was one of the best tracks of last year.
High and dirty times at the Eagle whenever this fantastic party from Seattle comes to town courtesy of force of nature DJ Nark. Get into it with DJs Chip Mint and Guy Ruben, towering drag hosteses Jem Jehova and VivvyAnne ForeverMore, “camera in her wig” videographer Drewnicorn, and a dance floor packed with hot scruffs.
One of our own, coming up fast with his Sooo Wavey label and housey Sade edits. He’s at one of our sweetest (and least expensive!) parties, Push the Feeling, with local player Cherushii, whose excellent recent Queen of Cups EP can get anyone moving.
Caught this hugely popular German (now based in LA) cat a couple times in the past few years, and he really delivers on that deliciously deep, if now a bit retro, post-minimal Berlin-Ibiza sound. It’s all in his perfect control. With beloved Doc Martin and Francesa Lombardo.
One of SF’s foundational house DJs, Josh Ezelle, passed away last month suddenly in Thailand, leaving behind a newborn son and oceans of friends. This tribute fundraiser brings together many of our best players to celebrate his life in music and dance: Jeno, Garth, Markie, Charlotte the Baroness, Toph One, M3, and others.
Oui, oui, the fab enfants terribles of Bardot A Go Go are back — with a shagadelic shindig featuring the naughty, existentialist, oh-so-cool tunes of Serge and other mod icons of his ilk. Zip up your thigh high boots and get le groovy.
The Worldly parties have brought a, well, worldly electronic music flavor to the SF scene for more than a decade — this live extravaganza and CD release party will electrify anyone into cutting edge global grooves. With Dub Kirtan Allstars, Janaka Selekta, DJ Dragonfly, and tons more.
Moody Danish techno: it’s catchier than you think. Andres Trentemoller crossed over from the dance floor long ago, pairing with an array of vocalists to create a lilting indie atmosphere with electronic movement around the edges. And he actually makes it work.
The Commonwealth Club announced the nominees in six categories for its definitive Califonia Book Awards today — and as usual it’s full of stuff I’m dying to read. Why are literary awards, in particular, among the sharpest admonishments for wasting one’s life on social media?
Well, screw you, Reza Aslan, and your Fox News-incinerating Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth — I’ve Pinterested allthe parody Kimye Vogue covers and publicly dissected that “Black Jeopardy” skit from last week’s SNL on Facebook.
FICTION Daniel Alarcon: At Night We Walk in Circles, Blackstone Audio Eli Brown: Cinnamon and Gunpowder, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Plume David Vann: Goat Mountain, Harper
FIRST FICTION Andrew Lam: Birds of Paradise Lost, Red Hen Press Anthony Marra: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Hogarth
NONFICTION Reza Aslan: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Random House A. Scott Berg: Wilson, Putnam Adult S Lochlann Jain: Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us, University of California Press Eric Schlosser: Command And Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Penguin Press HC Amy Wilentz: Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti, Simon & Schuster
POETRY George Albon: Fire Break, Nightboat Victoria Chang: The Boss, McSweeney’s Brenda Hillman: Seasonal Works With Letters On Fire, Wesleyan Alli Warren: Here Come The Warm Jets, City Lights Publishers Allison Benis White: Small Porcelain Head, Four Way
JUVENILE Drew Daywalt: The Day The Crayons Quit, Philomel Elisa Kleven: Glasswings: A Butterfly’s Story, Dial Marissa Moss: Barbed Wire Baseball, Harry N. Abrams Annemarie O’Brien: Lara’s Gift, Knopf Books for Young Readers Lemony Snicket: The Dark, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
YOUNG ADULT Stephanie Kuehn: Charm & Strange, St. Martin’s Griffin Robin LaFevers: Dark Triumph, HMH Books for Young Readers Tom McNeal: Far Far Away, Knopf Books for Young Readers Elizabeth Ross: Belle Epoque, Delacorte Books for Young Readers Gene Luen Yang: Boxers & Saints (2 Volumes), First Second
Sometimes we get word of cool things after press time, things you should totally go to. Here are some.
>>JANET MOCK— author, trans activist, and inspiration — will appear tonight at the LGBT Center. She’s kicking off a weekend-long celebration that will culminatein SF’s first Trans Visibility Day on Monday.
>>DJ SHADOW: The legendary SF turntablist has just been added to a killer lineup at 1015 Folsom.
>>!!! DJs — the revered dance-punk band (and all-around cool guys) shows us what it’s got on the tables, late-night at Audio SF.
>>KADET KUHNE— fave local artist, who takes contemporary concepts like virtual reality and 3-D printing and gives them an artistic spin, will give a live sound performance to accompany her current show at Krowswork in Oakland.
>>JOEY NEGRO— Storied disco and house DJ brings 25 years of experience to Mighty, and the party will be amazing.
>>“LIKE A PRAYER” — The wonderful San Francisco Album Project concludes its run with this Madonna album, as usual reinterpreted by crazy drag queens into an arty masterpiece. At the Stud.
Good lord, this play is hot, hot, hot. Rave reviews of its run in New York last year — mostly heralding the rise of Broadway newcomer Nina Arianda — gave me pause. Could our own A.C.T. pull off this super-steamy, sometimes-harrowing, consistently enthralling sex comedy without Arianda’s now-famous starpower?
No fear. Sensational actors Brenda Meaney and Henry Clarke stole the audience’s breath away, when playwright David Ives’ perverse 2010 take on novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s perverse 1870 masterpiece opened at A.C.T. last night. Prepare to be intellectually and emotionally (and even a bit physically) whipped, beaten, and thrilled into submission.
The basic story: Thomas (Henry) is auditioning actresses for a play he’s written and will direct, based on Sacher-Masoch’s groundbreaking 19th-century “romance,” Venus in Fur, from which the term “S&M” is derived. A hyperenergetic Vanda (Meaney), one of those wonderfully scattered-but-brassy NYC actress-types, bursts in late and cajoles Henry into giving her a shot.
But how does she already know the whole script, which hasn’t been released yet, by heart — not to mention intimate details of Henry’s personal life? How does she slip so effortlessly and expertly into the role of her dominatrix namesake in the novel, and eventually take on aspects of a goddess herself? And how is it that Henry, too, channels Venus in Fur’s love-smitten sex slave with such erotic aplomb?
Mysteries and personalities start multiplying as the pair engages in a vertiginous pas de deux, slipping surreally between contemporary arguments about sexism and gender roles and smokin’ hot scenes of 19th century parlor-sex games. Soon it all begins to slip off the rails into a timeless mystery of psychological conquest and mythological lust, with more than a little taste of danger.
Meaney, lanky and sensuous, and Clarke, tightly wound yet passionate, held the crowd spellbound for an intermissionless, many times hilarious 90 minutes. (Casey Stangl’s ace direction kept things moving swiftly yet with admirable lucidity.) One excruciatingly erotic scene, featuring a pair of thigh-high leather boots, almost turned me straight! Which may well be one of Ives’ points — in the context of human power dynamics and fetish objects, some desires transcend all contemporary sexual categories, and appeal to murkier, more ancient aspects within us.
SUPER EGO I am absolutely terrified — terrified — to tell you that one of the most insanely fun (and also insanely packed, watch your dress) nondance parties of the week is Musical Mondays at the Edge in the Castro (7pm, free. 4149 18th St, SF. www.qbarsf.com/edge). Well, technically nondance: with huge screens playing nothing but show tune videos surrounding you, feel free to break out your inner Belle and sweep that Beast around your imaginary ballroom-of-the-mind, sweets.
I’m terrified because, like this sudden onset of late-period Cher worship, my love for anything musical-related is a complete and scary surprise. As a gay, I’m far more Sonic Youth than Sondheim. “Gleek” was the Wonder Twins’ monkey on Super Friends, right? Yet sling me a couple-four two-for-one drinks, and I’m Mizzing up “All That Jazz” for five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. At the top of my lungs, no less. Hey, maybe it is genetic. Hasa diga eebowai!
Looking for the latest in post-wub-wub dub? Can’t misstep with this monthly electro-bass and heavy beats blast. UK’s Sukh Knight and Squarewave headline, with our own Nebakaneza and Lud Dub .
“Pussy Ate” was one of last year’s ultimate jams, but this B-more rapper’s got more than wiggy cunilingus anthems up her sleeve. A fierce take on gender politics, for one. Outrageous duo Double Duchess open up with a release celebration for new EP Nocturnal.
Everybody’s funny uncle: The wild UK-LA man of disco-house is a zany global inspiration and a full-fledged genius on the decks. If you’re looking for someone to lead you into another dimension via the longest, most cosmic remix of “I Feel Love” imaginable, come find him.
Harvey’s gonna be up against another grand name in the annals of bonkers daddies: Parisian Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr. Oizo. Oizo’s more on the electro tip though, so you’ll be bouncing like a fuzzy-haired puppet into the morn.
Scott Hardkiss’s sudden passing last year robbed SF of one of its legends. But his two Hardkiss brothers in music, Scott and Robbie, still light up the scene with joy. New album 1991 — a title playing off the Hardkiss family’s roots — promises to deliver more of their trademark intelligently funky SF house sound.
Awww, Sweater Funk: the cutest little weekly Chinatown basement funk ‘n’ soul throwdown that ever was? Yes! The whole crew will be in town to soak your cashmere, guesting at Elbo Room’s weekly Saturday Night Soul Party.
Sat/29, 10pm, $10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com
Fantastic dyke bar the Lexington Club — one of the few queer spaces left in the city outside the Castro and SoMa, and our only dedicated lesbian bar — is celebrating its 17-year anniversary in typical gritty-fabulous style: An “edge of seventeen” party, duh. DJs Rapid Fire and Jenna Riot take control, hotness abounds. Sat/29, 9pm, free. Lexington Club, 3464 19th St., SF. www.lexingtonclub.com
Sometimes we get word of cool things after press time, things you should totally go to. Here are some.
>>Juan Atkinsis basically the guy who brought techno to the world with his Cybotron and Model 500 projects in the early ’80s. He’s had a storied history as one of Detroit’s most energetic DJs as well. He’s at 1015 Folsom.
>>Flaming Lotus Girls benefit — Burning Man fundraising season has begun! There will be, like, 100 DJs “getting funky” at this event. Expect wackiness! Artistic wackiness!
>>The Second Annual Corn Dog Day Celebration at Soma StrEat Food Park, featuring a corn dog eating contest (bottomless drag queen LOL McFiercin will be back to defend her crown), corn dog pizzas, and hopefully some dancing corn dog costumes, hosted by the fabulous Johnny Funcheap.
>>House of More: Spotlight Drag deliciousness with a soulful new performance from Juanita More, Glamamore, and Dulce de Leche — these queens always bring the classic soul revue energy. At Cat Club.
>>Mykki Blanco Insanely canny genderqueer art-rap phenom drops in for a little witchery at the great 120 Minutes party at Elbo Room.
That delectable boom you hear on dance floors across the city and SoundCloud mixes throughout the cloud-cosmos, overlayed with an earworm diced-diva sample and frenzy-inducing keyboard clang? It’s “Pressure,” the January release from DJ and techno wiz Kahley Avalon Emerson (who goes by her last two names) on local label Icee Hot.
“Pressure’s” a seven-minute beast, and B-side “Quoi” is even deeper, with a smooth acid tune-up mix from the Tuff City Kids. The entire epic shebang has been invading parties like Honey Soundsystem, As You Like It, Icee Hot itself, and Emerson’s own monthly blast, Play It Cool.
And although “Pressure” has been hitting hard in the UK and Australia as well, Emerson is all about transmitting her electronic savvy with a distinctly San Franciscan sensibility. “My next release will drop March 25th on another SF (by way of Paris) label called Spring Theory,” she told us. “It’s called ‘Church of SoMa,’ affectionately named after a big 12-room house in that neighborhood, where I lived and learned to DJ when I first moved here in 2009. It’s more dubby and deep, and it features me singing and playing the Fender Rhodes.”
Emerson came here “to work in tech and get out of Arizona,” but she’s always expressed herself musically. “I’ve been a songwriter since I was a little girl. I was first bit by the studio bug in high school when I bought a few different kinds of microphones, pirated Cool Edit Pro, and recorded my friends’ garage bands. I always liked recording and producing much more than ‘jamming.'”
Heady electronic and house artists like dark-dubby Berliner Shed and Detroit mad scientists Theo Parrish and Carl Craig inspired her to explore more experimental production techniques, and she’s been working with expressionistic, pioneering guitar-software performer Christopher Willits “who has helped me engineer my tracks in his beautiful studio in the East Bay.”
‘Church of SoMa” will help cement Emerson’s emergence on the world techno scene, but she’s got plenty of tunes – and local inspiration — in the vault to keep her momentum going. “For the most part, my music is made to be listened to on a big club sound system — it’s a playful expression of my interests.”
How do you survive here as a musician? What’s the best and worst thing about being a musician in the Bay Area?
SF is not really a place people move to in order to pursue music, and since we’ve been in quite a bit of national news lately, it’s somewhat exotic to be from here. Other than that, it’s so far away from Europe and the East Coast that it’s a little harder to tour. Being a DJ in a 2 o’clock shutdown town with a dwindling selection of alternative music spaces can be a drag, too. But there are venues here like Public Works that have a great sound system and staff, and impressive artists like Matrixxman, Aria Rostam, and Some Ember (who have a killer live show). Also, I love the pho here.
Weirdest thing that’s happened at a show?
Well, last month in Seattle the drugged-out asshat playing after me dropped his Traktor laptop on my record just as I was finishing up my set. I then punished him by playing the entirety of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which is not an easy song or vibe to follow up.
Opening for infamously iconoclastic, 40-year-old Bay Area contemporary music heroes Kronos Quartet, as the young Friction Quartet did earlier this year, might launch even the most experienced string player into a bow-snapping fit of nerves. But the Friction foursome was built on determination and fearlessness. “I wanted to start a contemporary string quartet since I was in high school,” co-founder and violinist Kevin Rogers explained. “Doug [Machiz] and I decided that if he ever moved to San Francisco, that we would form one together. A year later, we founded Friction Quartet.”
Cellist Machiz, who hails from Washington, D.C., had his own contemporary music conversion high in the Italian Alps with Rogers, playing Philip Glass’s third string quartet with Rogers at the Zephyr Music Festival. (They opened for Kronos with an exhilarating take on Glass’s fifth string quartet). Friction’s other members — Alaskan violist Taija Warbelow and violinist Otis Harriel, from Arcata — joined for a breathless, edgy past two years, featuring a run of festival dates, 26 commissions, and 22 premieres. Highlights include Transmediation, “a ground-breaking exploration of composer-performer-audience interaction through technology”; Unmanned, a resonant, war-themed environmental-electronic piece by Ian Dicke; and the odd haunting Radiohead cover here and there.
“Initially, finding other like-minded musicians was difficult,” Rogers said, but now the quartet seems up for anything — including reaching a larger audience with their upcoming debut studio album EQM. “It stands for Electronic Quartet Music, a play on the Electronic Dance Music genre, and reflects our interest in all kinds of music.” In May, the quartet will perform “A Show of Hands” at ODC Theater with dance company Garrett-Moulton Productions, and June will see an appearance at the Switchboard presents series. Oh, and they’re also involved in “Little Opera,” an after-school program that guides children through the process of creating an opera, from music to story to costumes.
Rogers summarizes the friction between life and art that sparks creativity and draws many to contemporary music: “Despite, or possibly because of, growing up in the South, I was opposed to a lot of the ideas from the culture. Specifically the conservative ideas about how one should act, or what political party they should follow. I always stuck out a little bit, being this guy that played violin and wrote poetry and advocated for the rights of those who were different. What better place to move to than San Francisco?”
What musicians or works of music have inspired you?
Taija: March from The Love of Three Oranges by Prokofiev — I used to listen to it endlessly on repeat. The work ethic of Midori and Hilary Hahn. Cat Empire also makes me very happy.
Otis: Henryk Szeryng’s Bach Ciaccone, watching violinist Jascha Heifetz’s first movement of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, Justice, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Doug: Radiohead, Tortoise, and Bang on a Can All Stars are huge influences for me. Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture” is the piece that inspired me to study the cello.
Kevin: My three major teachers; Nan Hudson, William Terwilliger, and Bettina Mussumeli; Radiohead, Johnny Greenwood, Gidon Kremer (violinist), Kronos Quartet, and eighth blackbird.
What’s the most underrated local act that people should know more about?
Kevin: The Living Earth Show, another post-classical group. They are an electric guitar and percussion duo that slides easily between the realms of the most esoteric contemporary art music and the dirtiest rock-influenced traditions. Check out “north pacific garbage patch” on Soundcloud.
SUPER EGO The daytime drinking season has kicked off in full force — it’s also kicked off my face, judging from this hangover. (El Rio patio, I’m blurrily looking at you.) Kidding, I haven’t had a hangover since 1976, and that was a love hangover. Also shitty coke.
Especially hot right now that we’re apparently skipping spring and going straight into summer: cramming like a desperate half-naked penguin community on the grassy strip of land left while they’re rejiggering Dolores Park. The fruit shelf overfloweth with closer encounters. Seriously, it looks like a refugee camp for huddled hipster masses up there. Hang on to your dreams, beautiful people! And also, where’d you get that cute tank top?
Nice one: a high-energy electro benefit for childhood cancer research, with a huge lineup that features two classic Bay Area DJs, Denise and Forest Green, going back to back. Wear gold!
Drop that protractor and grab a fork — tomorrow is Pi Day (3/14, heh). And for a mere $3.14, you can get a slice of fantastic, and fantastically named, pie, 3:14pm-7pm at Dear Mom, courtesy of a startup pop-up.
Some of these pies on offer are pretty famous, and no I’m not going to make a Piethagorus joke here. Nerd! (Just Euclidding.)
Full crumbly-crusted release, with mouthwatering pieday rundown, after the jump.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Goldbely, the popular gourmet food delivery startup, will celebrate PI Day this Friday, March 14, with a pop-up at Dear Mom (2700 16th St.) featuring a selection of thirteen pies freshly sourced from nine exceptional regional American bakeries, including three offerings from Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar in New York and Twedes Cafe’s “Twin Peaks Cherry Pie,” a Washington state favorite made famous by David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” TV series.
To celebrate the day’s mathematical roots, all slices will be sold for $3.14, and will come with one drink ticket redeemable for a complementary craft cocktail paired specifically to the chosen slice (limited to one drink per person, though multiple pie slices may be purchased). The pop-up begins at 3:14pm and ends at 7pm, or when supply runs out. In addition, Goldbely.com will also be running a day-long promotion: for every whole pie purchased online, customers will have the option to ship a second to a friend for $3.14.
The pies on offer include such highlights as: Momofuku Milk Bar’s “Crack Pie” (New York, NY) A deceptively simple concoction that features common pantry items, like vanilla and cream, in a delicious oat cookie crust for a rich and buttery experience that’s as addictive as its name suggests. Twedes Cafe’s “Twin Peaks Cherry Pie” (North Bend, WA) The pie that ABC’s “Twin Peaks” made famous. Its delicate and flakey crust holds a warm and jammy filling of Washington-sourced sweet cherries. As Special Agent Dale Cooper would say, it’s “one damn good cherry pie.” Mike’s Pies’ “Killer Key Lime Pie” (Tampa, FL) A true key lime pie from the Sunshine State. This four-time National Pie Championship winner has earned its place as one of the best, with a crunchy graham cracker crust and a tart, custard-smooth filling flavored with juice from Florida key limes.
Full menu: Momofuku Milk Bar “Crack Pie” (New York, NY) Momofuku Milk Bar “Grasshopper Pie” (New York, NY) Momofuku Milk Bar “Candy Bar Pie” (New York, NY) Achatz Handmade Pie Co. “Crumb Michigan 4-Berry Pie” (Chesterfield, MI) Achatz Handmade Pie Co. “Caramel Nut Apple Pie” (Chesterfield, MI) Twedes Cafe “Twin Peaks Cherry Pie” (North Bend, WA) Nick’s Kitchen “Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie” (Huntington, IN) Goode Co. “Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie” (Houston, TX) Mike’s Pies “Killer Key Lime Pie” (Tampa, FL) Mike’s Pies “REESE’S Peanut Butter Pie” (Tampa, FL) Dutch Haven “ShooFly Pie” (Ronks, PA) Kern’s Kitchen “Derby Pie” (Louisville, KY) Nikki J’s “Sweet Potato Thang” (Rowlett, TX)
SUPER EGO “There is no previous book to this book. There is no Selected Ambient Works Volume I book, just as there is no record by the musician Aphex Twin bearing the title Selected Ambient Works Volume I. There is, however, a Selected Ambient Works Volume II album, released by the British record label Warp in 1994, and this is a book about that album.”
So begins the latest entry in the great, ongoing 33 1/3 book series from Bloomsbury Press, which unleashes one notable writer on one seminal album and prints the often-poetic results. In this case, the “extravagantly opaque, willfully vaporous” chillout room masterpieces of electronic composer Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin — basically what everyone in the 1990s listened to as they swept up/came down after the rave — get the business from incisive SF writer and archivist Marc Weidenbaum. And really, the pairing couldn’t be any more delicious.
Since 1996, Weidenbaum’s been quietly documenting from the Richmond District all manner of experimental and electronic sounds on his incredible Disquiet.com site. (Some have referenced the site as one of the earliest blogs.) It’s one of our great sonic secrets: Pretty much once a day for the past 18 years he’s been opening ears to everything from random satellite-based sound sculptures and square wave coding antics to looped Sumerian myths and compressed Fugazi-discography experiments.
Named after mysterious early 20th century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s “factless autobiography” The Book of Disquiet, Disquiet.com itself had a disquieting beginning. “When I founded Disquiet, I had quit a job I’d had for seven years,” Weidenbaum told me by email. He’d started at Tower Record’s Pulse! Magazine as an editor, then went on to launch its classical magazine and found its first digital publication. “I’d joined Tower because I wanted to work for a magazine that covered all music, which back then was quite an unusual thing. But in time I realized that my seemingly disparate listening had a core thread: that which I first thought of as electronically mediated sound, but eventually I recognized as ‘technologically’ mediated sound.
“Aphex Twin was part of a new generation of musicians who helped focus my ears. Wagon Christ. Shinjuku Thief. DJ Krush. Skylab. Oval. Spring Heel Jack. DJ Olive. Grassy Knoll. They were layered on top of the earlier generations of electronic experimenters, who I was already fond of: Brian Eno, Gavin Bryars, Pauline Oliveros, Laurie Anderson, Robert Fripp, Nicolas Collins, Ikue Mori…. Recognizing that technological focus gave me the comfort to move on.”
And now he’s written a book channeling his feelings for the technological mediation that Aphex Twin brought to the fore. The tricky thing, of course, is that Aphex Twin — who’s recently reemerged to perform with and produce insane South African zef-rave act Die Antwoord — is known not just for ethereal, era-framing atmospheric ambience, but satanic electronic audiovisual combustions like “Windowlicker” and “Come to Daddy” as well.
“It’s difficult to name direct descendents of Aphex Twins’ work, because his is a difficult template to fill: that mix of conflicting sounds, both unnerving and soothing; a steady retreat from the public eye, despite obvious extrovert tendencies; moving from a hidden subculture to broad awareness. It’s hard to figure out what past figure he was himself a contemporary version of. But so many musicians bridge the worlds of club and art music these days” — Weidenbaum mentions SF-founded duo Matmos and local composer Mason Bates — “and part of the reason is because of the ground that Aphex Twin broke.”
Fitting therefore, that the release party at City Lights bookstore on March 20 will also be a showcase of contemporary electronic music. “I’ve run an online music-making group since the start of 2012, called the Disquiet Junto, and that’s put me in touch with a lot of musicians,” Weidenbaum said. “So I’ve been inviting musicians, many though not all from that association, to perform new, original works informed by the Aphex Twin record, and by my book’s take on the record. Specifically, they’ll be doing electronic work derived from the wind chime, which I single out as an early ‘generative’ instrument. I’ll read from my book, and they’ll play live. At City Lights it will be the incredibly talented Marielle Jakobsons, Jared Smith, and subnaught, all of whom live in the Bay Area.”
EXPLORING THEMES FROM APHEX TWIN WITH MARC WEIDENBAUM AND FRIENDS
Ethereal UK bass master Martyn joins house hottie Midland and an insane home team lineup including Ghosts on Tape, Bells & Whistles, Kenneth Scott, and the whole As You Like It crew for a top-notch overload.
One of my favorite not-so-secret pleasures, Yoruban mystic DJ Osunlade takes listeners on a journey deeper than deep. Straight-up spiritual vibes — and he’s playing with deep LA genius Marques Wyatt, too.
The seriously good Modular deep house crew has been throwing its ace parties for a year now, filling some conspicuous holes in the scene — bu mostly making us dance the right way. This party showcases theGerman Stil Vor Talent label, with founder Oliver Koletzki, Sascha Braemer, and Nicone.
The first gay-themed movie I saw was 1976’s infamous The Ritz starring the unconquerable Rita Moreno as “Googie” — I grew up thinking all gay men hung out in kooky bathhouses making hilarious jokes and having hilarious sex. Thank goddess! Moreno’s in town for a special Castro showing of the camp milestone with towel-clad go-go dancers and a tap-dance tribute.
SUPER EGO So a toothy blonde pretend social media exec, a blindingly sequined Latina drag queen, a huge rack of elk antlers with hot-pink panties on them, and a pair of Google Glasses walk into a “punk bar” …
What the holy highballs is happening on our bar scene lately? Rowdy Mission hangout Pop’s Bar closed over the weekend. (Who got all those panties, I wonder?) Last week, 40-year-old Mission gay hangout Esta Noche announced it was shutting down (new owners and a hetero-craft cocktail concept). And then there was that oddball Google Glass kerfuffle at Molotov’s, wherein a social media starlet claims she was the victim of a tech hate crime when the patrons allegedly got in her privacy-violating face.
The Esta Noche situation hits close to my floppy liver’s home most, though. With the recent closures of Marlena’s, Deco, and Ginger’s Trois (and the Transfer, Mister Leeona’s, and practically every gay watering hole on Polk Street shuttering in the past decade), there are hardly any queer bars outside the Castro and SoMa left. Lady, can you pour a fierce cosmo out those Google Glasses of yours? Until then, I won’t have what she’s having. I need my queer space to get sozzled!
There are DJs to love, and then there are DJs to love. Fiercely intelligent yet laidback, shaggy in that classic rave-dude way, Vancouverite Jay Tripwire has been honing his deep, deep techno sound for more than two decades and 200 releases. Like every great DJ wizard, he transforms the records on his tables into other beasts entirely. You just hear differently after his masterly sets. At the Housepitality weekly, he’ll get a warm reception.
The splendid Direct to Earth and Public Works crews bring in Buenos Aires- and Berlin-based Mauricio Barembuem, aka Barem of Minus Records, for some good old fashioned Germano-Latin post-minimal techno swing. Bring a couple pairs of (cute) shoes, because he’ll wear your kitten heels right out.
It’s a great weekend for hard-driving and esoteric techno in the Bay. It’s even getting into our more melodic parties, like the monthly Play It Cool, which is showcasing wiggy Brooklyn-based, SF-native “junta rave” purveyor Hound Scales of the Fifth Wall label. The speaker bins, they will explode I think. Jolly good show.
Hey, $35 all you can drink from dozens of local spirits concocters, brew houses, and wineries? Plus: cosmic tunes from Cosmic Amanda (she’s cosmic), tarot readings by the zebra-leotarded Dr. Zebrowski, and one last time to party in the glorious Old Mint building before it gets renovated into the SF History Museum? Why am I still asking questions? Our sister-paper SF Weekly’s Drink event is sloshy, superb.
Please immediately check out the fantastic new Neneh Cherry album, produced by this wide-eared, super-innovative UK genius, who can jet from bright, ecstatic jazziness to haunting bass apocalypse in the blink of a strobe. A trippy treat in store, indeed.
Go-go boys are probably my least favorite things at clubs. (We were mercifully mostly free of them until a few years ago: They were “an LA thing” then. Sock’s on the other cock now!). But apparently, once a month, if they are dressed up like leather-fetish puppies, dancing to cutting-edge tunes in cages at the gay biker bar, and being petted by the sexiest characters of the SF queer underground, I’m totally down. I still refuse to say “woof,” though. With DJs Taco Tuesday and Chip Mint, hosted by Blake and Jorge.
Hyper-atmospheric ambient techno delight from this duo, composed of acclaimed Italian players Donato Dozzy and Neel. Don’t worry, you’ll still end up dancing. With Jason Kendig, Christina Chartfield, Carlos Souffront, and MossMoss at the As You Like It party.
LIT “Everywhere the gay narrative in this country is about freedom, but the reality doesn’t match up. I’m interested in exploring the corners that aren’t free — from bullied queer children killing themselves to the elaborate social prisons we concoct for ourselves online,” Randall Mann told me. “The landscape is definitely changing, but I’m not convinced that the most exciting, most pressing thing is to slap a smiley face over everything and post about ‘look how awesome my life is.’ I think it diminishes the present and the past.”
That may seem like a cynical take on the spurty arc of gay liberation. And a quick glance at Mann’s latest book Straight Razor (Persea Books), prickling with darkness, insecurity, suicide, longing, and Smear the Queer, probably bears that observation out. But the thrilling poems in Mann’s third volume are tenderly, uncannily, often hilariously on point when it comes to how we live our gay life now: the blundered hookups, halfhearted experiments, weird ghosts of old behaviors, buried childhoods, shady exchanges, unbelievable luck, the precarious balance of living at once in the glaring political spotlight and the throbbing shadows of history.
Or, as Mann exclaims with either surprise or sarcasm (or both) in “Teaser”:
Look at us — we’re smarter
Than our hair!
Mann and I met in the Castro near his house, at a posh wine bar in that increasingly upscale, mainstream neighborhood — a scrubbing that sometimes renders Mann’s gritty lines (As I skipped out this morning,/ skipping down Castro Street,/ the queens upon the asphalt/ were racks of hanging meat) into totems of nostalgia, no matter how recent they were written. But his electric language is so of the moment it carries the past into a timeless, shared present, as in one of my favorite poems from the collection, eerie AIDS-survivor ode “The Afterparty”:
I hover over the caviar, between
two spray-on queens, their asides –
eye cream, Pac Heights, microderm –
winningly vulgar. And when someone turns
the beat around, pure disco,
we’re dated, we’re done for…
“Our walls are crumbling, but that also means we’re losing our queer space,” said the soft-spoken but impassioned Mann, who spent his childhood in Florida before moving here in the late 1990s. “Gay people are shifting from a very defined identity to an unknown, and we’re performing this shift very much on a public stage. I’m fascinated by the way we construct and perform our identities — but at the same time we’re always undercutting ourselves. That moment or mode of undercutting, of self-effacement, is the poetic moment I always find myself seeking out.”
The pivotal moment of undercutting, when the straight razor is lifted, provides much of the humor in the book, as in the wonderful “Blind Date at the Blue Plate,” in which Mann, in “Striped shirt, skinny jeans, new-old Chucks/ I am sporting the usual bankruptcies” awaits a possible mate by reliving his entire sexual past — who doesn’t? — finally wishing he could redo it all, “much richer, cleaner,/ yet still dark, dark, dark./ A Michael Haneke shot-by-shot remake of my life.” One guesses the date won’t top that.
Mann’s poems are direct and structural — he was enthralled by formal-leaning Modernist icons Bishop, Moore, Auden, Lowell, and Stevens in college, rather than the shaggy Beats or the hyper-experimental Language Poets most young poets his age were obsessing over. His biggest influence is the great gay poet Thom Gunn, who died in the Haight 10 years ago next month. Gunn cheekily set strict forms and an Elizabethan wit against often-raunchy contemporary subject matter. (His Man With Night Sweats is an AIDS-era monument.)
Mann’s not after that kind of irony; for him, “Structure is something erotic to me, it leads me places that free verse doesn’t, it gives me a definition that I can surmount, a path to take and sometimes step off from.” His loose forms and half-rhymes become a metaphor for a community that’s redefining itself against its past even as it clings to its history. One shiver-inducing poem, the horror-porn-meets-Judy-Garland riff “Fantasy Suite,” is literally an invert — the first half of the poem is repeated in the second half in reverse order.
“Structure also gives me a sort of permission to speak about the unspeakable,” Mann told me, in context of the Straight Razor poem that’s getting the most attention, “September Elegies.” That poem, heartbreaking yet hardly mawkish, is dedicated to Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Billy Lucas, and Tyler Clementi, four young people who killed themselves after being bullied about their sexuality.
“I had to be very careful with that one, but I couldn’t be silent. I didn’t want to capitalize on or cheapen their deaths with useless sentiment, but I was driven to honor them in some way. I found that the repetition of their ages — 13, 15, 18 — and their final social media messages (“jumping off the gw bridge sorry”), those secondhand details, it became a kind of incantation, of bringing them back into our world,” Mann said.
“The words turn and turn on themselves,” Mann says in that poem — just like we turn on ourselves and each other, and the world still turns on us.
I’m a little punchy after all the lines
and torture-lite. And since this isn’t glitter underneath
my nails, pass me an emery board and the strip brush –
I’ll meet you out front, by the STD truck.
We’ll get Ray-Banned, and torch
a Castro twink, or three. And kee kee.
Enough with the ritual attachments. I prefer the steel
implication, the gash in the erstwhile
model’s face, the snip of the top chef’s tongue.
Your assignment is to lurk, but not
like that shower goblin at the gym. No. Like a cemetery
Ezelle, aka DJ Josh, was the first DJ many young clubbers heard in the late ’80s, and the list of venues and crews he supported or helped launch is a veritable what’s what of the SF scene, right up to the present. Wicked, the Gathering, Funky Techno Tribe, Sunset …
Ever-roving, he organized the groundbreaking 2000 ACA World Sound Festival in Acapulco. He moved to Thailand in 2001, and had recently located to Phuket, becoming a popular resort DJ there and witnessing the birth of his son.
A true example of bringing the underground SF spirit to the world, he’ll be mightily missed.
Not even a guest starring role on Lookingcould save beloved Latino-oriented gay dive Esta Noche, alas! According to Eater SF, the Mission favorite is being sold by its owners— reportedly willingly — to the team behind SoMa meat market Wish.
The new owners take over next week, but will keep things the same for a while, in order for everyone to have some time to say goodbye. (New Mission businesses, please take note: this is how you help avoid a PR nightmare.) Then get ready for more craft cocktails and loungey vibes, Missionites! Ugh.
I like the Wish kids, and I know that the Esta Noche tale is more complex than a simple eviction. Still, it’s heartbreaking to see a community mainstay — 40 years! — shutter, especially one that caters to a different crowd than Castro-roaming bachelorettes and tired Britney queens. Legendary comedy nights, hilarious performances, and, of course, the insane Miss Gay Primavera contest all played out on its stage. And where the hell can I hear Norteno music while cruising cute boys now?
With this coming hard on the heels of the 77 Geary building booting out its art galleries for tech companies, it has been suggested that the Guardian should start a column shaped like a tombstone, listing all the things we’re losing. But at least we’ll have craft cocktails!
SUPER EGO “If people want to accuse me of being a heteronormative queer assimilationist, they can come to my traveling amateur porn film festival and say it to my face!”
That’s Dan Savage — spunky sex columnist, “It Gets Better” maestro, and editor of Seattle’s the Stranger — calling me on the way to the airport. He’s flying the friendly skies for the nationwide Hump Tour (coming Fri/28 and Sat/1 to the Roxie Theater in SF, humptour.strangertickets.com), which is giving the Stranger’s notorious — and notoriously successful — annual homemade skin flick competition more, er, exposure.
In fact, the Hump Tour reminds me a little of the hilarious Sodomy Bus from Michael Moore’s 1990s TV show, filling the hills and crevices of America with resounding squeals and joyful bangs. Of course, the Sodomy Bus deliberately targeted anti-gay areas to make a political point — back when sodomy was still illegal, remember then? Whereas the Hump Tour projects handcrafted erotica with titles like Rumpy Pumpy (“an animated starter with funny, floppy dicks”), D&D Orgy (“roll for experience as the dungeon master’s fantasy game gets extremely real”) and Go Fuck Yourself (“one man time travels to save the world and fuck himself. Then things get complicated”) onto big screens in major cities with a side of popcorn. You can’t get more cuddly-quaint than that, no?
“I’m actually kind of worried about coming to San Francisco, though,” Savage said with an emphatic laugh. “Here I am, with my monogamish husband, editing this severely liberal paper and writing a sex column, my schedule full of porn, and I always feel like I’m going to be attacked for not being radical enough for SF, because I spoke out for same-sex marriage and other things.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him how much things have changed here — our overheated scandal du jour is over a queer club in Oakland politely asking straight people not to come because it’s too crowded, sigh.
So, what are the benefits of touring the country with a suitcase full of funny, irreverent, poignant, crude, and sweet stag films? “I’m at the point now where I’ve been writing about sex for so long that people mob me after each screening to say how they grew up reading me, how they would sneak my column into their bedroom, how I convinced them to try some things. And now I’ve enticed them to come see some porn with their friends and family. That’s kind of funny.”
Meanwhile, his stacked hubby has become a fixture on Seattle’s underground queer dance scene — does Dan ever hit the dance floor with him? “I usually hide in my room and write. It would never work if we were into the same things. You need some difference for that spark that makes you want to screw each other rather than just be each other.”
We’ll forgive you, Dan. Just keep the smut coming.
Techno heartthrob Matthew Dear’s dirtier, funkier alter ego Audion steps back into the limelight with what’s said to be an insane visual experience for this tour. (The team behind Amon Tobin’s mindblowing ISAM tour designed it.)
Wed/26, doors at 7pm, show at 8pm, $20, all ages. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. www.mighty119.com
Dark south London dubstep visionaries Mala and Coki drop in for Noisepop to school the kids on beautiful angst and swooping boom. With Chicago juke kingpin DJ Rashad.
Danny’s been spinning for 30 years and has become the elder statesperson when it comes to dance music in America. But the mixes! Oh, the mixes. He’s a master of creating a roiling, huge-room groove, bending the sound of each track toward a glimmering whole. Most DJs give you crap about how they “take you on a journey” — Danny actually delivers. A four-hour set with Nikita and John Kaberna supporting.
Wickedly good NYC house player headlines a Rong label showcase with local heads Corey Black of 40 Thieves, Jeffrey Sfire of Ghostly International, and — woot! — DJ Ken Vulsion, finally out of retirement and ready to enchant.
This is a monthly Riot Grrrl tribute night at the bear bar. So perfect. February’s installment celebrates Carrie Brownstein, right after the new “Portlandia” season debuts, and we think how happy we are for her success, but please get on that Sleater-Kinney reunion already. With DJs Crowderism and Jimmy Swear.
The magic techno man from LA is a smooth, smart beast on decks, laying on the pulsing rhythms and subterranean energy. He’s at the Night Moves party with Shiny Objects and Brother in Arms, the nifty new “slo-mo deep house” collab from hometown heroes Deejay Theory and J-Boogie.
Killer broken bass sounds at this regular party, bringing Low End Theory’s DJ Nobody and IZWID Records’ Esgar to the tables, along with the heady Slayers Club crew supporting. It’s a release party for one of my favorite local basshead Joe Mousepad’s new EP, too.
You could do way worse than to jam out to “World Destruction,” this hip-hop god’s legendary 1984 collaboration with the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon, while you’re applying your mascara in the evening. Or do the dip to “Planet Rock” when you take it off the next morning. Zulu Nation has you covered round the clock.
Sat/1, 10:30pm, $26, 18+. Yoshi’s SF,1330 Fillmore, SF. www.yoshis.com
GOLDIES The San Francisco Art Institute’s landmark 2012 MFA exhibition sprawled through the kitschy Phoenix Hotel in the Tenderloin, partnering artists with often radically different styles in each room. Seen from one angle, it hilariously replicated one particular nostalgia-inducing area of the Internet: bright and noisy chatrooms, overflowing with random strangers, streaming with argument, affinity, and information overload.
Standout exhibitor Michelle Ramin used the opportunity to kick that proto-social media vibe up a notch: “I took one look at the closet and thought, ‘This could be a photobooth,'” she told me over drinks at the Dogpatch Saloon. “That was when every party had to have a photobooth and Instagram was getting popular. There were also a lot of issues of surveillance in the news. I wired the photobooth to the TV permanently installed in the room and displayed the resulting photographs in real time to onlookers.”
But there was one more essential element. Working with programmer Jesse MacDonald, Ramin developed a “Mask Booth” Android app that superimposed her trademark motif — a ski mask — over everyone’s face. That balaclava (menacing, deracinating, liberating, everywhere in pop culture right now, from Pussy Riot to Spring Breakers) shows up often in Ramin’s gorgeous figurative colored pencil drawings and oil paintings, which popped off the Phoenix’s walls.
The masks are donned by “privileged hip young people at leisure” and come in stark contrast to their surroundings. In Three Aliases (2011), a bemasked trio of American Apparel-ready loungers puppy-piles onto a dazzling floral sofa; a scruffy male in a pixilated shirt pushes another masked figure forward on a tricycle with almost violent glee in Joel and Jewel.
“I’m fascinated by how we mask ourselves to form our online profiles, how we develop, or overdevelop, another identity that’s really only just a part of ourselves, but that we find acceptable to share with the world. But there’s another part of ourselves that we call ‘private’ that we also hide behind a mask.” Ramin told me. “We create these dual identities, and there’s a danger of one or the other going off balance.”
“But the mask is also liberating” — Oscar Wilde’s old saw “Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth” — “and it has its own history of transformation. It started out as something to protect against the cold, but now its come to mean many other things, from terrorism to fashion statement.”
Guardian photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover
Ramin was born in 1982 and knew from a young age that she wanted to be an artist. After earning a Fine Arts B.A. at Penn State, she and her now-husband, who appears in many of her works, followed their art dreams to New York City. But they found the experience isolating and expensive, so they impulsively loaded up their car and moved to Portland. “We suddenly found a community, and a close circle of friends. We could work part-time and survive, have a life.” Ramin’s art from that period, of bridges and colorful landscapes, reflected that new-found connectivity and sense of home.
Her move to Portland coincided with the rise of Etsy and the explosion of the online handmade craft marketplace, and her artworks were perfect for the medium. “I could be my own dealer, I was successful, and I suddenly had a platform that reached the whole world,” she said. But she wanted to continue developing, and started looking toward a master’s degree at SFAI, drawn to work with associate professor Brett Reichman, who would become her mentor. She funded her move to SF through an ingenious art auction that linked Etsy to eBay, and anticipated the crowdfunding craze.
Yet her Portland community still inspired. “I had been thinking about masks for awhile, inspired by [San Francisco artist] Desiree Holman’s work. While I was back home in Portland in 2010, my husband and I organized a weekend trip with a bunch of our friends to the coast. On our way out of town I had an inspiration. We drove past an outdoor store, and I stopped and picked up 12 ski masks.
“At the beach house, I asked my friends if they were OK with putting the masks on and having me photograph them — acting normally, holding hands, walking on the beach, all with ski masks on. I took a bunch of photos of them in hopes that they’d turn into a new body of work. It must’ve looked really bad to the neighbors, hipster 20-somethings riding around on tricycles with ski masks on. Because we were told not to return to the house again!”
Since drawing that series from those photographs, and another luminescent series of female nudes (often in balaclavas) in office and classroom settings that raise questions about women’s bodies in arts institutions, Ramin has begun to move on from the masks. “My most recent work has to do with escapism and complacency. I’m still taking photos of my friends, but without showing a literal mask. I want to find another way to talk about the public vs. private ‘branding’ that we all have to invent for ourselves. It’s extremely exhausting to keep up with the latest social media fads, but the reality is that it’s really difficult to remove ourselves completely, especially for artists.
“I’d be happy to ‘go off the grid,’ but a huge part of an artist’s job is to be a social networker. So I suppose sites like Facebook can be a necessary evil for us. The new direction in my art involves discussing the place at which these opposing ideas cross.”
GOLDIES “I don’t care how much equipment you have, how many laptops you’ve got hooked together — if you’re just making a bunch of trendy electronic sounds, if you don’t know melody or dynamics or how to really play an instrument… you aren’t making any music.”
The masked man known as DJ Nebakaneza is notorious for his dazzling and unsettling outfits, gonzo energy, brain-scrambling bass, and rollicking social media presence. He isn’t afraid to court controversy or speak his mind about what’s going on in dance music, either. But dig a little beneath the flash and bombast and a portrait of an artist as a young bass maven emerges, one brimming with deep musical knowledge, canny intellectual vision, disarming charm, and inspiring faith in his hometown scene.
It’s almost impossible to talk about Neb without including the rest of his Irie Cartel DJ crew — JohnnyFive, Mr. Kitt, Miss Haze, and Danny Weird. Irie Cartel has had a profound effect on the San Francisco dance music scene. But to understand just how much of an effect, we’ll need to run down a little history of what didn’t happen in the San Francisco clubs.
In the early 2000s a deep and throbbing apocalyptic sound from the grimier neighborhoods of London called dubstep started shaking the bass bins of the underground. By 2007, it was seeping into club nights here like Grime City, Brap Dem, and Full Melt, drawing critical interest and providing a nice complement to the minimal techno and disco revivalism that was also happening at the time.
But then a funny thing happened: mainstream America, apparently looking for a new arena-style rockout, hijacked dubstep, gutting it of all but its deep bass and catchy name. Pop artists adopted the sound, twisting it into a series of bowel-rumbling bass drops (nothing wrong with those, really), and it became known more for its fist-pumping frat party reputation than a reflection of the more angsty corners of urbanity. A wave of bro-step began washing over US clubs, threatening to wash out more subtle party expressions with its macho aggression.
Guardian photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover
That onslaught was stopped at our borders, thanks to Irie Cartel, whose weekly Ritual dubstep nights kept the fun factor high (and the bass extremely low), but also made room for classic bass music sounds, experimental electronic showcases, and flights of melodic beauty. It still melted your face, but poetically. Irie also emphasized old school rave community spirit: At its height, in the basement of club Temple, the Ritual party included a community marketplace for people to sell their handmade wares and food. It was like a cosmic bass bazaar full of beautiful bass faces. “We’re all musically nerdy,” Neb says of his crew. “But we strip out all the ‘look at me’ ego that came with the mainstream dubstep scene.”
DJ Neb got into dubstep, in fact, as a fresh-faced youth who wandered into Grime City one night. “I spotted this flyer pasted to a wall and decided to check it out — it was at the old Anu club on Sixth Street at the time. And when I walked in, I was blown away by this wave of bass, these awesome sounds that seemed to be pulling me apart. I never looked back from there,” he told me over the phone, as he prepared to leave for a gig in Uruguay. “It seemed to pull together something that had been brewing in me somewhere. I’d always been into music. I started working at Rasputin Records as soon as I could, and would spend all my free time in there, too — just digging through bins and listening to music. My paycheck would go right back into those records. They used to pay me in music, essentially.
“As a kid, I played percussion. I went through a Janet Jackson and New Jack Swing phase, got really into hip-hop. I was deep into downtempo, trip hop, and rare groove when I started DJing. It was the whole ‘lounge era’ of nightlife, so I started getting a lot of gigs as a cocktail hour DJ. I even had a chillout show on KKSF, the smooth jazz radio station,” he laughed.
“But when the dubstep thing started blowing up for me, I realized it was time to create a new persona, and that’s when DJ Nebakaneza was born. I had to delete my previous existence. I made a ceremonial sacrifice of that guy.” Neb went on to host the Wobble Wednesdays show on Live 105 and rise to the forefront of forward-thinking yet accessible bass purveyors.
But now it’s 2014, dubstep has almost completely played itself out — bro-step wiz Skrillex’s latest shows have been billed as “playing the classics” — and Ritual is on hold. (“When dubstep became popular, Ritual suddenly had this massive influx of people who were drawn to the sound but had never been in a club before, didn’t know how to act,” Neb said. “They were spurned by a lot of our regulars, who closed ranks. But I was like, ‘We were all new at the party at one point, wouldn’t it be better to connect with these people?’ It was sad that our scene got so defensive. I wish we could have embraced the fear a little more. But we’re just giving everything a time out. Ritual will be back.”)
If dubstep is no longer an option, what’s a dubstep DJ to do?
Go back to the drawing board, of course. Last year, DJ Nebakaneza started releasing a series of exquisite mixes tapping into his vast knowledge banks. Each month he would take on a new, unexpected genre — yacht rock, rare disco, Dirty South hip-hop, instrumental funk, even emerging ones like half-time — and weave something magical from his roots. The Expansion Series is one of the most ambitious things I’ve heard a Bay Area DJ attempt, and it comes off pretty flawless.
“I was having an identity crisis,” Neb said. “Dubstep had kind of moved on, and I missed my crate-digging days. Playing those lounge sets — some of them were four or more hours long. That’s a lot of music. I missed being able to sneak all kinds of colors into it. I also missed playing the music that’s closest to my heart: Isley Brothers, James Brown, all that beautiful old funk and soul. I needed to break myself down a little to see how to move ahead.”
Currently, Neb is throwing a bass-oriented monthly party called Paradigm with fellow head Lud Dub. But he’s still planning his next sonic move. “I want something sexy, still with the bass, but a more ‘purple’ feel. Not the trap sound that’s been happening, but something deep and hot.”
Heavens, does that mean the edgy Nebakaneza persona will be tossed to the wind? “Don’t worry, Nebakaneza’s not going anywhere. And I’m still keeping the mask.”
Hey gorgeous bar slaves and cocktailistas! This night’s for you (and your friends). The annual Mid-Winter Barworkers Ball raises a glass to all service industry workers 9pm-2am Tue/18 at Churchill. Don’t worry, it’s free to barwokers, there’s free drinks, great music — and games, of which I am a judge, bwahahaha. Here’s the rundown from the release:
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS UNITED IN NIGHTLIFE! From the Sunset to Chinatown & the Marina to Bayview, the City’s finest gather once more for booze, bites, dancing and hijinx.
FREE TO ALL INDUSTRY WORKERS (with proof of wmplyoment – bring a pay stub!)
COMPLIMENTARY cocktails 9pm-10pm, great damn discounts all night!
Sonny Phono, who holds down “Rock the Spot” every Wednesday at Madrone Art Barwill be manning the decks as twilight comes on over Church & Market while Bus Station John will be bringing his ribald repertoire from Tubesteak Connection & DISCO DADDY / SFO as the bacchanal crests towards the witching hour.
Photographic flashbacks provided courtesy of FBFE.
Blind whiskey tasting
Mixology contest with secret ingredients
Irish car bomb competition
Judges: Broke Ass Stueart, Caitlin Donahue of ADHM4U, Isla Murray of Botl Italic and Lone Palm, Marke B.
The annual Hard French Wnter Ball, in which our favorite queer retro-soul party gets gussied up and holds a prom in Santa Cruz (next Saturday!), has always gone big and hilarious with its promotions. But it’s outdone itself this year, with an epic kooky acid trip promo video by Dirtyglitter. Get it, Veronica Kuka-Florez.
SUPER EGO “A man, a plan, a gram: anal canal!” Why some queen just shrieked this quasi-palindrome in my earhole at 5am outside the 7-Eleven — not the Castro one, I have my pride — absolutely no idea. But the poor, bedraggled dear has a point: BE PREPARED.
Next week is the Guardian’s fab annual Goldies issue, a wall-to-wall celebration of up-and-coming artists. And there’s no room in it for your beloved Super Ego (old). So here’s looking ahead to the next hot fortnight’s-worth of shindigs. Of course, the biggest hoot of all will be the Guardian 25th Annual Goldies party (Fri/21, 8-11pm, $10. Folsom Street Foundry, 1425 Folsom, SF.) DJs Primo and Wam Bam Ashleyanne will do a special soul-groove “golden oldies” set — and it’s $10 for all the beer you can drink. Plus, duh, the coolest people. Stick it in your calendar, already.
Last week’s SFBG cover star, scratch legend Qbert, joins with Dan The Automator, Del The Funky Homosapien, and more local hip-hop/turntable heroes for a wild time, in support of his crowdsource campaign for his new album, Extraterrestria/Galaxxxian (www.djqbert.com).
Thu/13, 9pm, $10 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. wwww.mezzaninesf.com
Talk about heartthrobs, yum. This cutie brought major sexy back to dance floors when he slowed tempos down to a crawl and let everyone stretch out. Now he’s all about crooning live and steaming things up with Tom Croose as the Worst Friends duo — also appearing at this As You Like It lovefest.
That thing where a DJ is also a magician, creating a whole new psychedelic-ecstatic universe out of common sounds, rearranging how you hear music forever. He’s also Spanish and wears a lot of tinfoil over his face for photos. At the Icee Hot party.
There is a thing called Bear Weekend with a long and dramatic history (let’s not get into it) — and here’s this year’s fun-furry climax: DJ Bus Station John turns the Eagle leather biker bar into a glorious old school gay disco evening t-dance. Bring your own chic towel, but no Schick razors, please. “Endorsed by the Tamale Lady,” fyi.
Celebrate the presidents with Honey’s lovely residents: P-Play, Kendig, Josh Cheon, and Robot Hustle give the cute queer boys, girls, and others steamy techno all night long. (Hot straight people also eligible.)
If you know anything about dance music, you have probably just wet yourself. If not, let’s be clear: One of Detroit techno’s most poetic innovators and one of the best disco, house, and dub producers of all time will be on the decks, as part of Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp 2014.
Happy eighth birthday to the Lights Down Low party. And happier birthday to us dancers! LDL’s bringing in this true legend, basically one of three guys who invented techno — from Detroit, duh — and changed the world forever.
I’ve been wondering when this would happen. A breakbeat revival has been hitting the underground rave and techno connoisseur scene for a couple years. Now there’s an official dedicated party. Noice. With Kapt N Kirk, Tamo, Nerd Nate, and more.
Sat/22, 10pm-3am, free before midnight (RSVP at www.mighty119.com). Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.
Beloved and classic DJ Nikita is headed off to London. But first he’s counting down eight monthly London Calling parties with incredible special guests, like NYC banging house royalty Honey Dijon and Tedd Patterson.
MUSIC “I always wanted to know how music sounded in outer space. And with certain types of crystals you can supposedly tune into different frequencies, receive other transmissions. Often I meditate with crystals, go to sleep, and dream about music from outer space. Then I wake up, make stuff like that on the turntables, and take it from there.”
That’s a lot of there to take it from, but DJ Qbert is no stranger to mixing the cosmic with the underground. A legendary emissary of scratch who became the international representative of turntable culture in the 1990s along with his “band” Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Q has always mixed a heavy dose of Bay Area flavor into his masterly sets — which aren’t typical DJ sets by any means, but untethered, jazz-like flights during which a set of turntables and a crossfader, manipulated lightning-fast, become their own kind of spaceship. His polyrhythmic scratch concertos summon white noise, radio interference, oceanic undertow, Looney Tunes quick cuts, vintage advertising jingles, embryonic hip-hop, Big Brother menace, and fiendish, childlike glee. Great beauty, too, especially when you think of them as pure sonic expression, floating free of time and space. Not that you can’t dance your ass off to most of it, mind you.
We were talking about his new album Extraterrestria, dropping in March on the Thud Rumble label and backed by a huge Kickstarter campaign that aims not just to fund the disc, a marketing campaign and a tour, but also typical Qbert innovations like amazing touch-sensitive digital album packaging that simulates DJ controller equipment. (More details at www.djqbert.com)
“The album is actually two albums in one, two different discs,” Qbert, looking tight in a buttondown shirt and track pants, told me. “Extraterrestria is music from another galaxy, hip-hop beats from other planets, collected by the Galactic Scratch Federation. It’s as bizarre and unique as I could make it, a collection of weird noises and different time signatures with as much scratching as possible. The second disc is called Galaxxxian, which is hip-hop from earth beamed into space: raw, primitive. It features a bunch of MCs — Kool Keith, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Mr. Lif, Soul Khan, Bambu — doing their thing, which a lot of time, you know, means going for the sex, drugs, and hip-hop and roll. We’re not quite on the extraterrestrial level, yet.”
Other biggies like Dan the Automator, Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, cellist-trombonist Dana Leong, and rapper El-P (here a producer) also contributed. “What with the recession and everything, a lot of us have been trading with each other, so we can continue collaborating. Like I’ll do a beat for your album if you do a verse on mine. Something where the money’s phased out, a barter thing. It’s put us back in touch with what’s real,” Qbert said.
TWIST THE FORCE
As we talked on the second floor of the California Academy of Sciences, the first floor was rapidly filling up for the Academy’s weekly Nightlife party, this week a launch celebration and fundraiser for Extraterrestria — and a reunion of sorts for turntablism heads, albeit one bursting with fresh young faces. As b-boys and fly girls made their way through exotic landscapes, whale skeletons, stuffed giraffes, a butterfly-flooded rainforest dome, and aquarium displays including live stingrays, giant octopi, frisky penguins, Claude the albino alligator, and phosphorescent jellyfish, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the deliciously loopy, phantasmagorical animated movie version of Qbert’s era-defining previous album Wave Twisters, released 16 years ago.
That’s a long time between official releases, but it wasn’t like Qbert had been kidnapped by aliens. Although his live performance schedule was less-than-usual bonkers, he still made regular appearances, by himself or as part of his extended Bay Area scratch crew family. He popularized turntable techniques in a series of instructional videos and launched online educational community Qbert Skratch University, in 2009. He also went all in on the equipment tip, putting out his own brand of turntable cartridges and needles, an Invisibl Skratch Piklz-branded mixer, “and of course our own vinyl to scratch with — which is really vinyl on one side and a digital interface on the other, for use with DJ software like Traktor.”
Fifteen years has also seen the rise of social media and a more user-friendly Internet. Has that changed the way he produces beats or performs at all? “Of course it’s been great for finding new sounds to use,” Qbert said. “If I want to hear, say, a tarantula farting, I can look it up instantly and hear that. On the other hand, most of my old sets are up there now, with all their mistakes, and a lot of times I’m cringing and say in a small voice, ‘Please, please let them delete that.’ It keeps me on my toes now, knowing everything can be recorded in all its glory. But because I’ve actually been working on this album for seven years, all that’s been incorporated — it’s not like a shock. I use what I can use.
“But I try not to be trapped in the present. I often think back to the past, to cats like Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong. That timeless, improvisational jazz feeling where you practice and practice, but when the time comes you’re just an instrument connecting with the god-force, channeling the sound through you, swinging through that ocean of feeling. When you’re in that zone, that’s the most wonderful thing. It’s a meditation, a spiritual thing. We’re all spirits, so we have to connect to other spirits and the most high, whatever you want to call it — God, Allah — connect to that creator source and use it because it’s yours to use. Like how some writers just flow and do that automatic writing, they’re just instruments. We’re just instruments you know, it all flows through us.”
When Qbert, raised in SF’s Excelsior neighborhood, astonished the DJ world by winning its spun-out version of the Olympics, the DMC World Championships, not once (solo, 1991) but three more times in a row after that (as part of Rocksteady DJs with Mixmaster Mike and Apollo) it was an unparalleled triumph not just for local scratch and hip-hop community, but for Bay Area Filipino American culture as well.
As music critic and Guardian contributor Oliver Wang details meticulously in his forthcoming book Legions of Boom: Mobility, Identity and Filipino American Disc Jockeys in the San Francisco Bay Area (Duke University Press), a vibrant scene of Filipino mobile DJ crews — independent groups of teenage sound and lighting specialists hired to provide entertainment for weddings, graduations, and parties — thrived here since the 1970s. When hip-hop eclipsed disco on the request lists in the 1980s, the mobile crews defined streetwise Bay Area Filipino youth culture and provided a fertile training ground (and sometimes needed cash) for young DJ up-and-comers.
Qbert’s domination of the DJ world could be read as the apex of that scene, which faded in the 1990s with the rise of digital technology. And of course Qbert went on to create his own crew of fellow Filipino DJs: The Invisibl Skratch Piklz, with Shortkut, Apollo, Mix Master Mike, and several others. The Piklz went on to become insanely popular, establishing scratching and other turntable manipulations as a form of art and a highly marketable genre — turntablism — that changed the sound of hip-hop and dance music. Mix Master Mike went on to become, in essence, the fourth Beastie Boy; one early ISP member was A-Trak, current turntable-wielding heartthrob of the superstar EDM crowd.
In fact, the current popularity of turntable-rooted DJs like A-Trak and the burgeoning trip-hop and late ’90s revival makes the timing of Qbert’s return auspicious. “A-Trak runs a dance music scene and I think it’s great that he brings the scratching into it, he’s really unique in that field — so more power to him for turning on a different crowd to the sound. But for me it’s never really gone away, pure scratching. There’s a zillion underground cats who are genius at what they do — Quest, Deeandroid and Ceslkii, Disk, tons more. And maybe the widespread recognition isn’t there, maybe it isn’t in your face like it once was, but they’re all around. It’s like the guys who still do yo-yo tricks. They don’t know things have moved on. They keep practicing and practicing and doing incredible things, regardless of how many people are following. They’re always battling, always progressing. Never put down your yo-yo, man,” he laughs.
As for connecting to a new generation, working with (gasp!) turntables and (double gasp!) vinyl at this stage of DJ history is a deliberate artistic choice. Even with a resurgence of interest in analog techniques — a specific reaction to digital overload — does Qbert fear that scratching will be seen as merely a retro novelty?
“I think no one can deny that, whether you’re old or young, using a turntable to make a scratch sound — well, you can’t deny that it sounds really bugged out. How else are you going to make that sound unless you’re actually moving the sound with your own hand? Just to hold the sound and grab it, move it back and forth — that’s unique and fascinating to people. It’s like a sci-fi movie in real life, a sound that people have heard since maybe they were little kids, but one that also points to a future where man meets machine. It’s a real manipulation, a sound design in itself. What other instrument can do that?”
SUPER EGO Every year or so the plucky Kronos Quartet— our audacious yet user-friendly 40-year-old vanguard of the musical avant-garde — pops back on the scene to wow us. Last time I saw them, they opened for electronic pioneer Amon Tobin’s spectacular 3-D projection ISAM tour at the Greek Theatre, and if you don’t think a string quartet can garner deafening cheers at a giant rave, you need to hear Kronos. Before that, the foursome was at YBCA, bowing electrified fences and simulating multiple water wheels. This week the string quartet will be launching the fifth installment of its composers-under-30 showcase with an intense work by Bay Area native Mary Kouyoumdjian called Bombs of Beirut (Feb 6-9, 8pm, $20–$25. Z Space, 450 Florida, SF. www.zspace.org).
“I want to create a feeling of chaos and nostalgia,” Armenian American wiz Kouyoumdjian says of her piece, which attempts to reflect the day-to-day situation of life during the 1980s Lebanese Civil War, and which includes haunting ambient recordings taken from a balcony during the conflict. (Kouyoumdjian’s family lived through it.) She also wants to put a complex human face on ongoing Middle East conflicts — and hey, possibly remind us of that whole endless war thing still perpetuating. Maybe we want to try to stop that soon?
ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER
Stop everything; look up this ambitious, electro-drone-based Brooklynite’s video for “Boring Angel.” Then watch cerebral local opener Holly Herndon’s astounding vid for her new “Chorus” track. Yeah, that kind of incredible “life on a parallel Internet planet” stuff.
Brilliant producer Scuba swings from drowned-flute downtempo to punishing dub techno (although his often-confusing sexual politics turn some people off). The real news for me, though, at this Lights Down Low party is DJ Hell, who’s been slaying dance floors for three decades with his edgy, driving beats — and always has interesting hair.
Detroit’s phenomenal Michael Buchanan, a.k.a. House Shoes, heads up a big tribute to J. Dilla — the quintessential hypnotic-soulful beats producer whose influence can be heard in pretty much every dope hip-hop track to drop in the past decade. (Dilla died in 2006 at 32.) Also on tap: Shortkut, Mr. E and Haylow, Fran Boogie.
Fri/7, 9pm, free before midnight with RSVP at www.mighty119.com. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.
I love the off-kilter sense of humor this Pachanga Boy from Mexico gives off — he’ll take us on a trip to the outer reaches with a wink and smile. With catchy NYC duo Blondes and cute “screw house” dude Axel Borman at the As You Like It party.
The incredible chnagra club celebrates 100 colorful salutes to banging underground Indian dance music with a special appearance by London’s revered Punjabi MC — oh, and the dholrhythms dance troupe, live drumming and painting, the Curry Up Now truck, and DJ Jimmy Love on decks.
An amazing-sounding new monthly from Oakland heroes Candi and DJ Cecil featuring music and rhythms of the Latin and African diasporas, kicking off with live drumming from the awesome Sistahs of the Drum, Cuban salsa lessons, and one of my absolute favorite deep house DJs Carlos Mena.
The indie god Bloc Party frontman has been heavily invested in electronic sounds for ages. Now you can hear his selections on deck at the Isis party, one of the true success stories of the past year in terms of wicked good times and a too-cute crowd.
Sat/8, 9:30pm-3:30am, $12–$15 advance. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com
So happy for this SF-LA duo’s continued success bringing gorgeous, sun-drenched house tunes to the masses. Jeffrey Paradise and Filip Nikolic hit town again in big style, all night at Mezzanine. Bring your inflatables.