Clubland reverted to a pre-Internet sensibility, with small spaces ruling and breakbeats all the rage again.
Alongside the breaks (a sound the Bay actually had a big hand in developing) the club music menu was still hogged by chunky techno, diva house, Burner trance, retro overload, and sing-along hip-hop. Post-punk, electro-funk, radical eclecticism, and global-eared sounds popped their heads up at times: Joy at Liquid, Milkshake at Sno-Drift, Club KY at Amnesia, Knees Up at Hush Hush, Popscene at 330 Ritch, Step at An Sibin, Fake at Cat Club, roving Bardot-a-Go-Go, and one-offs at 26Mix, Blind Tiger, Jezebel's Joint, Pow!, Annie's, Tongue and Groove, Storyville, and Justice League. Electroclash had its brief moment, too anyone remember Electro Rodeo at Galaxy? and reggaeton made a thrilling brief appearance. But in general the Bay was a little late in breaking free from the '90s.
That sounds absolutely pukey, but it wasn't. Some beautiful nights came out of this period I'm half-remembering Said's Afro-house Atmosfere, David Harness's deep-souled Taboo, and anything at the Top, EndUp, or the Cellar. And living in the '90s wasn't so bad considering primo parties like Qoöl, Wicked, Stompy, Thump, Death Guild, and New Wave City maintained a presence. Also, if you were looking for "exotic" sounds, you could easily find them at some of the best ethno-audio spaces, like Bissap Baobab and Café Cocomo. But yes, those four-four beats got tiresome.
Then, around late-2004, came a return of the repressed, an explosion of Day-Glo styles that had been incubating in a clutch of neon-oriented, omnivorous-eared parties like Le Freak Plastique at Hush Hush and DJ Jefrodesiac's Sex With Machines (later Frisco Disco) at Arrow. Soon San Francisco was in the midst of a small-venue, independent promoter golden age and a rosy flush of youth. Finally, more than the same four people were throwing parties! And you were never sure of what you'd hear.
After a few debauched months of those rag-tag iPod-oriented shindigs, things sorted out into a handful of heady genres. Technology spookily inserted itself almost every dance floor was bathed in the light of a little half-eaten apple. Serrato and Ableton software made live edits and mind-boggling mashups, like those heard at Bootie, possible, and timelines fell away to reveal gleaming ahistorical sonic landscapes. Beat-matching gradually came back into vogue, but wittily revealing the seams between tracks became the ne plus ultra of DJ craftsmanship.
The French invaded in the form of Daft Punk- and Justice-inspired electro bangers, spraying young clubbers with American Apparel and shutter shades. To my ears, Richie Panic and Vin Sol were our best balls-out interpreters of this fuck-all party sound and spirit, and Blow Up at Rickshaw Stop its finest venue. Minimal techno made sure hot nerds with little glasses were still in control Kontrol at EndUp, in fact, was the club that did the most to nurture the Berlin-based sound here, with venue Anu and now the near-perfect 222 Hyde offering various party backup. Genius local minimal players like Nikola Baytala and Alland Byallo worked hard to stretch the boundaries, while Claude Von Stroke and the Dirty Bird Records crew added some much-needed humor.
There was a backlash to all the technology, which revolutionized gay clubs. DJ Bus Station John's all-vinyl, unmixed bathhouse disco sets goosed the moribund queer scene into exploring its AIDS-shrouded past, and threw open the back door to the far-reaching sets of freestyle and rare '80s fetishist Stanley Frank and the kiki-technotics of Honey Soundsystem.
London's dubstep sound morphed into glitch-tipsy future bass another genre the Bay can claim as its own before it got a firm party foothold here.