YEAR IN MUSIC "But not this time. This is our time. This time you're going to hand them a business card that says 'I'm CEO ... bitch!' "
Thus screams Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) during the hilarious club scene in this year's seminal The Social Network. They're supposedly at a space in the Mission (actually L.A.'s Exchange club) in 2004, a horridly stereotypical affair featuring bland industrial architecture, a dance floor full of blonde "woo!" girls in black cocktail dresses, writhing go-go gals with pink boas, oversized martini glasses, illuminated cocktail tables, coke sniffles.... You know, the Jungian ideal of Douche Central.
(The music the two actors are screaming over — Dutch Euro-trancer Dennis de Laat's 2010 remake of Cassius' 2002 French millennial-funk track "The Sound of Violence" — is a bit of a joke too, although I'm not sure if de Laat was in on it. Contemporary progressive house and Euro-trance, alas, are still perfectly suited for scoring tacky Internet wheeling and dealing in 2004.)
That over-the-top scene made me think about how far dance music and club culture have come, both in terms of mainstream acceptance — throw in a verse by Drake and a goofy bassline and "The Sound of Violence" could be Ke$ha's next paycheck — and alternative options. Despite a few fun parties and a strong sense of underground unity, 2004 really was a low point for dance music, the spinning-wheels moment before a host of now-ubiquitous styles like dubstep, minimal techno, global funk, and nu-disco hit the scene. Sure, the current pop charts are a commercial dance juggernaut of kookily styled, sexlessy sex-obsessed, materialistic Auto-Tuned clubkid wannabes, hating on haters and looking for love all up in the VIP. But this is fine! First, thanks to the Internet, it's all so easy to ignore. Second, anything's better than the whine-rock males that electro-pop replaced. And third, pop homogeneity has helped bring about an alternative renaissance of brain-tickling party music and club events for people who want more out of nightlife than Cristal bottle-service and a new Facebook profile pic.
In fact, it was a bit hard to keep up with all the ingenious debauchery in 2010. Despite the continued recession — more probably because of it — partying was rampant, with new venues like Public Works and Jones and revamped ones like 222 Hyde, Holy Cow, and SOM joining established spots (happy 25th, DNA Lounge!) in presenting some of the most innovative programming in the world. I can't tell you how many times I heard New Yorkers, Londoners, and Berliners sigh lovingly and praise the scene here.
It sure didn't take a lot of traveling, though, for me to see how good we have it right now, partywise. The homofuturist techno of Honey Sundays, Tormenta Tropical's spiky electro-cumbia, the twisted funk of Loose Joints, Some Thing's post-ironic showtunes, Icee Hot's UK bashment, DJ Bus Station John's various bathhouse unearthings, Kontrol's live minimal showcase, Phonic's classic tech and house, the global funk of Afrolicious, Frequency's Dilla-influenced hip-hop, Change the Beat's future-bass soul, Love Letters' intelligent techno, Nachtmusik's dark wave, Ritmos Sin Fronteras' global house, Braza!'s deep samba, Ritual's anarcho-dubstep, Go Bang!'s disco bliss, the young queer twists of Hard French and Stay Gold .... I could go on and on — suffice it to say the only bad nights out I had this year in the city were the ones I can't remember. (Even my brief forays into the Lady Gagay bars of the Castro were at least, er, exotic.)