YEAR IN MUSIC: Local and global club dance floors got deliciously heady in 2010 -- but when are we going to kick that 2 a.m. curfew?
And this was the first year in a long time that local partiers loudly chafed against our city's ridiculous 2 a.m. curfew for bars lacking an exorbitantly priced late-night license. Could it be time for another push against this aspect of the city's constant War on Fun? The pushback would be intense. Some tragic shootings and other violent acts were associated with nightlife this year (even if they only happened near a club, kill-joy NIMBY's jump at the chance to blame partiers and don't have the capacity to distinguish among different kinds of parties). Nightlife naysayers got away with some pretty ballsy moves this year, including the cancellation of the enormous Lovevolution outdoor party. Yet, as slightly cynical as I am right now about the possibility of political change, I'm hoping the vitality of our scene is starting to build some positive momentum toward at least letting SF parties keep going as long as those in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. Hi, world-class city here, right?
In the larger view, 2010, to me, was the year that the Internet finally came of club age. I know, I know, you've heard it before. By making almost everything available at once, the Internet erases the distinction between mainstream and alternative culture, between pop and underground. This year that felt truer than ever, and the change seemed like it was finally taking effect on a broad cultural level — whenever I tried to explain to someone in their teens how rave culture was a deliberate rebellion against commercial culture, or how independent music differed from that put out by major labels, they looked at me like I was from the '90s!
But in 2010, DJs and musical archeologists tried to fill in that almost with a vengeance — they wanted everything, from the past as well as the present, to be available on the Internet. Uploading and sharing history-altering vinyl rarities was this year's badge of honor. I found myself hearing so many songs on the dance floor that I'd forgotten, I'd sometimes enter a kind of dream state, unsure of my own historical timeline. The "wave" phenomenon, which brought utterly unheralded synth and proto-goth acts from the age of hand-to-hand cassette culture to light (and various dance floors) was the most literal manifestation of this, but there were others as well. Old-school SF DJs who'd spent years building their record collections — Gavin Hardkiss, James Glass, Solar, Jenö, Garth, Ken Vulsion, Steve Fabus — sounded incredible this year, both for their vinyl gold and mixing acumen.
Across the board, DJs slowed the tempos of their sets, as if all the rapidly accumulating sonic history was dragging them back, their laptops churning from the weight of it all. Tunes somehow became wider, thicker, luminous. Suddenly songs were fields. This led to some fantastic developments — presaged by the reemergence of UK disco and "electro-funk" DJ pioneer Greg Wilson after decades of silence, and anticipated by releases from our own King & Hound duo, the edit scene was bananas, with a plethora of music makers releasing contemporary-sounding versions of forgotten classics. (Edits are made by rearranging or removing a song's individual parts, unlike remixes that usually rebuild a song from the ground up).
Going one step further, recombinant folks like Soul Clap, Wolf + Lamb, Tensnake, and Mr. Intl took individual elements of half-remembered, half-heard soul, funk, house, and R&B gems and combined them with each other in uncanny ways — a little acid house melody here, the sax solo from a Chris Isaak song, a Cure bassline, a New Edition drum breakdown, a snatch of Vicious Pink there — as if populating a timeframe that didn't quite exist.