Using darkwave, gangster-punk, and '90s house throwbacks, experimental party curators dig deep in the grooves
MUSIC Long black hair and ripped jean vests in the crowd, billowy hooded capes on the stage, DJs in jersey tanks and caps, and sea of flickering blue lit cell phones; there's something spooky happening out there in Club Land, San Francisco. It's almost as though the dark arts kids have discovered dance music.
Roll your eyes. Of course, that's reductive. Goths and punks have long been venturing into dance clubs. Acts like Gang of Four, Liquid Liquid, and Siouxsie and the Banshees harnessed the power of beats, shooting rhythm directly into the noise decades ago. And then there was the dance-punk revival of the early 2000s, with LCD Soundsystem and its emblematic label DFA out front, and Black Eyes and Liars leading the weirder charge.
But lately in the city, there seems to be a handful of party curators gaining more recognition for throwing darkly experimental events, lining up unexpected live acts and multifaceted DJs, haunting visuals and thought-provoking participatory art. It's a mix of live experiments, spooky glitches, punk-rap energy, and a particularly homegrown brand of San Francisco messiness. It's been referred to as Tumblr culture, a grand, winking, sparkling, blood-soaked mix of references and cultures.
What's more, these parties provide a space for those previously unassociated with fundamental club culture (i.e. have spent their lives hunkered down in venues and warehouses) with an entry point. Like all scenes, it can be difficult to break out of routine, but it seems almost rudimentary: bringing unconventional live bands to club nights draws in broader crowds.
Kevin Meenan, otherwise known as epicsauce, has witnessed this introduction in the first few months of his budding new party Push the Feeling. While he's long covered nightlife and hosted live "one foot in the punk world, one foot in the dance world" events, he described this new endeavor as a handholding experience, convincing indie-garage-shoegaze centric friends to come out to a night in the electronic realm.
Maybe the rise of such experimental parties is thanks to the endless digital back catalogue of influences now available at the fingertips; it's hard to say. But it's fun and challenging, regardless. So is this the critical blog culture come alive?
SLEEP ONE NIGHT, RAVE THE NEXT
Marco De La Vega, another local figure in this experimental party-thrower culture, thinks so. He uses the same language to describe a recent party he threw, Public Access.
"To a large extent it was almost like a tongue-in-cheek mix-up of that old rave culture and like, the Tumblr culture that kind of exists now," he explains. "This idea that every single person is, in their own right, constantly exposed and famous, and also in this really creepy, amazing, 10-second flashes of animated GIFs kind of way."
While De La Vega works on other current monthly and twice-monthly events such as 120 Minutes and Future Perfect, April marked the very first installment of Public Access, which took place at Public Works in the Mission.
It's a concept De La Vega says he's been mulling over for years, an eclectic, visually minded show based around people generating their own content. He counted on a crew of some 10 to 20 friends and creative types to help reel in his fantasies, and help turn concepts in realities. In conversation, he repeatedly credits the same loose circle with co-organizing all the events on which he works.