Using darkwave, gangster-punk, and '90s house throwbacks, experimental party curators dig deep in the grooves
At that first Public Access night, there were video screenings, and performance art, along with "forward-thinking drag queens" Dia Dear and Boy Child. Hype Williams, Gatekeeper, Teengirl Fantasy, and Total Accomplishment performed, as did DJs including frequent collaborator Dial Up, and De La Vega himself— who goes by the name S4NtA_MU3rTE. While very well attended (sold out, in fact) the Public Access night will only happen sporadically — when the exact right lineup can be formed.
120 Minutes (First Fridays, 9pm, $10–$15. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com), De La Vega's longest-running current party has seen darkwave, chopped and screwed hip-hop, and grave rave acts such as Pictureplane, oOoOO, Light Asylum, Cold Cave, White Ring, Salem, and Tragik come through over the past year and a half. Next up, a likely-to-sell out show with field recording wunderkind producer Balam Acab.
Future Perfect (Second and Fourth Thursdays, 10pm, $10–$15, Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com), is another consistent party of his; it's a collaborative effort with veteran rap promoter Gary Rivera (though again, all of De La Vega's efforts take a village), which began at Monarch but now also takes place at Public Works.
"The idea on [Future Perfect] is similar to everything I work on," De La Vega says, sucking down a bacon Bloody Mary at Pop's on a sunny afternoon. "It's basically the embodiment of this idea that there is such a huge cross-section between various musical genres, and particular production styles of music, so rap, electronic, anything 'future based,' he air quotes, "post-dubstep, post-anything. There's this huge intersection between all these scenes that doesn't actually have, strangely, its own outlet."
It's interesting that De Le Vega even got into throwing parties in the first place, given his back-story. He grew up a self-described record nerd who never went to clubs. He says he's still not really a fan of clubs, which is hard to believe. "My issue with a lot of club nights is this idea that everything has to be something, or have a label, or be a scene," he says.
He was raised in both Stockton and upstate New York, went to his first show at age 6 — Beastie Boys and Run-DMC with his two older sisters — and soon fell in love with radio pop (Prince) and gangster rap (Ghetto Boys).
After high school spent mulling around shows with the punk kids, he eventually moved back out west, this time to a loft in SOMA. While he stayed in most nights, his roommate went out and brought the parties back to the loft. This is when, as the drunken masses entered his shared space, a stoned De La Vega would spin his own music.
This lead to friends asking him to DJ their events, and eventually, his first foray into throwing parties: Suicide Club, at the Cat Club in 2003. It had dark vibes, beat-driven music, and a kiddie pool full of fake blood. The point was to pull in aspects of everything De La Vega loved.
"So for me, at the time, and I guess still, it was performance: performance art, music, the hardcore shows, experimental music shows. And the thing I loved but didn't know what was happening with it, was dance music. I fucking adore dance music."
The night did well, but De La Vega pulled the plug after eighth months, because of a turn of context. Suddenly, half the club would be filled with "jocks standing around just to watch chicks get naked and roll around in blood."
While De La Vega stresses that he has no specific messages with his parties, he does believe in context, and he was no longer comfortable with the context in which these parties were playing out. He went back to DJing bars, mixing post-punk and gangster rap, and spending a lot of time freaking people out in pot clubs with five-hour long sets.