Local witch house label Tundra Dubs embraces the hexed sound of now. Plus: Paco Osuna, Braza! with DJ Nu-Mark, Eagle in Exile, and more parties
SUPER EGO "I'm on my way to play Dungeons and Dragons with a group I just joined," Ben Tundra, owner of the Bay Area's only official witch house label, Tundra Dubs (tundradubs.tumblr.com), told me over the phone. Could the beginning of our conversation be any more hotly nerd-perfect? Oh, wait.
"It's actually a 'faster' version of D&D called Pathfinder. Dungeons and Dragons is usually about who knows all the rules more, but this is easier to play. [The Pathfinder website claims 'players need only the single 576-page Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook to play.'] I usually play a ranger or rogue character — but I'm particularly drawn to dwarves. The Lord of the Rings is my obsession, and in my head I'm always Gimli. If I could be anyone in real life, it would be Gimli."
And that's when my geek pants exploded.
Sorry ladies, Ben's married; he and his wife moved to Oakland from Iowa last year to pursue their creative dreams. ("Believe it or not, Iowa isn't much of a musical hub," he obliterates my cornfield-rave fantasies.) The fast-growing, year-old Tundra Dubs was originally set to be a dubstep label — but the Bay's a bit flooded with those, and besides, this wicked new dubby-gory witch house sound was casting its spell.
Whatever side of the Great Witch House Debate of 2k10 you fell on — is it really a genre? Does it embody the over-nichefication of current music scenes? Who are all these hot goth kids with post-ironic '90s rap-rave gear and fancy computers? — one thing's for certain: witch house, a.k.a. drag, a.k.a. rape gaze, a.k.a. based goth sure ain't going away. (I've been into it. The typical witch house musical template is sometimes only OK, but the visually sardonic, "Why so serious" inversion of Internet culture by way of melted memes, splattered celebrities, crunked swagger, emotion-scrambling videos, and unGoogleable text trickery, accompanied by hectic chipmunking and slo-mo surroundsound fascinates me. Goths were once assumed to be lily-white Luddites and then, later, mindless mall rats — here is a Goth 3.0 culture that embraces technology and hip-hop, often questioning consumerism while slicing open the underbelly of the trashy Web wonderland. Admittedly, Tundra Dubs releases work a more traditionally wistful, melancholic vein,. But still: Hot Topic, RIP.)
"I feel that witch house is perhaps the first true Internet genre — there's such a sense of community that's come up from exchanging music and connecting online," Tundra told me. "I kept finding this great music though blogs and links and I was attracted to the overall aesthetic. It was almost nomadic. And there was so much variety, all under this dark umbrella. We've released things that sound like Berlin-style techno, old school industrial, more ambient textures..."
Despite all the attention it attracted online and in the music press, witch house has so far only been explicitly represented on the SF nightlife scene by excellent monthly party 120 Minutes at Elbo Room (happening this Friday at Elbo Room: www.facebook.com/120minutes ), a scattered handful of concerts, and a recently ended series of Tundra Dubs showcases at Truck. (Ben tells me there's another one in the works.) That's too bad, because recent Tundra Dubs releases by intriguing acts like Funerals, ∆AIMON, and Zombelle would sound really great really loud in a club.
But at least there's some local representation, and hometown spooky-tuners like oOOoO and Water Borders are gaining international recognition. (Shouts out here to my fave up-and-coming dark horse, powwow.) And, borderless as witch house may be aesthetic-wise, Tundra Dubs is filtering it through a distinctly Bay Area mindset.
"Regardless of outward appearances, this is such a positive scene — these kids are making this music out of a strange compulsion, familiar to everyone who makes art. They have to do it. And they're finding others like them online. So it's actually kind of a happy community, unselfconscious with surprisingly little attitude."
So, as the owner of a label that puts out music engendered by Internet shares, how does Tundra Dubs conjure up any income? "Well," Tundra laughs with resignation, "this is the thing everybody's trying to figure out. Live shows are always key; the challenge is how to make a live electronic show look like more than some guy checking his email on stage for an hour. I think we've kept it interesting. And we've gone the exclusive artifact route — releasing cassettes and limited edition singles. In the future, though, we're just sticking to digital and vinyl. People want digital for their headphones and vinyl at home.
"But we're a very young label dealing with a very young scene. So at least we didn't start with this huge business model that's suddenly eroding. We're in a position to try whatever works." Maybe a little witchcraft?
Xanopticon, Earn, Mirror to Mirror, and Ben Tundra Sat/5, 9 p.m.-4 a.m., $6. SUB/Mission, 2183 Mission, SF. www.sf-submission.com 
Thrilling global hip-hop DJ Nu-Mark will drop an exclusively Brazilian set at this lovely monthly Rio-licious theme party. Plus one of my favorites, DJ Soulsalaam, returns from Sao Paulo to join him. Should be a night of feather-poppin' tunes.
Fri/4, 10 p.m.-late, $5–<\d>$10. SOM, 2925 16th St., SF. www.som-bar.com 
One of the Spanish poster boys for the deep and groovy, totally non-icky kind of Ibiza techno, the M-nus and Mindshake label rep beats up Beatbox.
Fri/4, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. $10 advance. BeatBox, 314 11th St., SF. www.beatboxsf.com 
For the past few years, Scott Pasfield has been traveling the country, photographing gay men — many in places like Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Alaska — and letting them tell their stories for his Gay in America book. He'll be showing a photo slideshow at the Castro's Magnet health center, whose openings always draw a lavender who's who, followed by drinks and reception at Under One Roof (www.underoneroof.org ).
Sat/5, 7p.m., free. Magnet, 4122 18th St., SF. www.magnetsf.org 
SF's monthly tribute to the legendary 1980s, early '90s Hacienda club in Manchester — acid house, Factory records, Madchester baggy and all — celebrates its one-year anniversary with a performance from local electronic excitement C.L.A.W.S.
Sat/5, 9 p.m.-late, $3 (free before 11 p.m.). Deco Lounge, 510 Larkin, SF. www.decosf.com 
The classic gay leather biker bar won't let a puny eviction cut its foam. Its awesomely charitable rock 'n roll Sunday beer bust is now monthly on El Rio's patio, this time around with performers the Patsychords and Carletta Sue Kay (plus plenty of cigar smoke).
Sun/6 3 p.m.-8 p.m., free ($10 for beer bust). El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com