Party years are like dog years. It takes a lot of hard work — and burning the candle at both ends — to run a party right, and only the best and most dedicated make it past a year or two. At this point, Lights Down Low is a Bay Area institution — and is working on conquering L.A. after launching a SoCal offshoot about two years ago. In party years, nine years is an epoch.
To put together the lineup for this bash, Lights Down Low organizers have picked through their favorites and assembled a host of artists who represent different facets of the party sound and atmosphere. First and foremost is Kevin Saunderson, known as one of the “Belleville Three” (alongside Juan Atkins and Derrick May), the originators of the Detroit techno sound. Saunderson has produced and remixed countless tracks at this point, but some of his earliest are still his best — as Inner City, for example, he produced two of the best-known techno tracks of all time, “Good Life” and “Big Fun,” both of which are essentially LDL anthems.
Next up are a pair of two-step/U.K. garage legends, Todd Edwards (who happens to be American) and M.J. Cole, who have spent their entire careers refining the garage sound: R&B-inflected, up-tempo, and broken-beat, both are superb producers and DJs. Cyril Hahn, next on the bill, owes a great debt to both Edwards and Cole and produces irresistible R&B remixes and edits that are impossible not to love.
Rounding out the bill is Jonas Rathsman, an up-and-coming French house producer. He's joined by Lights Down Low residents Corey Sizemore and Richie Panic and longtime partner in crime DJ Dials. Take a nap, pop a bottle of Champagne, and get dressed up — it's time to celebrate.
Other worthy parties this week
SET presents James Zabiela and more at Mighty, 10 p.m.-5 a.m. Friday, Feb. 27. $15-$25; mighty119.com
James Zabiela first made a name for himself as kind of protégé of British progressive house DJ Sasha (who also happens to be DJing in San Francisco this weekend — see below), developing a trademark sound that paired house music with breaks. Lately, though, Zabiela has stood out among his tech-house mega-DJ peers by dipping his toes in the house and techno underground; Zabiela has a knack for pairing easily-accessible crowd-pleasers — think big, melodic vocal techno and house tracks — with out-there experimental cuts, and it's a testament to his skill as a DJ that he does so without missing a beat. In this way, Zabiela manages to bridge two worlds, appealing to the dressed-up clubgoer who dreams of partying in Ibiza just as much as the black-clad techno geek who fantasizes about a weekend bender in Berlin. Opening up for him are local selectors Matt Hubert and Beau Kelly, while Mighty's side room will be occupied by John Kaberna, Fabian Campos, Franccesco Cardenas, and Agency55.
RS94109 presents Silent Servant, Alberich, Marshstepper, and more at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, Feb. 27. $15; feightsf.com
For a night decidedly not mainstream, RS94109, the city's newest vinyl record shop specializing in vintage techno and house, industrial, experimental, and dub, is hosting a noisy showcase headlined by Silent Servant, New York noisemaker Alberich, and a host of artists from the hotly-tipped collective Ascetic House. Silent Servant is best known as one of the world's premier techno DJs, but he's also an accomplished producer — Friday night marks the debut of his live techno set in San Francisco. Joining him is Alberich, whose performances fully blur the line between techno and noise — he makes highly percussive music that pairs the aggression of noise music with the rhythmic, body-moving elements of techno. Next up is Marshstepper, a two-person outfit with a similarly genre-bending approach to music (and noise); Renoir, the industrial-power electronics moniker of RS94109's Skander and former local Vereker; and the back room is manned by an array of local DJs, including Justin Anastasi of Surface Tension, Dima of Tekno Kitchen, and Josh Woods and Kevin Monteiro from RS94109.
Fortunes and Vinyl Dreams present Emotional Especial, Inhalt, and more at Underground SF, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28. $5 before 11 p.m., $10 after; undergroundsf.com
Vinyl Dreams, another of San Francisco's newest (and finest) record stores, is hosting some of their friends from across the pond: Jamie Paton and Chuggy, two characters from the Emotional Especial crew. Emotional Especial (and their parent label, Emotional Response) have been quietly honing a very particular sound over the past several years, releasing a steady stream of records from artists who work at the intersection of acid techno, dub, new beat, disco, and electro. It's a very distinctive, particularly British sound, one that sounds something like a modern take on the classic Andrew Weatherall sound. The pair is joined by the local synth-pop wizards of Inhalt, who recently released their latest remix 12-inch on Emotional Especial; they'll be contributing a DJ set of their influences and favorites. Finally, local funk-disco collective 40 Thieves will get behind the decks as well, celebrating the upcoming release of their new 12-inch, “Lower Haighter.”
Deep Blue & Public Works present Sasha and more at Public Works, 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28. $30-$40; publicsf.com
If one were to compile a short list of the World's Hardest Working DJs (measured in number of gigs over time and total geographical spread between those gigs), British legend Sasha would probably rank in the Top 5. Sasha's career began in the late '80s, playing acid house as a resident DJ at Manchester's legendary Haçienda nightclub. Later in the '90s, Sasha became the first global DJ superstar (alongside frequent partner John Digweed) by playing a never-ending stream of gigs around the world and pioneering the “progressive house” sound — melodic, big, bold, and lacking in subtlety. These days, Sasha's selections tend towards funky tech-house and melodic techno, a modern take on his classic big-room sound. Opening up for Sasha are local DJs Rooz and Bo, and upstairs in Public Works' Loft the Burning Man camp Pink Mammoth takes over with four of its crew.