For the past 15 years, Katabatik has been one of the most vital players in the Bay Area electronic music underground. Katabatik — a play on the Greek-derived word katabatic, defined as a specific kind of wind produced when cool, dense air flows downwards along a mountain or glacier — is the collective name of a slew of musicians and DJs, based mostly in the East Bay, who throw mind-bending parties in strange locations, often involving full-scale visual transformations with tough-as-nails techno, electro, and acid house soundtracks. Every year, they throw a blowout to celebrate the Winter Solstice, and this year features a live performance from veteran electronic musician Not Breathing, whose latest material is an analog twist on the classic electro sound — not entirely dissimilar from Aphex Twin's Analord material.
Allow me to recount a brief personal anecdote: One of my first real party experiences in the Bay was a Katabatik event. I lived in Berkeley at the time, heard of the party through word-of-mouth, and drove to Oakland to check it out. The venue — formerly known as Mr. Floppy's Flophouse and rumored to be, at one point, a bordello frequented by Jack London — was truly unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was a maze of rooms upon rooms upon attics upon stairs to nowhere. The party itself bounced from dance party to pagan ritual (complete with robes, chanting, and masks) and back again, and although I knew no one there, I felt like I had found my people. After much dancing, I left feeling simultaneously bewildered and in awe.
All that to say: Katabatik's parties are not quite like anything else out there. The music on this Solstice night, the longest of the year, will be fierce, uncompromising, and absolutely raucous, just like the party's vibe in general. A final note: Katabatik's events take place at private venues, undisclosed until the day of the event, at which point the location will be available on their website (www.katabatik.org). Partygoers, please respect these spaces, and enter and exit quickly and quietly — avoid lingering outside. Now go forth and lose yourself on the dancefloor.
Other worthy parties this week
Bubble Bursting featuring Rob Monroy, Zoz, Andy Kershaw, and more at Underground SF, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 17. Free; undergroundsf.com.
For the past three-plus years, Bubble has been a free weekly party every Thursday evening at the cozy Lower Haight spot, Underground SF. They've played host to numerous local DJs and a few out-of-town guests. The vibe is inviting, fun, and friendly, with a soundtrack to match. All good things must come to an end, though, and Bubble has only a few weeks left, celebrating their last party on Dec. 31. Still, there's a couple of weeks left in the year, and this Thursday features Rob Monroy, a stalwart of the long-running Friends 'n' Family campout; Zoz, a resident at Sunday night weekly WERD. with a knack for deep techno; Andy Kershaw, boss of local record label 3AM Devices; and Bubble resident and host Dao. And if that wasn't enough, Bubble also hosts a free showcase of local comedians, The Hot Mess Comedy Show, beginning at 8 p.m. Laugh — then dance.
The Wish List featuring Tom Trago and Steve Huerta at Monarch, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18. $15-$20; monarchsf.com.
In the world of club promotion, there is little new under the sun. With that said, this party's gimmick is refreshing and fun — a wishlist of dreamy artists and DJs penned by “Bobby,” the techno-loving child that lives in all of our hearts. All that aside, the party's lineup is more than solid enough to stand alone. Tom Trago, the chameleon-esque DJ-producer from the Netherlands is joined by Steve Huerta, an L.A.-born, Berlin-based up and comer. I describe Trago as “chameleon-esque” simply because he seems to have no problem making bangers, no matter what the genre. His knack for cutting, chopping, and looping samples means his discography includes disco edits, deep house, weird techno, and even hip-hop production credits. Steve Huerta produces easy-going deep house grooves that sound familiar and fresh at the same time — no easy task. Locals Solar, Tyrel Williams, Bells & Whistles, and Jimmy B support.
Surface Tension presents Violet Poison and Phase Fatale at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. $15-$20; feightsf.com.
If your ideal holiday celebration looks more like The Nightmare Before Christmas than It's A Wonderful Life, this is the holiday party for you. Two artists are making their San Francisco debuts here. First is Violet Poison, an Italian electronic musician who developed a reputation for dark, spaced-out techno under his former project Obtane and his cult record label Zooloft. Violet Poison trades the interstellar textures of Obtane for much rougher industrial-influenced ones, but the previews of his latest, as-yet-unreleased material show off a softer, romantic side, sounding a bit like synthpop. His live set will likely fall somewhere in between. Phase Fatale, a veteran of the mid-aughts post-punk revival, crafts hard-hitting techno, combining the fists-in-the-air energy of vintage EBM (think Front 242, et al.) with the structured groove of traditional techno. Surface Tension DJs (disclosure: your humble party columnist is one of them) will open and close the night.
WERD. presents Outpost (Nackt, CM-4, Cherushii, and Woo) at Monarch, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. $5-$10; monarchsf.com.
Outpost — still a relatively new party, little more than a year old — has quickly established itself as one of the best parties in the Bay Area. Part of that comes from their choice of guest DJs — mostly local DJs with deep knowledge of highly specific subtypes of dance music, with the occasional international marquee name — but more so it's because the resident DJs, listed above, are some of the finest party people in the Bay Area. They're true music lovers, throwing parties because they love making good people dance, and this vibe comes across at every Outpost party I've been to. Each takes a slightly different tack: Nackt weaves together British bass music and contemporary deep house; CM-4 goes for cleaner, deeper techno; Cherushii picks from older selections and rave cuts; and Woo lets the way of dub be his guiding star. Hard to beat on a Sunday night.