San Francisco's not what it used to be, or so they say. Another day, another op-ed: “The City's Changed.” “The Artists Are Gone!” “There's Nothing Weird Left In San Francisco.” Speaking as a Bay Area native, it's true: the city is changing, and fast. But let's not get ahead of ourselves — where else but San Francisco could you find a 24-hour party featuring internationally regarded experimental electronic musicians, song-and-dance numbers by a slew of drag queens, psychic readings, morning playtime with puppies and donuts, and an aerobics session combined with critical theory discourse?
You'll find all this and more at The Lab's second annual 24-Hour Telethon, a fundraiser-slash-performance-gauntlet beginning Saturday at midnight. The Telethon launched last year as an initiative to reinvigorate The Lab, a union hall-turned-performance space at the corner of 16th and Capp in the Mission. The event proved a success and, thanks to many generous supporters, The Lab was born anew, maintaining its position as one of the few spaces left in the city to see true experimental performance of all kinds — music, dance, visual art, theater, and more.
This year's Telethon features all of the sufficiently weird aforementioned activities and then some. Proceedings kick off with a live performance and DJ set from Mark Fell, a British musician who used to adventure into the outer limits of glitchy electronica as half of duo Snd. He now explores tonality and house music in conjunction — which is to say, he crafts music for the head and the body in equal measure. There's comedy hosted by George Chen; a 3-5 a.m. dance party; experimental cinema from Black Hole afterward; doggies and donuts (yes!) at 9 a.m.; a dance battle at 3 p.m.; psychic readings at 7 p.m.; and closing the whole affair are performances by queens Heklina, Raya Light, Trixxie Carr, and musician/film director HP Mendoza, hosted by the one and only Peaches Christ. Audience members will also have access to an open bar and coffee station throughout the evening, with tasty treats provided by local eateries.
In short, there's something for everyone — and you're supporting a one-of-a-kind San Francisco venue. Truly, the city is weird as ever. Let's make sure it stays that way.
Other worthy parties this week
FACE and Public Works present DJ Harvey, Jacques Renault and Eug at Public Works, 9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16. $17-$20; publicsf.com
One of the most memorable moments in dance music this year occurred a little bit more than a month ago, at L.A.'s FYF Fest, while DJ Harvey was spinning at an outdoor stage during the daytime. Someone was recording a video and panned over to Harvey as he was banging out a heavy techno tune. Suddenly, a fan stage dived onto the DJ booth — and Harvey, the consummate gentleman, pushed him away without a care like it's second nature. It went viral immediately, in part because it's hilarious to watch, and in part because Harvey handled it like such a boss. He's a true professional — he's been doing this kind of thing nearly his entire life because he loves music. He's returning to Public Works for one of his quarterly-or-so appearances, this time with Let's Play House boss Jacques Renault and FACE's Eug going back-to-back to warm up.
Outpost presents Russell Butler, Nackt and CM-4 and more at Underground SF, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16. Free before 11 p.m., $5 after; undergroundsf.com
October's Outpost features Russell Butler, a Bermuda-born Oaklander who has been quietly producing some of the Bay Area's finest outsider techno. Like many other current left-field techno producers in the U.S., Butler relies heavily on a modular synthesizer. In his hands, the hardware turns into an otherworldly squawk box, evoking acid-flavored melodies that sound like they descended upon our world through a portal to another universe. Make no mistake, though, Butler's productions are designed for the dancefloor, and they will make you move in ways you never thought possible. Supporting him are Outpost residents Nackt and CM-4, who have spent the last six months producing a slew of brilliant tracks, all on hardware, that sound like spaced-out analog jams from the early '90s, updated for the modern dancefloor. This marks the debut of their live PA performance with local DJs Teeyam and Michael Claus going back-to-back to support.
The Gathering presents Basics featuring Kim Ann Foxman at Venue 550, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16. $20; venue550.com
Historically speaking, the Bay Area was particularly fertile ground for American rave culture, developing in conjunction with the Midwestern and New York City scenes. Some of the folks who kicked things off in the early '90s are still around — Sunset Sound System still throws some of the best parties in the Bay, and The Gathering, old-school ravers who first came together in 1991, have begun to throw parties anew with the stated mission of bringing together the old-school with the new-school in dancefloor harmony. The DJ lineup reads accordingly: Tony (The Gathering) and Galen (Sunset) represent yesteryear, while Mozhgan (We Are Monsters) and the Lisbona Sisters (Stretch) bring current flavor. If that's not enough, they've got Kim Ann Foxman, the joyous and very fun NYC house aficionado, on special guest DJ duty. If you don't know your Bay Area rave history, here's a great way to learn a lesson.
Intelligent Dance Party 002 featuring Romulo Del Castillo (Phoenecia) at Underground SF, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. $5; undergroundsf.com
“Intelligent dance music” is a particularly caustic turn of phrase used to describe a particularly lovely subgenre of dance music. (For some history on this controversial term, read my Autechre feature in this issue.) Naming squabbles aside, IDM is an umbrella term for certain electronic music produced between the rough timeframe of 1992 and 2002, characterized by warm, heartfelt melodies, rapid-fire beats, and a willful disregard for the conventions of “typical” dance music; think names like: Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Bola, Monolake, and newer names like Apparat or Clark. Intelligent Dance Party is, as you may have sussed, a dance party dedicated to this sort of music, with emphasis on the “dance” — no chin-scratching here. Miami's Romulo Del Castillo, aka half of duo Phoenecia and boss of American IDM label Schematic, is the special guest, bringing an all-vinyl set, alongside a live set from Toronto's bioMecanico.
[Ed. note: A previous versionn of this article incorrectly states the Telethon runtime: it actually begins Friday, 10/16 at midnight and runs through until Saturday, 10/17 at midnight. We apologize for the error.]