There's a lot of good DJs in the world — DJs who know their tunes, select good tracks, and know how to read crowds well. But there are few truly great DJs in the world, DJs who go above and beyond — who commit totally to their sound and their vision, and know how to transmit this commitment, passion, and intensity to a dancefloor wherever they are. Chicago legend Traxx is certainly one of these great DJs, and witnessing him in action is an experience that should not be missed.
Traxx's roots run deep in Chicago, growing up assimilating the music of the city's legendary house and acid house producers. He began to come into his own around the early '00s, as he released his first productions (with a slew of collaborators) under the name The Dirty Criminals on International Deejay Gigolos, a record label run by the famed German DJ Hell with a gritty, raunchy acid techno-electro sound. He ramped up his productions toward the end of the decade, eventually launching his own label, Nation, and crystallizing what he called the “jakbeat” sound: A twist on acid house with a raw, industrial flavor, “jakbeat” is like classic Chicago acid house's surly, unruly, lawbreaking younger cousin.
When Traxx gets behind the decks, he has a knack for tying all these things together, mixing up classic Chicago house with '80s EBM (thereby drawing out the links between these two genres — they're more related than many imagine), post-punk, and fresh, new techno. But his range is broad, and you never quite know what you're going to get — synthpop, disco, electro, and more are all fair game. And if that's not enough, We Are Monsters' resident DJs are some of the city's finest: Solar, Mozghan, and Jason Greer, all of whom know their tunes inside and out.
Other worthy parties this week
VX presents Shifted live with Skander and Ossin and F8, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Thursday, June 4. $10-$15; feightsf.com
The shadowy British techno artist Shifted seemed to come out of nowhere, releasing a spate of records of dark, mesmerizing loop-based techno that managed to sound both refreshingly primitive and remarkably contemporary at once. Lately, Shifted has stepped out of the shadows, dropping the “anonymous producer” conceit that gripped the techno world a few years ago — it turns out Shifted is the latest project of Guy Brewer, half of renowned drum 'n' bass duo Commix. Thursday marks his live debut in San Francisco, and if his records are anything to go by, expect a hypnotic, trance-inducing performance — Shifted's strength lies in his mastery of the loop. A single Shifted track may last for seven or eight minutes and seem to barely change at all across its duration, but when the handclap hits — you feel it. Joining him are VX residents Justin Anastasi and Rachel Aiello alongside Skander and Ossin, two of the masterminds behind local techno record shop RS94109.
Sure Thing presents Svengalisghost, Fit Siegel, Ekman, and Doc Sleep at F8, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, June 5. $10-$15; feightsf.com
Can't stop, won't stop: each Sure Thing lineup seems to be more eclectic than the one before it. The latest features a spread of performers from around the globe, each occupying a unique place in the house-techno spectrum. The main event is Chicago synth wizard Svengalisghost, part of the extended L.I.E.S. Records family who creates uncompromising acid house, performed live; what separates him from the pack is his fondness for '80s industrial and EBM, with Wax Trax-inspired percussion and vocals. Joining him is Detroit DJ/producer Fit Siegel, who crafts beautifully simple melodic deep house — all killer, no filler. The wildcard on the lineup is Dutch producer Ekman, a new producer who has been making waves with his dirty, no-holds-barred take on acid techno and electro, raw and ragged. Last but not least is Doc Sleep, one of the city's finest techno DJs, with a crew of locals holding down the back room.
Public Works & IN·SIGHT present Matthew Dear and Daniel Bortz at Public Works, 9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Saturday, June 6. $20-$25; publicsf.com
Matthew Dear is a techno chameleon. A producer, a DJ, a bandleader, and even a pop singer (sort of), Dear has had his hands in the world of electronic music since 1999, when he released his first single on renowned label Ghostly International — which also happened to be the label's first release (Dear co-founded the label). He's produced heavy, mind-bending techno (as Audion), straightforward minimal tech-house (as False), and lighter, poppy-house material under his own name. In other words, Dear has range, and he's slated to get behind the decks for an extended six-hour set — the full breadth of an extended DJ set means Dear will have the chance to flex all of his musical muscles, laying out a full spread of moods, sounds, genres, and styles for dancefloor consumption. Upstairs, German stalwart Daniel Bortz will bring a melodic tech-house vibe in case a change of pace is needed.
Push The Feeling presents Suzanne Kraft and Secret Circuit at Underground SF, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, June 6. $5-$10; undergroundsf.com
There's a fascinating new sound coming up lately — it's nebulous, hazy, and difficult to pin down, but it's perhaps referred to most commonly (and somewhat reductively) as “post-disco.” It's an inelegant phrase — the sound in question borrows just as much from Krautrock, synthpop, Belgian new beat, and tropicalia as it does from disco, but it “feels” like disco, moving at a slower pace and possessing an undeniable groove. Suzanne Kraft and Secret Circuit, both based in L.A., have been exploring the edges of this difficult-to-categorize sound, blending all the aforementioned genres with easygoing house and techno, creating a warm, inviting sound that feels particularly of-the-moment. Both artists have collaborated under the name Blasé, and are affiliated with New York psychedelic-disco imprint ESP Institute; their history working together means they should play off each other very well, DJ-wise. Push The Feeling's resident DJs, Kevin Meenan and YR SKULL, will open up the proceedings and get the dancefloor going.