Summer in San Francisco -- what's not to love? The weather's perfect, spirits are high, and the city's clubs are humming with activity. There's a lot going on, so to help you get better acquainted with the local nightlife, we've got you covered with this handy list. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
3 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at El Rio. $6-$8
"I'm particularly interested in retro sounds -- but ones that hit the way a modern record would hit. So, basically, Chicago house that doesn't sound like it was recorded 20 years ago," says veteran local DJ and producer Vin Sol. "I'm more interested in what works in a club than making a piece of art." Sol is explaining Soo Wavey, the new label he co-founded with fellow producer Charlie "Matrixxman" Duff. Together, they've been responsible for the emergence of a new corner of the San Francisco underground house scene -- one that pulls from the past while focusing on the dancefloors of the present. This Sunday both founders will be DJing together at El Rio for the bar's Sunday afternoon Daytime Realness party.
Soo Wavey, named for a slang term for being drunk or high, fits snugly in the current Bay Area dance music landscape. Its releases, like Soo Wavey Rhythm Tracks Vol. 1, Dawn Patrol, and the Dirty Laundry EP, have found an enthusiastic reception among local fans of vintage hardware-derived dance music. Duff, who answers his phone with a robotic, "Matrixxman at your service," attributes much of the label's aesthetic to gear: vintage synths and drum machines. "They're essential for the music that we make. It just wouldn't be possible without them," he says. "There's such a distinct character that's lost otherwise in software plug-ins and computers." This view puts Sol and Duff on a similar footing as a few other artists who've appeared on the local club scene. "S.F. is a cool place to make music because there are no distractions," Sol says. "The people making underground house music are all on the same page. We're all into the same stuff. It's cohesive, like I can play Bobby Browser's music next to my tracks and it works."
Talking with Sol and Duff, one gets the feeling that San Francisco's heterogeneous nightlife and tolerant attitudes affect the label's music as well, particularly in the opportunities for straight DJs to play gay parties and vice-versa (such as Sol and Duff at Daytime Realness this Sunday). "The only party I go to regularly is Honey [Soundsystem]. I mean, we all want to make the ultimate Honey banger, right?" Sol says. "Think about that, though: if I was in New York or L.A., I wouldn't get a chance to play a party like that. Here you get to play gay parties, and that's super cool. I mean, you go back and the Paradise Garage and the Loft were all gay parties." For Sol, getting back to the roots of dance music is a kind of antidote for what's become desirable in mainstream club culture. "I DJ all the hip-hop clubs. Any songs about rapid acquisition of funds and those rich fuckers lose their shit," he says, disapprovingly. "It's so weird." So don't be surprised when Sol teams up with Matrixxman to rep Soo Wavey with sets of "sleazy disco, freaky Italo, sexy sexy deep house, and jacked-out vibes." For a better idea of what that means, check out this recent Matrixxman mix recorded for Thump.
10 p.m. Friday, July 19. $5-$10
The Bay Area's streak of good techno offerings continues this Friday as Monarch hosts a live showcase featuring three local favorites. Producer Safety Scissors (aka Matthew Patterson Curry) leads the charge, with a glimpse of the complex, pop-inflected works promised on In a Manner of Sleeping, his latest LP. Support comes by way of retroists Kit n' C.L.A.W.S. and Honey Soundsystem resident Jason Kendig. Listen to Curry's "Electronic Communicational Sampling" mix.
9 p.m. Friday, July 19. $10-$20
Chicago house would be in a different place if it weren't for the wild music of Cajmere (aka Green Velvet, real name: Curtis Jones). Beginning in the early '90s, his discography consistently pushed barriers while keeping dancefloors intensely happy with now-classic cuts like "Percolator," "You Got Me Up," and "Brighter Days." He also happens to be one of the Windy City's finest selectors, so expect high-energy house madness. Check out this review we wrote of his set at an underground last year and this recent Boiler Room mix.
10 p.m. Friday, July 19. $10-$20
Deeply funky polyrhythms and politically incisive lyrics were just some of the musical weapons used by iconic Nigerian Afrobeat bandleader Fela Kuti (listen to "Expensive Shit"). Though he is sadly departed, his work still influences artists working within his genre as well outside of it (Talking Heads anyone?). This Saturday, his memory will be honored with performances by Najite & The Olokun Prophecy, Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Lagos Roots, and local outfit Afrolicious.
9 p.m. Saturday, July 20. $5
The Lower Haight is reclaiming its past role as a hub for the local underground dance music community. One sign of the change is the continuing success of Deep Crates, a house-focused monthly party with guests pulled from the local scene. This month veteran S.F. heads DJ Bones and Jenö take over for a night of seriously obscure wax.