There's a feeling of nervous anticipation in the air, and you can feel it floating through the city as people ready their caravans for Burning Man. With so much burner preparation going on, it might be easy to overlook the Bay Area's party scene -- but it continues to soldier on, despite the coming exodus toward the high desert. Should you wish to say goodbye in style (or if you've decided to stick around), we've got you covered with a spread of nightlife recommendations. So read on -- your weekend awaits.
10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23. $10-$15
Combine the all-black nihilism of goth with some of the cough-syrup swagger of hip-hop, and you've got 120 Minutes. No, not the classic MTV show, but the popular monthly party at the Elbo Room that's dedicated to combining these seemingly disparate genres into one cohesive scene. So far it's proven immensely successful, bringing together a weirdo crowd of club kids to make one of the more full-featured nightlife experiences in the Mission. This Friday marks the party's third anniversary and the beginning of its biggest year so far.
120 Minutes is the creation of longtime promoter Marco De La Vega, who also DJs the party as S4NtA_MU3rTE. "I just wanted something that regularly showcased this strange intersection of influences I was interested in, and did so in an engaging way," he says, "something that wasn't just a show, or a dance club, but was in itself an experience." So far De La Vega has delivered on that. The club night trades in a dark ambience that comes from more than just the music, with an atmosphere of dense fog, bizarre projections, and high-powered lasers provided by resident visual specialists Futureweapons. For De La Vega, the right mix is key. "We've always tried to balance the past, present, and future ... the contemporary and the experimental with face-melting darkness and bass."
Of course, it wouldn't be much without an immersive soundtrack. Step onto the dancefloor and you're as likely to hear Skinny Puppy as you are oOoOO or Wocka Flocka Flame. Same goes for the party's live bookings: 120 Minutes has put on shows featuring contemporary industrial noisemakers like Vatican Shadow as well as up-and-coming hip-hop MCs like Antwon.
For this Friday's anniversary show, it's flying up Frite Nite label boss Salva (aka Paul Salva) from Los Angeles for an evening of aggressive bass along the lines of his ultra-hyped trap remix of Kanye West's "Mercy." His set at 120 Minutes is a rare smaller gig, considering that Salva's now settling into the routine of the American festival circuit (check out his Boiler Room mix). But as De La Vega points out, "It's been a forever since he's had an intimate play -- something cramped, dark, and sweaty, instead of some festival-type shit." Add the whole thing up and you have the makings of another wild night at the Elbo Room. "[We're] basically doing our normal thing, but on some crazy," De La Vega says, "lights, fog, lasers, good drinks, and poor decisions."
10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22. $5
Jesse Rose stands for high-quality tech house. The London-born/L.A.-based producer marries slick, club-ready beats with clever samples and vocal riffs. Productions like "A-Sided," have made him a big room favorite, and his DJ chops are bold enough to match. Listen to his Essential Mix from 2009.
9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. $10-$20
The craft of DJing would be in a different place if it wasn't for Grandmaster Flash. In the 1970s, the turntablist pioneer developed beat-juggling and scratching, two tricks that helped make hip-hop what it is today. He's seldom in the Bay Area, so this appearance offers a rare chance to hear one of the original heavyweights. Check out his recent old school-style mix for BBC 6.
9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. $10
Maurice Fulton might not be a household name, but his work pretty much is. In the '90s, he began his career on the team behind Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman," one of the most iconic pop dance records of that era. Since then, he's grown weirder and become famous in the underground for his brilliant abstract house music and mind-expanding DJ sets. Hear him speak in this Red Bull Music Academy lecture and then get down to "Where's Jason's K."
9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. $15-$18
Disco is back, and Escort is partly responsible. Since the mid-'00s, New York's 17-piece "disco orchestra" has helped to reintroduce the sound via Studio 54-worthy club cuts like "Starlight" and "All Through the Night." As it happens, Escort is also an amazing live band, which you can get a sense of by watching this video. (Full disclosure: I'm one of the DJs.)