It might be getting pretty cold around here, but that shouldn't deter you from having a good time. Now, as always, San Francisco's full of things to do, with options that include comedic techno, flashy vogue dancing, and a whole night dedicated to drum & bass. Here are our top five picks. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
9:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22. $10-$20
You've heard of house. You've heard of techno. But have you heard of jakbeat? It's a distinct current in dance music that's been quietly developing over the past decade. In some ways, it's a familiar sound: abrasive analog drum machine patterns, glassy science-fiction soundscapes, and an omnipresent element of dirty tape hiss. To the untrained ear, it sounds like the kind of thing a dedicated collector might unearth from some forgotten Midwestern storage locker. Vintage aesthetics notwithstanding, it's a new sound with an ethos rooted in the moment. One of its most outspoken practitioners is Nicolas D'Marc Cantu, an Ann Arbor-based producer who describes his sound as "raw unadulterated emotions rather than flashy production techniques."
The sound first appeared in the early aughts due to the efforts of similarly minded Midwestern artists like Traxx and James T. Cotton. "We were drawn by this desire to push away from the minimal and clean sounds," Cantu recalls. "I hold [it] to a similar ethos to, say, the Dadaist movement of the early 20th century." And while the last decade has seen jakbeat explode in popularity, Cantu thinks some of its original ideas have been distorted. "It's not about poor post-production, dirty sounds, unconventional song structure, or simply applying a 'punk' approach to your music, but rather keeping a sense of the human factor in the music," he says. "Putting more value on moments and energy is my goal."
So though his music is electronic, you can feel his presence behind the fray. His structures are unconventional, sometimes seemingly played by hand without a sequencer, with a spontaneous energy that bleeds out of his whirling synthesizer arpeggiations and crunchy rhythms. Not one to be confined to a specific tempo or even sound palette, his works often stretch from one extreme to the next. On Alternate Frequency, one of his latest EPs on Dutch label Crème Organization, he builds from an ambient soundscape to a jittering 170 beats per minute.
Though his music is often non-linear, his interest in sci-fi marks his vision as more than just another retro-house revival. "I feel like many [people] like science fiction on a one-dimensional level, liking the most interchangeable parts of storytelling: the hero, the villain, the ones who need to be saved," he says. "I contend that the best part of sci-fi is the [aspect] of the unknown. I truly enjoy reading about astrophysics and [respect] futurists for their ability to mold whole new worlds, devoid of presumptions."
The honesty of his recorded sound carries over to his live appearances, which often blend aspects of long-form narrative DJing with gear-based performance. In practice, that means he's careful to note the concerns of a dancefloor, while also switching things up so that no two sets are alike. "It's important to entertain the Heads and the weekend partiers alike, and this is why I want to bridge live [and DJing] to give people a one-of-a-kind experience," he says. Listen to his Sonotown podcast and check him out when he headlines the Chicago-centric Acid Test party at Monarch.
10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22. $15-$30
Though it was once a mainstream phenomenon in the late-'90s, drum & bass has since gone underground. That said, you can still get your fix if you know where to look, such as at Mighty this Friday, when old-school U.K. veteran Aphrodite takes over for a night of chattering breakbeats and arrhythmia-inducing bass. Listen to his "Atmospheric Drum and Bass Vol. 2" mix.
10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22. $10-$15
Vogueing has come a long way since the days of Willi Ninja and Paris Is Burning. The music genre and competitive dance form, which combines aspects of breakdancing with drag performance, has since evolved from its disco and house roots to incorporate the stuttering rhythms of trap. This is reflected in the music of House of LaDosha, a collective from New York that's at the forefront of the sound, listen to "SHE.O.E.N.O feat.Rocko & Future."
9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22. $13-$15
The Richmond district isn't exactly a neighborhood known for its nightlife. However, this Friday, at least one club out there will be bumping thanks to a special, one-off showcase of weirdo L.A. dance label 100 % Silk. Of particular interest is the S.F. debut of Coyote Clean Up, a rising Detroit producer who trades in a head-nod-inducing strain of atmospheric deep house. Listen to his "CCU: Mount Babe Bricks."
9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24. $10-$20
Humor and techno are two things that rarely mix. And, granted, not all of Marc Houle's music has been funny, but some of his most enduring tracks (like "Borrowed Gear" and "Techno Vocals") poke fun at the all-bleak seriousness of minimal techno. Live, however, he's no joke, with a highly creative live-on-laptop set that glides through endless rhythms and trance-inducing melodies with a kind of grace that only a respected veteran could invoke.