Cerebral Flair: The Boundary-Pushing Steffi Gets Intelligent on the Dancefloor

There are an awful lot of good DJs, but there are very few truly great ones. A good DJ gets a dancefloor going and keeps it that way; a great one engages both the physical and mental faculties of the crowd, making them sweat while simultaneously broadening their conceptions of what dance music can be. Steffi is one of the world's truly great DJs, pushing the boundaries of techno and house music by knocking down walls between genres, styles, and sounds.

Born in the Netherlands and now based in Berlin, Steffi has been throwing parties and putting out records (she's at the helm of two labels: electro-based Klakson, and Dolly, which focuses on deep house and techno) for more than a decade. Her big break came in 2007, when she moved to Berlin and began a DJ residency at Panorama Bar, the upstairs house music-centric big sister to the techno mega-club Berghain. While the warm, uplifting vibe of Panorama Bar made a big impact on her DJ sets, Steffi goes well beyond house music. Her sets reach far and wide, incorporating stark, sleek minimal techno as well as bouncy, raucous electro. She also has deep knowledge of the mid-'90s phenomenon known as “intelligent dance music,” or IDM — think Aphex Twin, Autechre, and the like — and mixes those tunes into her sets flawlessly, adding a cerebral flair to her DJ sets.

Opening up the night is Doc Sleep, one of San Francisco's best local DJs, whose penchant for deep, spacious techno will be the perfect appetizer for Steffi. And because it's a Honey Soundsystem party, expect the finest visual treatments of any party in San Francisco; lately, the Honey crew has been working with a team of talented visual artists and designers to bring its parties to another level. Honey's residents (Josh Cheon, Robot Hustle, Jason Kendig, and Jackie House) will be on hand to keep the party going all night long.

Other worthy parties this week

Beats In Space Record Release Party with Tim Sweeney, Palmbomen, and more at Mezzanine, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, March 6. $15-$20; mezzaninesf.com

Last year, Tim Sweeney celebrated the 15th anniversary of his weekly radio show, Beats In Space, on NYU's radio station WYNU-FM. The show has long since outgrown its college-radio roots, becoming an outpost for DJs across the globe to showcase their sound when visiting New York. Besides the show, Sweeney curates the Beats In Space record label, which plays host to a variety of artists across the psychedelic-cosmic-disco-house spectrum, like Palmbomen, a Dutchman with a slow, languid, spaced-out sound. He'll be playing live, in support of his upcoming album Palmbomen II. Later, Tim Sweeney will DJ, mixing accessible, easy grooves with heavyweight house and disco, meaning the casual crowd will have just as much fun as the dance music aficionados. Joining him is Eug, known for his FACE parties and soaring cosmic disco DJ sets, some of the finest in San Francisco, and Ryan Poulsen, a long-active local affiliated with the indie-dance-disco affair Gun Club.

Lights Down Low presents Tiga at Monarch, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday, March 7. $25; monarchsf.com

In 2001, Canadian producer Tiga and his partner Zyntherius (aka Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen) released their first single, a rework of Corey Hart's cheesy-but-irresistible '80s hit “Sunglasses At Night.” They kept the catchy melodies of the original and paired them with a retro-inspired electro beat, creating an instant hit that spawned a genre unto itself. “Sunglasses At Night” essentially invented the blueprint for “electroclash,” in which producers mixed the robotic machine-funk of classic electro with the catchier, brighter sounds of pop and new wave. Fourteen years later, Tiga is still at it, running his own label (Turbo) and producing tunes that have much heavier, techno-inspired rhythms, with tongue still planted firmly in cheek; Tiga is a techno trickster, fun-loving and impossible to pin down. He's playing an extended set for Lights Down Low (meaning you can expect the full gamut of his sound), and party residents Corey Sizemore and Richie Panic will both be on hand to kick off the proceedings.

On&On and Public Works present Rob Garza and PillowTalk at Public Works, 9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Friday, March 6. $17-$25; publicsf.com

Rob Garza and PillowTalk seem like an odd pairing, but they actually have quite a bit of crossover appeal. Rob Garza is better known as half of Thievery Corporation, the D.C.-based duo that was one of the premier acts in American electronic music during the 1990s. They pioneered a sound, succinctly called “downtempo,” that was dubby, loungey, and laid-back, with a great deal of influences and samples from Brazilian and Indian music. These days, Garza produces smooth house and nu-disco, a shift in style from the days of Thievery Corporation, but not a shift in mood. Co-headlining is PillowTalk, a San Francisco trio affiliated with New York's Wolf + Lamb crew, which produces soulful, pop-leaning vocal house tunes with a touch of disco flavor. The group is performing live in the main room before Garza's DJ set, while upstairs, the Loft is taken over by SF-based label Dem Suckaz Recordings, whose members produce bouncy, bassy house music, the perfect antidote if things get a little too soft downstairs.

Bubble presents Ghosts on Tape, DJ CZ, and Buckner at Underground SF, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, March 5. Free all night; undergroundsf.com

(Disclaimer: Your humble party columnist is a featured guest at this event.) Bubble is Underground SF's weekly Thursday night party, always free, that hosts a rotating selection of the Bay Area's finest DJs, with the occasional out of town guest. This week it's playing host to local producer and selector Ghosts on Tape, and myself, DJ CZ. Ghosts on Tape has been a San Francisco fixture for quite some time, DJing parties and producing his own tunes since 2008 or so. He was part of the now-defunct local party and record label Icee Hot, instrumental in bringing forward-thinking dance music to San Francisco. As a DJ, he mixes deep, dubby house with melodic, angular techno, finding the psychedelic head-space in between them and sharing it with the dancefloor. I'll be going back-to-back with him all night, bringing out some house and disco selections to keep the vibe uplifting and inviting. Opening up is Bubble resident and honcho Buckner, who will get the party started.

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