For the past 19 years, fans and connoisseurs of dub, reggae and dancehall music have congregated on the intimate dancefloors of the historic Elbo Room each Sunday night for a party called Dub Mission. Founded by DJ Sep, the party has not only featured MCs and celebrated international dub artists like Adrian Sherwood and Pitch Black, but has managed to stay relevant and true to its roots in the unpredictable local nightlife scene. We got a chance to ask DJ Sep and longtime residents Maneesh the Twister and Vinnie Esparza some questions about their motto, thoughts on the upcoming closure of Elbo Room, and their favorite moments. They celebrate their 1000th party this Sunday night [10/25] with a live dub remix from Subatomic Sound System and Dub Mission Sound System with MC Luv Fyah and sets from all the residents at Elbo Room.
Congrats on 1000 shows! How does that feel?
Vinnie (V): It feels great! It's hard to believe we've been doing it for so long.
Sep(S): It's a real rare milestone for any club night so we’re very proud of it
What has been the Dub Mission motto all these years?
S: Officially our motto has been “the best of the Dub, Roots Reggae and Dancehall.” But we really stretch the parameters of all of them. We go deep and play versions and remixes people don’t usually hear elsewhere.
How have you guys managed to stay afloat and relevant in the nightlife scene?
V: I think at this point Dub Mission is like comfort food. People know what to expect and they know it'll be good.
Maneesh (M): We've kept a foundation of dub and roots music while mixing in modern roots, U.K. steppers and dubby bass music which all have a common thread as the music evolves. And something unique about Dub Mission is that you will a unique style of reggae and dubwize music you won't hear at other parties.
How do you feel about the upcoming closure of Elbo Room? Do you think that reflects the changes happening around the City?
V: The Elbo Room situation saddens me to no end. The change in San Francisco is not subtle and frankly it's heartbreaking. I still love this city but I think it has lost its soul a bit. Hopefully, it will find its way again.
M: We understand that things are always in flux but this round of changes Bay Area-wide is different and feels less cyclical and more permanent. I don't know how the displaced artistic community will fare in this new environment in the short term.
S: Elbo Room has been home to us from the very beginning which is also rare for a club night. It's definitely a loss for the City in general and the artistic community in particular.
You guys also were the only reggae/dub crew to compete in last year's Red Bull Culture Clash. How was that experience?
M: It was an honor to be chosen and quite a learning experience overall. I think conceptually a bit got lost in translation from original Jamaican sound clashes and U.K. sound clashes to stateside clashes and ultimately here it became more of a popularity contest. But as underdogs I feel proud of the quality of our performance!
What's the best part of being in the Dub Mission crew for each of you?
V: Well, it's not so much a crew as much as it is a family. It feels great to be amongst such talented, knowledgeable individuals.
M: The diverse music styles each member brings to crew. On any given week you'll hear new tunes and a slightly different style than the week before depending on who's performing.
S: I was lucky to find Vinnie and Maneesh. Their 19-year dedication to Dub Mission speaks for itself. Music is also about continuous discovery for me and I’ve learned a lot from them over the years.
What has been your favorite or most memorable moment thus far?
V: My personal favorite moment is when someone enjoyed my DJ set so much; they gave me the shirt off their back.
M: Wow hard to say, but some highlights def include Mad Professor and Joe Ariwa as well Mungos Hi-Fi with Solo Banton.
S: I've had people mention that one of our shows was a defining music moment for them, or that they met their spouses at one of our nights, or gave birth while listening to a Dub Mission mix! When I think about it that way, it’s a privilege to have had the chance to create those moments for people. I get a serious kick out of it.
For those that have never gone to Dub Mission, describe a typical night.
S: There is no typical night at Dub Mission except in the sense that people you see on our stage are dedicated and passionate about their music and the results show that. I think the quality of our night has only improved over the years.
What’s in store for the 1000th show this coming Sunday?
S: It’ll be a collection of everything we’re about, on one night. You’ll hear sets from all three of us, and a Dub Mission Sound System set with talented local MC Luv Fyah chanting on the mic. And a live remix set from Emch of Subatomic Sound System, who’s a long-time guest and a member of our extended musical family. We’re all looking forward to it.