Lights Down Low presents Total Freedom at Monarch, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Sep. 4. $15-$20; monarchsf.com
It's not often that a DJ's name tells you much about their M.O., but Total Freedom, the alias of Miami-based DJ Ashland Mines, telegraphs exactly what you're gonna get: the kitchen sink and then some.
[jump] It's difficult to put Total Freedom's sound into words, because no one has yet coined a genre name that does it justice. It's a new sound, less than a decade old, that blossomed in the U.S. and the U.K. simultaneously. It crystallized with the GHE20GOTH1K party in New York and the Night Slugs record label in London (whose founder, Bok Bok, also happens to be DJing in San Francisco this weekend — see below), but its touchstones go well beyond that. It's U.K. grime and American rap. It's '90s R&B. It's Baltimore club. It's New York house. It's soca, cumbia, and kuduro. It's jungle and drum n bass. It's British dubstep. It's Hood By Air. It's DIS Magazine. It's industrial and goth, in its own way. Total Freedom is all of these things and more.
Perhaps what's most remarkable about Total Freedom is the darkness inherent in his DJ sets. A good deal of the music he plays is aggressive, uncompromising drum tracks with beat-you-in-the-face percussion that doesn't let up. He softens the blow with edits and remixes of pop and R&B songs, throwing in a vocal from Beyoncé or perhaps Brandy, or a sample from a song you last heard on MTV in 1997 that sounds entirely different when juxtaposed against the heavy, relentless tunes that make up the meat of his DJ sets.
In short, Total Freedom is the sound of the future. If you haven't already clued in, there's no time like the present.
Other worthy parties this week
F8 presents Carlos Souffront, Secret Studio, and Michael Claus at F8, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, Sep. 4. Free with RSVP, $5 at door; feightsf.com
You know how fantastic San Francisco's local DJs are, don't you? You're forgiven if you don't. With the caliber of international talent that descends upon our city every week of the year, it's easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of marquee names and miss out on our homegrown talent. This all-local lineup is headed up by Carlos Souffront, a native of Detroit, who has been DJing for over 20 years, weaving together acid techno with post-punk, industrial, Chicago house, and much more. (Lately he's become something of a European sensation, taking center stage at Dutch techno festival Dekmantel and performing at Berlin's Berghain/Panorama Bar). Also on deck is Secret Studio, aka Tyrel Williams and Bryan Bai-ee, two Chicagoans with enormous vinyl collections and knowledge of dance music history going back to the beginning. Up-and-comer Michael Claus will handle warm up duty.
Local Area Network 001 featuring Bok Bok and Girl Unit, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, Sep. 5. $20-$25; mighty119.com
A few local upstart bass music promoters (Bread, Sure Thing, and Parameter) have put their heads together to throw a big shindig (“Local area network” aka “LAN party” — get it?) featuring Night Slugs veterans Bok Bok and Girl Unit. Night Slugs is a London-based record label, co-founded by Bok Bok and fellow bass fiend L-Vis 1990, launched five years ago at the height of the U.K.'s dubstep craze. Soon after, it forged its own identity, working with producers who borrowed liberally from bass-centric music scenes around the world and wrapping it all up in a glossy, futuristic, sci-fi sheen. Girl Unit released one of the label's iconic tunes (“Wut”) early on but has laid dormant since; meanwhile, Bok Bok has maintained an active profile, steadily releasing tunes that blur the lines between house, techno, grime, and dubstep.
It's hard to overstate the importance of disco legend Sylvester. Born in Los Angeles but making his home in San Francisco, Sylvester (known for “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Do Ya Wanna Funk”) was disco personified, known for his outsized personality; his unabashed, proud queerness; and his collaborations with another San Franciscan whose impact is impossible to overstate, Patrick Cowley. For four years running, disco-centric party Go BANG! has celebrated Sylvester's birthday (September 6, for the record) by throwing a Sylvester extravaganza, featuring all of Sylvester's greatest hits and then some — Sylvester-related and -derived tunes are added into the mix, too. Guest DJ Paul Goodyear (aka SanFranDisko, which tells you where he's coming from) is a veteran selector with deep knowledge of disco and hi-NRG, and will man the decks during prime time, while residents Sergio Fedasz, Steve Fabus, and Prince Wolf will take care of opening and closing duties.
Honey Soundsystem Labor Day Sunday featuring Matrixxman & Vin Sol at BeatBox, 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Sunday, Sep. 6. $15-$20; beatboxsf.com
For five years — starting in 2008, ending in 2013 — Honey Soundsystem threw a party every Sunday night, featuring all four residents (Jackie House, Josh Cheon, Jason Kendig, and Bézier / Robot Hustle) and a weekly special guest, sometimes local but more often than not an international, top-tier touring artist or DJ. Those parties became the stuff of legend among San Francisco's queer community (and the musically aware straight folks who wanted in on the excitement). The weekly parties are done, but Honey's quarterly-or-so Sunday night parties, on long holiday weekends, hark back to the hedonistic weekends of the past. This time around, none of the Honey residents will be on deck (they're touring Europe, as they've officially made it) but, local techno wizards Matrixxman and Vin Sol will be in control. The pair are fantastic producers, good friends, and great DJs — which means killer tunes (and back-to-back DJ chemistry!) all night.