Mary Anne Hobbs
September 25, 2010
@ Public Works
messing around with Reason
A thousand years in the future, when live instruments are a thing of the past
and music is strictly made by robots
with nothing but wires and laptops, I wouldn't be surprised if Public Works
is remembered as a major forum for up-and-coming DJs and artists; a sort of West Coast CBGB
for the electronic world. The new Mission district venue opened this past weekend with stamps of approval from both world famous grafitti enigma Banksy
and recently moved-on BBC Radio 1 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs
, one of the most important supporters and spinners of electronica music. Two floors of spaz-worthy dubstep and glitch, an art show room, and one of the most incredible sound systems in the city succeeded in working the public into a dance-crazed digital frenzy. Here are some of the highlights.
Asura: Before Ryan York took the stage, people were mostly getting their drinks and still trying to get into the venue. The Los Angeles DJ was the first to get heads bobbing and arms swaying, by dueling indecipherable moans, groans, tweets, and clicks over stirring drum-and-bass stutters.
Mary Anne Hobbs:
|Mary Anne Hobbs|
The biggest hit of the show didn't even play any original music. Having just recently quit her BBC Radio program to become a music education professor, Mary Anne Hobbs proved to doubters that she still has her ear for incredible electronic music by jump-starting the dance floor to into full force from the moment she took the stage. Admittedly, she had the advantage over the other artists that night, because most of the people in the audience were already huge fans of hers. Standing in line before doors opened, you could hear terms like "the John Peel of electronica" and "most important figure in modern music" getting thrown around left and right. Once she took the stage, the crowd's demeanor transformed from stone-faced, stiff-legged apathy to adoring hysteria. I wouldn't be surprised to find a fair number of tattoos of her face in that crowd (which is the worst idea ever, by the way
If Mount Kimbie suffered from anything, it was simply having to follow Mary Anne Hobbs. She focused on more mainstream, in-your-face electronic forms. Even though Hobbs was trying to ease the crowd into Mount Kimbie's more restrained, abstract style of "post dubstep" by spinning a My Bloody Valentine cover of Primal Scream
before it took the stage, many audience members turned their backs when the energy level wasn't kept as high as she had set it. Those that weren't so determined to stay in a raging dance craze, however, were treated to something fairly unique in the world of dubstep. Making its San Francisco debut, the pensive UK Duo concentrated on maintaining a constant flurry of buttons, table lights, guitar loops and cymbal crashes, adding an element of live instrumentation that has been lacking lately in the electronic world. I give it less than a year before we see a Roots-style full band recording Rusko/Caspa covers.
Before 2:15 AM, the upper floor room was a retreat from the sweat and humidity of the rest of the club. Once the doors were opened for Nasty Nasty, however, the small cell became a cesspool of smells and heat within half a minute. This appropriately named Oakland DJ attracted only the meanest, dirtiest, biggest, most hairy audience members with his violent manipulations of massive laser beam synths. The transfixed crowd jerked and twitched like the infected from 28 Days Later
to music its maker describes as "Lady Gaga getting DP'd by John Holmes and Aphex Twin."
Best near-death experience of the night: Public Works is the worst place in the world to be when there's a fire. The windowless dungeon specializes in the kind of music that contains all sorts of sirens and electronic warbles, so that when a fire alarm went off in the middle of Hobbs' set it took an uncomfortably long time for anyone to notice. Smoke machine and intense body heat didn't add any clarity to the situation. If I had to die in any nightclub fire, I'd feel a lot cooler here than in a Great White show, but still...
Best drug story of the night: After a long night of drinking, no sleep and only an hour before having to go into work, a Cost Plus packaging employee took several tabs of acid to stay awake for his four hour shift. Dr. Seuss-influenced rhymes about boxes and fancy furniture ensued.
Bar prices: PBR? $5. Red Bull? $4. Spending $20 on a girl because you're sure that it will get you laid, only to have her storm out because of something you said? Priceless. Bar drama aside, the selection is small for now, but the counter space is wide, service is friendly, and the bottle shelves are as complexly structured as a bee hive. All the place needs is some signature drinks.
Sound: Funktion One speakers are absurd. They're the sort of terrifying looking things that you could imagine an audiophile dressing up as for Halloween. Stand close enough to the towers left and right of the main stage and by the end of the night you'll walk out of the club feeling like a squigglevision animation. Even more impressive is that this monster's heart-thumping bass doesn't affect the crisp clarity of the sound. Whether you're standing in the back of the bar, on the second floor or in the bathroom, the gist of whatever is emitting from the main stage is fairly identifiable.
12:15 Mary Anne Hobbs
1:15 Mount Kimbie
2:00 Nasty Nasty
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