Friday Night: L.A. Fave Low End Theory Comes to S.F., Gives the City Exactly What it Needs
Better than: Suffering through a pack of smelly trustafarians to hear some heavy bass.
Let me waste no time getting to the point: Low End Theory SF is everything I've wanted a hip-hop/dubstep/bass/beat music/whatever party to be in this city for a long time now.
The L.A. party has reached legendary status over the past couple of years, not only for its stellar lineup of featured performers (Flying Lotus, Odd Future, Kode9, Lazer Sword), but also for the epic soundsystem of its home venue, The Airliner. While S.F. has great monthly parties such as Tormenta Tropical, Lights Down Low, and Icee Hot -- all of which hold down the dance/house-leaning side of progressive electronic jams -- no hip-hop-centric party has really caught on yet up here, at least not without bringing out an annoying crowd.
When I arrived a little before midnight, Low End Theory founder Daddy Kev and resident MC Nocando were already in command of an energetic crowd that seemed like it had been waiting for this day since the first Low End Theory party took place in LA. While Nocando flexed the mic skills that won him the Scribble Jam freestyle competition, Daddy Kev threw together a neck-snapping DJ set using an iPad as his weapon of choice. And you have to give the man credit for working in a Cody ChestnuTT edit that had the crowd moving.
When Gaslamp Killer took the stage, things got weird, in a good way. Known for his eclectic DJ sets and a giant head of hair that sways like a palm tree in the wind, GLK lived up to his reputation, basically playing whatever the fuck he felt like. '60s psych-rock? Yup, there was some of that. Late-'90s Busta Rhymes? Got some of that, too. Jam City's "Magic Drops"? He even knows what's hot in the streets. And for good measure, Gaslamp Killer threw some filthy dubstep on top of it all, because even I can admit that it's great in moderation.
By the time Baths went on at around 12:40, the party was still in good shape. Shitshows were kept to a minimum and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Unlike the previous two acts, Baths came through with a live set of his own material. For the first part of his set, he seemed to have a few issues with his mic volume. but once that got sorted out, Baths kept the crowd entranced with the emotional intensity of his music, which he refreshed for the Low End crowd with plenty of stutters, rolls and edits to his beats, adding just the right amount of dirtiness to his sound.
Seeing as Baths' debut album stayed on the quieter side of things, it was interesting to see how he and the crowd would both adapt to the change in pace. And herein lies the beautiful part of the Low End Theory mentality: more than just "keeping the party going," these guys are mostly just about playing good music, regardless of what form, tempo, or volume it comes in. And for the most part, the crowd was okay with that, which was refreshing to see.
By the time his set was over around 3:30, I don't think there was a person in the crowd who could complain about not hearing at least a little of what they wanted. And really, that's what you should want out of any party. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Low End Theory crew comes up with next time around.
Crowd control: Most of the Low End crew could have easily kept among themselves backstage if they wanted to, but over the course of the night, I saw them all working their way through the crowd, not at all above talking to those in attendance. It made Low End Theory feel all the more like a party.
Shlohmo -- get familiar with him: The S.F.-based whiz kid (who has also performed at past Low End Theory parties) was a popular guy Friday night, not only having his track "Tomato Smash" make it into Daddy Kev's set, but also receiving a shoutout from Baths, who then launched into a remix of Shlohmo's "Spoons." I bumped into the always-humble producer, who mentioned he's almost finished with his full-length debut album. Get excited.
Not-Chillout Room: I'm not sure what was going on in the front room of 1015 Folsom after 2 a.m., but whatever music was coming through on those speakers was putting everyone on edge. Sounding like paranoid ambient drone that would have been at home in the last half-hour of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddyssey, I heard multiple people comment about the fact it was putting them on edge. Not cool.