Dubstep Takes Over the Fillmore District This Saturday, Rest of the World Soon After
If you're reading this blog, you've probably already heard of it -- it's heavy, it wobbles, and it's not the Bay Bridge.
Irie Cartel is one of the DJ groups performing at the free Fillmore Dub Music Festival on Saturday.
A fast-growing electronica genre with roots in reggae and dub music, dubstep is taking over the Fillmore this weekend. The Dub Fillmore Festival goes down at Fillmore and O'Farrell streets this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., featuring DJs like Mochipet, Nebakeneza, and El Diablo. It's funded by a grant from the mayor's office.
Dubstep "brings together all these different people and blends it in and remixes it in," head organizer Shanell Williams says, stressing the festival's ability to draw a younger crowd to the area than jazz generally does. "Dubstep is that meeting place where everyone can come together and agree upon the sound because you have so much in there."
She agrees that the Fillmore may be known mostly for jazz, but believes that's about to change.
Just as San Francisco has historically been an important hub for jazz, it also helped foster the explosive growth of dubstep.
The genre was born in the U.K. in the late '90s and early 2000s out of genres like drum 'n' bass and dub, itself closely related to reggae. "The whole point is that they would have huge sound systems, and it would be pretty much all bass and nothing else," says David Wang, otherwise known as DJ Mochipet.
"Out there [in the U.K.], it was a little bit more about style and dance, and here it's more about the rave scene," says DJ Nebakaneza, who throws a weekly dubstep party called Ritual at Temple that draws 600 to 700 guests every Thursday.
"The people out here were kind of into it, but it started to blow up with the heavy, grindy, almost industrial-sounding tunes. I think that's mostly because in San Francisco, there's a huge rave culture, and electronic music in general was enormous," he says.
Most recently, though, dubstep has flirted with mainstream prominence. Britney Spears' hit "Hold It Against Me" from earlier this year includes a dubstep-style section, for example, causing some DJs to pine for an earlier time when the genre was more underground.
Dubstep may have started as a rebellious genre, but "the typical fan is definitely looking more and more like suburban raver kids," Mochiphet says. "Mostly what gets played now is the more aggressive type of clubbier, synthier sounding dubstep.
"I'm kind of sad. A lot of that old-school type of culture -- reggae sound system, natty roots -- is kind of gone from it, and that's where it came from. I'm hoping some of that will come back or get reintroduced into it."
Nebakaneza also sees dubstep going mainstream, but stresses how he and his group, Irie Cartel, are trying to steer its momentum in the right direction. Commercialization is going to happen, "but I'd rather have the guys in Irie Cartel shape it the way it should be, because we have an underground background and try to keep it as underground as possible."
For Williams, who's behind Saturday's event, the music itself reigns paramount. "I love, love, love electronic music, and I've recently fallen in love in the past couple years with dubstep music," she says.
"We need an event that's geared toward the young people in the area," she adds. "The Fillmore needs this."