Lost in the Night: Omar S Gives a Grouchy, Virtuosic Demo on Vinyl Deejaying at Public Works

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Kahley Emerson
Omar S. at Public Works on Saturday

Lost in the Night: Icee Hot presents Jackmaster and Omar S.
Public Works OddJob Loft
October 28, 2011

Better than: Giving out Jack Chick tracts to trick-or-treaters.

In an era of San Francisco nightlife dominated by huge bookings, one party stands out. Icee Hot is the XLR8R sponsored brainchild of Shawn Reynaldo, Will Fewell (a.k.a. Rollie Fingers), and Ryan Merry (a.k.a. Ghosts on Tape). Going on for almost two years now, the event has managed to establish itself as the premier destination for the bleeding edge of dance music with an impeccably curated roster of forward-thinking DJs and performers. I've written a lot about Icee Hot in the Weekend Party Preview, but haven't had a chance to go and properly review the event. There was no better time then than last Friday, when Omar S and Jackmaster double headlined the party at Public Works' OddJob loft.

We arrived around 11. Taking a sharp left onto Eerie street, we were immediately greeted by a huge drunken crowd entirely in costume. People milled about like zombies, smoking cigarettes and drinking 40ozs between the parked cars. We made our way through the human maze and found our way inside. Apparently Public Works was doing two parties last Friday, with Icee Hot upstairs and a scene downstairs vaguely reminiscent of Event Horizon. As we made our ascent, the vibe quickly transitioned into something a little more palatable.

The OddJob loft was totally decked out for Halloween. Black trash bags provided dark and strange wallpaper for just about every surface. The room was noticeably dimmer, with a lone blue lamp shining from the stage and dim lights illuminating the bar. The combined effect made the space feel more intimate, and in a way, more freewheeling and underground. At this point in the evening the room had a small crowd of people (mostly guys) that seemed to be soaking up the intensely cerebral set of resident DJ Shawn Reynaldo. Deeply engrossed in his tracks, Reynaldo drew heavily from the darker and more hypnotic side of techno and UK dubstep. At one point he got a little too dark, but managed to bounce out of it by dropping Ginuwine's R&B classic "Pony." The dancefloor began to really fill up with a crowd that seemed to be there for the love of music.

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Kahley Emerson
Jackmaster

Jackmaster took the decks around 12. With his hair slicked back and a fully buttoned Oxford shirt, he looked like the literal embodiment of "Keep Calm and Carry On." His DJ style was unemotional and detached, with a surgical precision that was almost mechanical. He began his set with a snippet of the a capella from First Choice's classic "Let No Man Put Asunder." From there he twisted and played with the sample until it turned into Butch's "No Worries" (itself a re-work of the aforementioned song). This marked the tone for the rest of his set, which followed along similar lines into classic US deep house and contemporary UK garage. There were many highlights, but a track that really stood out was Roland Clarke's classic "I Get Deep." The soulful a capella seemed to encapsulate the mood of his hour of the night. By the end of the set he had the entire room going crazy enough that he was able to slip in Pilooski's leftfield Northern Soul re-edit "Send Him Back."

As Jackmaster was closing out his set, Omar S came out of the green room and posted up on the corner of the stage. He didn't seem to be in a good mood; he spent the majority of his time scowling at the audience. His attitude seemed to only worsen as he faced two false starts following problems with the sound system. I'm not sure what the issue was, but it seemed that the OddJob loft was having a hard time accommodating a non-computer DJ. However, these technical glitches (and his continued bad attitude) only seemed to add to the mystique of his set, which was mostly performed on vinyl. His style of DJing was technically complex, with manual dexterity exhibited through extended blends. Occasionally his records would go out of phase, but strangely the imperfections added a kind of human element or syncopation that was mostly lacking in Jackmasters set.

Musically speaking, Omar S went all over the place: he momentarily touched on classic house, he moved through Detroit techno (a lot of it sounding close to the style of his own productions), and he even trumped Jackmaster by playing a better re-work of "Let No Man Put Asunder." The easy highlight of his set came, oddly enough, after a technical glitch: during a blend, his outgoing record began skipping (presumably because of a screwed up tone arm), effectively trainwrecking in the worst way possible. He cut the sound of the skipping record, brought in the new record (Kenny Dixon Jr.'s edit of "Problems De Amour"), and shoved the malfunctioning turntable off its feet. Maybe you had to be there, but the random act of violence only added to the wild, anything-goes vibe that the night had become at that moment.

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We stumbled out of Public Works at the fairly conservative hour of 2:30. Exhausted from dancing, we took a quick detour to It's Tops for a round of post-party hamburgers. If you're interested in going to Icee Hot, there's another one tonight (Monday Oct. 31) at Elbo Room with Night Slugs artist L-Vis 1990.

Check out more of Kahley Avalon Emerson's photos from the party here.

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Derek Opperman
Derek Opperman

Oh, I know. I'm friends with some of the DJs that do. That being said a recurrent complaint (for both upstairs and downstairs rigs at PW) has been that some of the turntables have screwy tone arms—a serious problem as I'm sure you're aware. It seems Omar S' set was the straw that broke the camel's back.

dude in sf
dude in sf

 many DJs play vinly at public works upstairs... I have never heard them ever have any problems at all.  really quality venue. 

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