Lost in the Night: 12 Hours of New Year's Eve Partying

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Kahley Avalon Emerson
Still Going, Manik, Justin Vandervolgen, Matrixxman
Public Works, Monarch
12/31/12

Better than:
Normal business hours.

The clock projected on the wall read 11:59. It was almost midnight on New Year's Eve and we were deadcenter on a packed dancefloor at Public Works. The round organ stabs of Bicep's "$tripper" rung out in the air, invoking the ravey spirit of the early '90s. The club was decked out phenomenally, with white garlands hung from every surface and a special geometric lighting rig glowing in the DJ booth. Still Going's Olivier Spencer was behind the turntables, and he'd so far played a solid set that built up nervous anticipation.

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Kahley Avalon Emerson

Around 30 seconds later, the stabs cut out and the song fell into a teasing false silence. Time began to accelerate exponentially, as though some extra-cosmic vacuum had suddenly been switched on. The stabs came back, no beat this time. With 20 seconds to go, it felt as though all our time had been consumed, chronological forward progress replaced by a static continuum. Normally, Bicep's track jumps back into its heavy kick-laden rhythm -- it's designed to pull you into this moment, the closest thing to a drop in the song. Yet with 10 seconds to go, the kick never arrived. Instead, the music cut out entirely as all expectations were transferred to midnight's impending arrival. Five seconds to go, four seconds to go, three seconds to go, two seconds to go, one second to go -- the rest plays back in isolated frames like there's a strobe light attached to my temporal lobe. Confetti and glitter, arms in the air, half-naked bodies embracing, smiles, screams, and an indoor rainstorm of accidentally released cocktails.

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Kahley Avalon Emerson

Then we were at the upstairs bar ordering drinks and discussing our plans for the evening. Shiny metallic sheets hung from the ceiling as Sunset's J-Bird worked through a moody set of tech-house. For many, the midnight countdown is the destination to be reached before ramping down, finding someone, and ultimately going home. However, we'd assembled a small group with the intention of seamlessly partying through the night in order to end up at No Way Back's 6 a.m. after-after party with Justin Vandervolgen. I took a sip of beer and watched a girl in red with long satin gloves strike poses between two femme-attired bears.

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Kahley Avalon Emerson

Time's usually strict hold was still unusually slippery and instances seemed to superimpose on one another like records segueing in a mix. We were back on the dancefloor and DJ P-Play was on stage wearing a jock strap decorated to look like a tuxedo. Yelling at the dancers while he worked the EQs, he pushed the energy up and over the top with an edit of The Family Tree's "Family Tree." Loopy disco bass and noodling flutes spiraled out of the speakers over and over with euphoric repitition. At that point, the loft felt almost exactly like one of Honey Soundsystem's wild Sunday parties at the Holy Cow with intense feelings and a hardcore crowd of partiers. This contrasted to some degree with the mood downstairs, which had become a monotonous tech-house holding pattern in the hands of Manik. We began to think about leaving: one of our friends was missing, another had decided to go to sleep, and another still sent me a text that read "Taking a fckn supermodel home." It was only 3:30 a.m.

When we made it to the SOMA venue, there was already a huge scene of people churning in front of the venue. A bouncer opened a door and shouted, "Listen up! We are only letting people in now that are on the list! If you aren't on the list, you need to go home!" A man in a small fedora tried to slip in, but was quickly repelled by the hired muscle. It seemed like a pretty bad scene, the kind of place that's a magnet for cops.

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Kahley Avalon Emerson

The party was split into two dancefloors, with house music in one room and bass-oriented sounds in the other. It was a small spot with unfinished wood that occasionally leaked droplets of beer spilled on the floor above. The crowd was young, hipsterish, and mostly female, with an inordinate amount of girls in elaborate heels and sequins. It also reeked something awful, with a disgusting aroma of stale tobacco, skunky marijuana, and body stench that was entirely inescapable.

"Work that motherfucker! Work that motherfucker!" chanted a demonic voice as toms and congas crashed through the humidity. Matrixxman and Robert Jeffrey were tag-teaming on the CDJs, playing high-energy house to a crowd clearly up for it. The opening percussive tones of Todd Terje's "Inspector Norse" eased in and rode over blaring organ swells. Keeping it locked on beat, Matrixxman began chopping the two songs up with the faders, cutting the organs in and out in time with the rhythm. The dancers loved it and as the song neared its big drop, he manipulated an enormous filter sweep that underscored the moment perfectly. As the drop hit, I saw a girl in the corner inhale an entire balloon full of nitrous oxide. The heavy analog sub-bass warmed up the room. I imagine nobody felt it as intensely as she did.

Next: Monarch at 6 a.m. on New Year's Day

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Public Works

161 Erie, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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