Beautiful Swimmers Get Aquatic at The Chase
The Chase presents Beautiful Swimmers
J Astra Brinkmann
Public Works OddJob Loft
Friday, March 1, 2013
The room shimmered to life, its walls painted with projections of rainbow-edged video feedback. Balloons drifted lazily across the floor, and a small crowd milled about, floating adrift inside this temporary media womb. Then Jean-Claude Van Damme appeared. These pleasures and more await at The Chase, a relatively new party that happens every once in a blue moon at Public Works' OddJob Loft.
This was not my first time covering the event. In fact, just a couple months ago I profiled a lackluster set there by Los Angeles-based live outfit Pharaohs. And while I may have disliked that group's performance, one thing that's commendable is the amount of care the party puts into each of its evenings.
Now a little further along in its short run, the Chase offers one of the more dynamic nightlife experiences in the city, with a curated multimedia barrage that has few parallels (only Honey Soundsystem and No Way Back come to mind). A lot of this is due to the efforts of Caitlin Denny, the local artist who's in control of the event's visuals. On Saturday, she stood behind an impressive array of vintage, beige-colored gear occasionally switching levers, pushing joysticks, and sometimes even picking up a video camera to inject live impromptu footage of the DJs and dancers into her environment (with a lo-fi sheen, of course). The thought occurred to me that she wasn't just "doing visuals" but instead dancing the entire room in time with the sounds. The attention to detail was unreal.
J Astra Brinkmann
Her musical foil is Ash Williams, the DJ in control of the event's musical direction. When we arrived, he was standing in the booth trying to warm-up the night's loose attendance into a makeshift dance floor. He played with restraint and taste, subtly letting contemporary European house music unfurl from the speakers in giant, slow-moving arpeggiations. Though it wasn't packed by any means, there were still quite a few people up to the challenge he posed. And, in a relatively rare turn of events, most of these dancers turned out to be women, which is not a common thing in San Francisco. Girls in high-waisted jeans and sneakers worked out next to others in a-line dresses and more formal attire, with a few bewildered looking guys peeking out from the eaves. I looked around and thought about it for a minute as Williams dipped momentarily out of the present and into the pulsing flash of Masters at Work's "I Can't Get No Sleep feat. India."
I was talking with a friend about the music and just generally enjoying the ambience of the night, when the music began to get hairy. Was it the Masters at Work or something else? I can't remember, but at one point the needle in Williams' record just decided all of a sudden to hop out of the groove and chart a noisy perpendicular course towards the center label. Williams, clearly annoyed, glared at the record. Then he removed the needle, blew on it noisily, and dropped it right back down as if the whole thing had never happened. It was one of the most graceful recoveries I've ever witnessed -- and as if through ritual, the dancefloor swelled and the party truly got started.
J Astra Brinkmann
Beautiful Swimmers took over a little past midnight, with a quick slip into some Italo via Plastic Mode's "Baja Imperial." Ever animated behind the decks, the duo worked fluidly, changing places so that one could mix and work the EQs while the other flipped through bags of records and CDs. Clearly excited to be up in front of a crowd, they hollered and yelled out as they pulled back on the bass, only to slam it in moments later.
Yet though they began strong and stayed at an enjoyable pace, there was something missing in the overall performance. This could be attributed to the relatively thin crowd, but I'm more convinced it had to do with their song selection. Previous sets drifted between genres in a clever way, but Beautiful Swimmers' performance on Friday was almost exclusively comprised of compilation-standard house classics. Cuts like Ly's "Back 2 Zanzibar (King Street Mix)," Hard Drive's "Deep Inside," and The It's "Donnie" all sped by like obvious road signs in a larger map of reverence for the sounds of the late '80s and '90s. Their method of playing didn't do much to add a new spin to these sounds, either.It just aired a general sentiment of appreciation, ignoring, for the most part, the distinct manner of playing that surrounds these kinds of records. But it really didn't matter -- the response from the dancefloor was entirely positive. Combined with the visuals, their set created an inclusive and social vibe which made for yet another fun night out.
J Astra Brinkmann
Hugo Hutchinson's raw disco edit "Chante VS. James" pumped out of the speakers, and one of the DJs leaned back to howl as he once again pulled the bass out. A balloon hit me, a group of girls ducked down, and a drunk fell headfirst into a wall. Jean-Claude Van Damme came back onscreen, and we decided it was time to go home.