Tensnake and François K. Tear Up Saturday Night at Monarch and the End Up
"It'll never get passed." My friend strained over the music, referring to State Sen. Mark Leno's bill to extend drinking hours until 4 a.m. at select clubs in California. "I'll tell you how it's going to go down. Some lady from Mothers Against Drunk Driving is going to go to the hearing or whatever and spill her guts out about her dead son, just like last time." I pushed around the straw in my glass of whiskey and soda and realized he might have a point, even though the argument that later hours equals more deaths on the road never seemed sensible to me. (By the way, you can sign a petition about this here). My friend split into the crowd to try his luck with a pretty girl covered in tattoos dancing in place to some remix of Sweet D's "Thank Ya."
It was a better than average night at Monarch, probably one of the best I've ever experienced. Lights Down Low had taken over the venue once again, offering an evening with German house heavyweight Tensnake. There was a special feeling in the air, perhaps due in part to the fact that this marked the last Lights Down Low before principal promoter and co-founder Corey Sleazemore relocates to Los Angeles. I'm told the parties will keep going into the future, but you could tell things were in overdrive to mark the occasion. The room was highly pressurized, a consequence of the soundtrack: a relentless stream of slick uptempo house punctuated by huge electro drops and a handful of well-received classics. A thick curtain of fog obscured the true size of the room, lending a dark underground vibe that was highlighted by blasts of color from the club's strobes. There was a sweaty energy to it all, with the usual well-dressed and upscale clientele throwing their hands up to the material they knew -- Tensnake's own "Coma Cat" and "Mainline."
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A couple furiously made out in front of me while I tried to balance my whiskey against the constant jostle of elbows and backs that threatened to spill its contents onto the floor. A girl was trying to talk to me but the music drowned her out. "My friend...just...gave me...something...called...lip venom...and I'm totally tripping out...I've got to go." It was 1:45 a.m., and a team of black-suited bouncers walked around shining harsh flashlights, telling people to drink up and ditch their beverages. I watched as a big-looking Marina type fortified himself by downing a line of shots. I figured it was time to leave, but wanted to check out old-school New York DJ François K.'s set at the End Up before I called it a night. I tried to get a friend to come with me, but he looked at me like I was crazy, "You want to go to the End Up? How can you tolerate that place?" I shrugged and headed for the stairs.
Pandemonium describes the scene outside of Monarch -- it was like some of the worst contents of the club had been vomited onto the pavement. Three of the bouncers had taken out a belligerently drunk patron in a horizontal-stripe hoodie and they were busy putting him through a series of stress positions. He writhed around and tried to scream but was effectively muted by what looked to be a combined 700 pounds of fedora-clad muscle. Two girls in animal-print harem pants stood in front of the violence; another guy in a striped shirt was trying to negotiate them back to his place. I overheard them ask, "Yeah? But how do we get back to Cow Hollow?" More screaming from the twisted-up body on the pavement behind them. It only got worse as one of the tackled's friends began to circle the dog pile with his cell phone, trying to record the encounter for posterity. The security guards, perhaps suddenly feeling their display of force didn't look so good without context and on camera, eased off and let the drunk stumble to his feet. He got up, wobbled around moaning, realized he was being filmed, and then took a World Cup-worthy dive into the bus lane of the street. His friend chanted, "How do you feel? How do you feel?" I bet the answer was "not good."
The corner of Sixth and Harrison was placid by comparison. This is where the EndUp has been located since it was first opened in 1973. Unlike any other venue I know in California, it operates under a grandfathered after-hours license that permits it to be open round-the-clock on the weekends. This unique provision makes it the only viable legal option for late-night and early morning reverie, and because of that it attracts one of the most diverse crowds in the city. I took a place in the long line and listened as the people around me conducted conversations in seemingly every language but English. We moved forward, and I watched as the bouncers told some people ahead of us, "Not tonight."
Inside, people gurned and visibly chewed their cheeks, nursing Red Bulls while François Kevorkian presided from the tiny booth in the back. This was "Play," a new party concept at the End Up that touches on the same kind of tasteful vibe once provided by long-gone techno monthly KONTROL. The promoters seem committed to fostering a positive atmosphere, something that's a natural foil for Kevorkian's long-form, narrative arc style of DJing. His head was barely visible in the back, drawing a minimal amount of attention while he worked with an effects processor to deliver towering walls of dubby tape delay. The sound wooshed through tracks like Levon Vincent's "Man or Mistress" and Scuba's "Hardbody" to thrill the entranced partiers dancing in the club's long and narrow hall. It was late, I was tired, and he was scheduled to DJ until 6 a.m. So I stepped outside and grabbed a cab, leaving the sound of DJ Le Roi's "I Get Deep (feat. Roland Clark) pounding behind me.