The Top Five Parties in San Francisco This Weekend
The amateur-hour rush of Halloween is over, thank god. That means its back to norm for S.F. nightlife, with plenty of great options to choose from. For this week's party preview, we've highlighted a wide variety of events, with a few options that stretch outside the popular boundaries of four-to-the-floor dance music. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
James Zabiela plays Audio Discotech tonight.
For more than a decade, Dub Mission has provided one of the most reliable good times on a Sunday night in San Francisco. The mellow, unpretentious weekly is the city's closest approximation to an old-school Jamaican sound system. The music it specializes in is dub, an instrumental form of spaced-out reggae that features body-massaging bass frequencies, clattering percussion, and liberal use of echo and other effects. This Sunday the party welcomes an extremely special guest in the form of Mad Professor, a U.K.-based producer who's one of the most prolific dub practitioners of the '80s and '90s. He's a crossover artist whose experimental work in the reggae world had a measurable influence on ambient acts like the Orb and trip-hop groups like Massive Attack.
Mad Professor's appearance in San Francisco comes as a part of his Roots of Dubstep tour, a reprise and re-affirmation of an electronica-indebted album he originally released in 2011. Much like the music on that LP, his live show strives to illuminate the connection between dubstep and Jamaican dub. That might seem strange, considering what dubstep has become, but there's sense to it if you trace the sound back from today -- where it's basically electronic heavy metal for Americans -- to its early life in the subwoofer-lined dancehalls of late '90s and early '00s London. Back then, dubstep was still noticeably Jamaican; it was a hybrid fashioned from the rhythms of 2-step garage and the monolithic low end of drum 'n' bass. The early records, like Digital Mystikz's "Neverland," Horsepower Productions' "The Swindle," and Loefah's "28g" -- along with the ones that came out before U.K. dubstep's demise in the late '00s -- also rely upon some of the same digital dub techniques essential to the music of Mad Professor.
Their similarity can be felt in his live show, which he'll be recreating at Elbo Room with a multichannel mixing board, banks of echo units, and various other auxiliary effects. He takes raw, multitracked recordings of instrumental reggae cuts and runs them through his mixer live, manipulating the faders and dials by hand, looking like a disc jockey while unleashing walls of ricocheting delay and rumbling bass with live toasting provided by Joe Ariwa and General Levy.
And while Mad Professor's music might not be dubstep in the traditional sense, it still serves the genre by showcasing where the atmosphere and bass frequencies that characterize the music first came from. Most importantly, it reaffirms the Jamaican origin of a sound that's lost track of its roots in the translation from U.K. underground to U.S. mainstream. Watch this video of the Professor explaining the project.
James Zabiela at Audio Discotech
11 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7. $10-$20
Digital DJing might inspire laziness in some, but not in the hands of James Zabiela. He's a British spinner who's spent much of his career exploring the limits of next-generation technology. He plays tech-house and breakbeat-laden funk, using CD players, effects units, and computers to create frantic live shows that go well beyond the narrative musicality of your typical DJ set. Check out his highly dexterous Boiler Room performance.
Surface Tension presents Sandra Electronics at Project One
10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8. $12-$15
The promoters behind gothy '80s night Warm Leatherette have changed their name and regrouped. Surface Tension is their new venture, and avant-garde techno is their new focus. This Friday they're taking over Project One gallery to bring a night of heavy music courtesy of a live set from Sandra Electronics, a collaborative project of gloomy industrial techno heavyweights Regis and Silent Servant.
Forward presents My Favorite Robot, Tone of Arc at Mighty
10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8. $10-$25
It's always an event when local crew Forward reconvenes at Mighty. This time around they're utilizing the whole venue, plus its outside area, for an evening of futuristic, thinking person's tech-house. The headliner for the night is Canadian DJ trio My Favorite Robot, whose glossy club sound (as can be heard on recent hit "Looking for Frost") is a perfect fit for the party.
TWITCH at Showdown
10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9. $5
The past few years have seen the rise of a darker strain of San Francisco nightlife. One example of this is TWITCH, a longstanding party on Sixth Street that specializes in bleak post-punk and industrial sounds with a particular interest in what its website calls "hard and sparse danceable beats, [and] repetitive sequencer lines."