Housepitality Reminds Us What Underground Parties Can Do (and Legal Ones Can't)
Housepitality with Tyrel Williams, Miguel Solari, Bo, and Secret Guests
Saturday, Dec. 21 2013
It was just after 3 a.m. on Friday when my phone buzzed. "Hey, we got here like right before the DJ went on. I can't believe how SF ends at like 2 ... everyone was already stumbling around by then, like whaaaat?" My sister, who'd never spent much time in San Francisco, was in town from New York, and she'd just run up against a brick wall of Bay Area reality at DNA Lounge. "This is definitely a very different scene than NYC, it's like fucking prohibition. JESUS, why does SF go to sleep so early?" Of course, she had a point, California's early last call is a real problem. That hard boozy deadline of 2 a.m. is responsible for a lot of bad vibes and premature ends. However, that same cutoff is also the root of the vibrance behind San Francisco's network of undergrounds (which, now that I think about it, is very reminiscent of prohibition). And the next night, just to prove her wrong, I decided to head out at 2 a.m. to attend Housepitality's latest below-the-radar offering.
The next thing I knew, I was in a friend's car barreling down 101 toward Hunter's Point. We turned off and passed through a no man's land of industrial ephemera, two-story warehouses, and strip malls. Following the directions of Google Maps, we pulled into a blacked-out strip mall parking lot. The only people around were two security guards standing with their arms folded in front of a laundromat. Something was wrong. "We better watch out, people probably think we're here to buy drugs," I said. "The address was 3546, right? This doesn't look right, where are all the people?" asked the driver. "No, no, it's 2546, not 3," I said. The rent-a-cops stared at us. "Alright. I'm going to light a cigarette and we're going to get out of here."
And then we arrived at a large, faceless office complex. A lone bouncer stood in front of an open door across the street from a DHL processing facility. It was a lively scene, with clubbers in suits and glittering dresses navigating a course through workers unloading mail from semi trucks. As we cued up, I saw a bouncer canvassing a car double-parked in front of an entryway. He leaned into his earpiece: "It's a VW Passat V6, and it's preventing employees from delivering cardboard boxes."
The tensions were eased, however, when we stepped inside the venue. It was at least on the fourth floor, situated in a hallway next to a photo studio and a place that appeared to sell restaurant supplies. It was raw and unfinished, resembling an artist's studio that had been AirBNB'ed out to ravers. Large angel wings stretched across the ceiling, with a mirror ball in the middle shooting off flecks of light that danced around the walls in sync to the selections of Tyrel Williams, who served uptempo house tracks like Jovonn's "Slammin Doors (Knockin')." An abstract mosaic of stretched fabric hung precariously above him as he played.
The feeling in the room was relaxed, resembling Housepitality's Wednesday night residency at F8, albeit with a crowd decked out in their best weekend wear. People casually stood throughout the room, chatting in the nooks and crannies around the central dancefloor. The screaming vocal undulations of Jamie 3:26 & Cratebug's "Hit It N Quit It" boomed out of the speakers like a runaway freight train. The room erupted: somewhere in the crowd I heard a girl scream like she was having an intense orgasm. Williams took his time, blending the track with an acid bassline gurgle for what felt like three minutes. "This guy is so clean, what the fuck!" I overheard someone say.
One of the things that's immediately different about undergrounds versus legitimate clubs is that there's less of a hurry at illicit venues. Everything unfolds naturally. For instance, a part of Sunday's party was that it would feature "secret guests." Normally, this would entail rushing to the club in time for the peak, to make the most of the door cost. At the underground, though, nobody really cared that these secret guests didn't materialize, choosing instead to just focus on having a good time regardless of who was spinning. So, when local spinner Bo replaced Tyrel Williams, nobody complained.
His set changed the feeling of the room in an instant, with a set of party-hard anthems built from white noise risers and predictable drops. His fizzing rushes led into spoken word chant, "I want to get naked, y'all!" Everyone's hands went up, and in that moment I was reminded of the appeal of all-night parties: while clubs offer an obvious intense peak, undergrounds are a straight plateau of pure sustained energy. San Francisco may not offer this kind of experience legally, but it's still there, if you know where to look.