Prosumer Keeps the Underground Freaks Up 'Til Dawn
As You Like It presents Prosumer
Nov. 29, 2013
One thing that's long been true of San Francisco nightlife is that the best stuff often happens beneath the surface. Now, as always, underground venues are the lifeblood of the local dance music scene, with promoters appropriating unfinished warehouses, office complexes, and other clandestine locales for the kind of all-night events that serious fans desire. These spaces often feature a comfortable atmosphere and patrons who are more concerned with having a good time than they are getting as wasted as possible before last call.
Yet, as enjoyable as they are, not all undergrounds are created equal -- that much became clear last Friday, when I ventured to one of the best undergrounds in recent memory in As You Like It's latest production, a phenomenal party featuring Prosumer, a Berlin DJ who's famous for his marathon sets at Panorama Bar, the house-oriented second room in that city's world-famous Berghain nightclub.
One of the most fun aspects of going to undergrounds is being surprised by the unlikely locations they're often held in. In the past few years, I've been lucky enough to attend parties in some rather unconventional venues: converted Catholic churches, unmarked back rooms at strip clubs, luxury yacht garages, shuttered movie theaters, and more SOMA lofts than I could count on 10 fingers.
Last Friday, the party was hidden in plain sight at an unassuming office complex that's probably a suit-and-tie kind of place during the day. Our cab pulled up, a lone security guy waved us in, and then we were immersed in an unfinished, concrete-lined box with dancers yelling and pumping their fists to a loud soundtrack of driving underground house tunes. We arrived at 1 a.m. but at that point, it felt much earlier, like the night was only just beginning.
"You don't want to wait in those bar lines, they're brutal," said a friend of mine who'd been at the party for the past few hours. A crushingly long cue snaked out from a makeshift bar in the front, where a small staff did its best to serve orders of Tecates, liquor-and-a-mixer cocktails, and bottled waters. It was well-lit; most undergrounds are dark by definition.
The space featured a whole assortment of mood lights that morphed asynchronously through hues of green, yellow, and red. The effect was trippy but tasteful, adding a sense of dynamic atmosphere that helped to keep things pleasantly social. This worked further to the party's benefit, as it featured a healthy mix of people with shirtless bears, Timbuk2-toting tech industry insiders, NorCal house bros, and trenchcoat- and backpack-clad hipster girls, all existing in seeming harmony. This, and the superior music, were what set the party apart from other late-night events. Many are content to just provide a round-the-clock rave, this was an immersive experience that was as close an analog to European nightlife as I've so-far experienced in San Francisco.
"Who is this DJ again?," I heard many people say. At that point it was local soulful house selector David Harness, who picked the night's tunes from a DJ booth set up at the foot of a mammoth floor-to-ceiling tower of black speakers. He spun from a Rane rotary mixer, playing loopy house cuts that rolled along endlessly, providing no peaks but instead a constant pumping soundtrack that allowed those on the dancefloor to keep going without getting winded. Above us, a large skylight afforded views of the office building's brick-lined exterior, with bits of ambient light coming in from the moon outside.
In the smoking area, which was only separated from the street by a black tarp, some guy played dubstep from a bluetooth speaker, its crunchy warble providing a bizarre soundtrack while others argued about sports and smoked cigarettes and joints. A friend of mine came outside to join me. "Weird, the house lights flipped on for a sec and everybody freaked!" Of course, at an underground, the first sign of house lights usually means the fun's over. This wasn't the case, however, as the party continued.
Back on the dancefloor, David Harness had been replaced by Prosumer. He's a very big guy, with a bald head and beard. "I really didn't realize how big he was," said a girl, "I mean, people were actually getting out of his way at the bar, like jumping out of the way." His set moved things into more disco-focused territory, with a string of house records that leaned heavily on samples and motifs pulled from the '70s and '80s. He played the dub of My Mine's "Hypnotic Tango," Glenn Underground's frenetic remix of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," and some heavy orchestral string track whose name escaped me.
Much like Harness, his set stretched out, avoiding obvious peaks in favor of a steady drive that just kept on going. And that worked well, as I'm told the party didn't stop 'til well after sunrise. My night, however, ended right around the second time the house lights went on. Everybody blinked, someone flipped them back off, things kicked back into gear, and we made a quick exit out onto the street below.