Twenty-five years ago, a small crew of freaky Brits brought acid house to San Francisco. Four DJs — Garth, Jenö, Markie, and Thomas, known collectively as Wicked — set up a renegade soundsystem on Baker Beach in San Francisco and threw an all-night party underneath the full moon. A quarter-century later, it's impossible to overstate their influence: Wicked kickstarted Bay Area rave culture and shaped San Francisco's obsession with house music of all stripes.
The following years saw Wicked become exponentially more popular, trading its renegade parties for legitimate ventures in various SF venues, eventually touring its way around the world. It became known for broad, wide-ranging musical selections, bringing together techno, disco, house, funk, and more.
Saturday's blowout at Mighty celebrates Wicked's 25th year of making people dance; that's a long time in any trade, but in dance music, practically an epoch. Presale tickets have sold out, but a limited batch will be available at the door — arrive early, stay late.
Other worthy parties this week
Public Works & IN•SIGHT present Sebastian Mullaert (Minilogue) at Public Works, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Thursday, July 14. $20; publicsf.com
When it comes to live techno performers, few can match Minilogue's prowess. The Swedish duo are renowned for long-form, trance-inducing live sets — sometimes lasting hours and hours. Minilogue has been put to rest, but one half of the duo, Sebastian Mullaert, has worked up a prodigiously active solo career in the past couple of years. His solo material occupies much the same space Minilogue did: deep, spaced-out, psychedelic techno for getting lost in.
Disaffection featuring Tremor Low and Pixel Memory at The Knockout, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday, July 14. $6; theknockoutsf.com
Synth-centric party Disaffection returns to the Knockout with a twist: live acts on the lineup. This time around it's hosting live performances from Oakland's Tremor Low and San Francisco's Pixel Memory. Both bands map similar territory, crafting technicolor synthpop with retro-futuristic flavor. Tremor Low features an operatic male vocalist and treads in nu-disco's waters, whereas Pixel Memory features female vocalists and streamlined technoid flavor. Disaffection DJs Nickie and Corinne spin electroclash, post-punk, and synthpop before and after.
Mezzanine & Up All Night present Bok Bok and Girl Unit at Mezzanine, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, July 16. Free before 11 p.m., $15 after; mezzaninesf.com
It's hard to overstate the influence of Night Slugs, Bok Bok & Girl Unit's record label. (Girl Unit didn't start the label with Bok Bok, but was one of its key artists from the beginning.) Early on, as dubstep was enjoying peak popularity in the U.K., Night Slugs pushed its boundaries beyond recognition, folding in bits and pieces of techno, house, R&B, rap, Baltimore club, and more, paving the way for the genre-bending futuristic sounds popular today.
The Shuffle Co-Op featuring Lazare Hoche at Public Works Loft, 9 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Saturday, July 16. $10; publicsf.com
House-centric party The Shuffle Co-Op makes its first appearance upstairs at Public Works, featuring the San Francisco debut of young Parisian producer Lazare Hoche. Hoche's discography is small — one album, a couple 12-inches — but it's packed with hits, featuring simple, elemental house jams with carefully placed samples (acid riffs, vocals, disco basslines) that turn them into dancefloor bombs. Simple stuff — but highly effective. Shuffle residents Petko Nikolov and Alex Lin warm up for Hoche.
Notable Local Records
Miles by Keita Sano; Spring Theory
San Francisco label Spring Theory doesn't release records often, but when it does, they're always worth noticing. Its latest is a 3-track EP of sample-centric house from Keita Sano, a Japanese artist who has quickly racked up a sizable discography across labels like 1080p and Mister Saturday Night.
When I say "sample-centric," I mean exactly that: These tracks live (or die) based on the listener's reception of the samples used in the construction. "Miles," the record's opener, is a jazzy number whose title and tenor indicate a debt to Mr. Davis, but something about the samples used doesn't work for me — the melodies seem to clash. A firm "pass" for me.
But Sano turns that right around with "Blue," another jazzy tune (and Davis reference — as in Kind Of ...). Simply gorgeous, it begins with chugging, polyrhythmic percussion, soon giving way to a beautiful, mesmerizing saxophone sample that seems to drift endlessly, disappearing into thin air. It's everything I wanted "Miles" to be.
Then comes "Varna" — a completely different beast, built from samples of Eastern chant, tribal percussion, and singing bowls. It forgoes the lighthearted feel of the other tracks and builds to an enormous, colossal climax, mirroring the rituals its samples are sourced from. While "Miles" and "Blue" are firmly house cuts, "Varna" feels like full-throttle psychedelic techno, not unlike the searing madness of Rrose. This track alone makes Miles worthy of purchase.
Nocturne Belle by Mark Slee; Manjumasi
Manjumasi is a brand new San Francisco-based label, a collaborative effort between Atish Mehta and Mark Slee. Their sound hinges on a kind of easy-going, melodic, distinctly Californian take on house music, rooted in Burning Man and its imitators like Desert Hearts. Accordingly, I listened to Slee's debut release on the label expecting a certain "Burner sound." I got what I expected — plus a complete surprise.
The EP opens with its eponymous track. Here, my expectations were met: The central motif is a lilting, delicate, twee-sounding chime melody, which I imagine many will find a conveyor of good vibes on the dancefloor. It's definitively not for me, though — it feels sappy and insincere to my ears.
Two remixes follow: Tim Green's is unremarkable, whereas Patlac's does away with the twee melody and replaces it with a hypnotic acid squiggle — that's my style.
Then came the surprise, "Nacht Zwei." It begins with a pulsing bassline groove and phased hand drums, and soon adds a shimmering crystalline melody, texturally similar to "Nocturne" but its polar opposite in sentiment and vibe. The result is an imposing heavyweight tune with underground techno DNA in its veins — a proper banger.
Music aside, Nocturne Belle is masterfully engineered; not a single element feels unnecessary, and the sense of space in all four tracks is truly remarkable. "Nocturne" may leave non-Burners unsatisfied, but "Nacht" is warehouse techno par excellence.