Heidi Presents the Jackathon
Friday, Oct. 14, 2011
Better than: In DJ-set terms, the Carl Craig Mezzanine performance where he was accompanied by a confused-looking djembe player. In Downtown Abbey character terms, better than Cora Crawley but somewhat shy of Anna Smith.
Friday's weather boded well for Heidi's DJ set at Public Works. The sun was going full blast in the East Bay. I fucked around and bought a coconut water from the health food store. Vibes were on point. Berlin, center of the dance-music universe and where the Canadian currently lives, has a few clubs in nature-worshipping locales: Watergate overlooks the Spree river, while Club der Visionäre is a patio surrounding an old boathouse on a nearby canal.
Public Works, tucked into appendix-like Erie Street, isn't as sun-permeable, but was the perfect space for the event in other ways. Hoarding vitamin D in the hopes of staving off SAD, and rolling up around 9:30 in middle of a sustained happy-hour tipsy, my plus-one and I were among the first to arrive. PW has quickly established itself as a specifically electronic music venue, and this was my first experience inside: it's small and adaptable, a few clicks up from a gallery but entirely distinct from the more rock-ready size of Mezzanine.
In the corner opposite the bar, graphics that might as well have come straight out of the arcade game Tempest splattered across the ceiling as Bells & Whistles performed the thankless task of warming up a crowd of seven people, only one of which was dancing -- crossing one foot in front of the other, twerking into a semicontrolled spin and catching himself at an angle, then sliding back like a typewriter carriage. We smiled and watched, drinking our six-dollar beers.
After a few trips outside, it was time for Adnan Sharif to take to the decks. About which I don't have much to say; DJ sets are womblike, undifferentiated experiences in the best of circumstances. I could discern a more techno edge to Sharif's selections, a sharper feel that bled into Heidi's set, which began seamlessly at midnight.
The crowd had reached a respectable volume and uniform distribution around the club by that point. Heidi, her curly hair tied back in a businesslike manner and a sporting a blazer, built up a sound not far removed from her debut mix -- Heidi Presents Jackathon on Get Physical -- but the energy was noticeably different. Whether it was down to the sound system or her selections for the evening, Jackathon's smooth, late-'80s house feel ceded to a more zoned-out and darker one. No soulful monologues about house and jacking your body were laid over the top; there was a frayed nerve or two threading their way through the mix as Heidi threw in sirens that shredded the momentum and manufactured drops that restored it.
People had started dancing hard by that time, and engaging in varied semi-clandestine activities. The crowd appeared to be equal parts dance-music faithfuls, party girls, the occasional burner manqué, and the usual assortment of graphic-tee meatheads -- the same cross-section, perhaps, that would have come out to the same event two years ago. I didn't see any dance-music arrivistes -- those former indie fans soured on good taste, lionizing the otherness and alternative genealogy that techno, house, UK bass, and a hundred others all offer.
I'd count myself among that group, I think. I've focused on electronic music for the past few years and enjoy feeling like a beginner. I appreciated Heidi's set, but couldn't name any of the records she played; I don't shop for 12"s, I'm still more interested in album artists than the strictly club-oriented ones. That she sounded markedly different in a live setting than on a mix album emphasized that the music was special in direct relation to its ephemerality.
On our last trip to the bar, some creep in a Coke T-shirt caressed my plus-one's face. A brief and wildly uncomfortable interaction followed, nicely tied up by my ladyfriend pushing the rapey D-bag out of our faces and no doubt into his next violation of the social contract. We decided it was a good time to leave anyway, as cabs willing to go back to the East Bay would be getting scarce. With the one exception, it was an exceedingly pleasant evening. But ultimately, one to be experienced rather than remembered.
Personal Bias: I'm not as sold on the New York-ish house scene Heidi reps as I am Berlin's techno output.
Random detail: A can of Hamm's will set you back $4. Hamm's!
By the way: Resident Advisor's Exchange podcast offers a sporadically interesting but unflaggingly enthusiastic conversation with the DJ.