Four Tet, SF 2011. + FACE presents RUB N TUG
October 21, 2011
Better than: The last party I went to at 1015 Folsom.
In San Francisco, there are few dance clubs as iconic as 1015 Folsom. Back in the '90s, the superclub played an integral role in providing an above ground location for (what was then) underground music. It's been through its fair share of renovations over the years, and recent problems with violence seem to have encouraged management to reinvent the venue yet again. Today, 1015 has emerged as a strong advocate for new sounds and experimental bookings, with regular parties like Low End Theory and guest-stacked one-offs like last week's Dubapalooza.
Yet, despite the fact that 1015 regularly plays host to some of the larger figures in electronic music, the venue has been having a hard time dealing with the limitations of its sound system. Last Friday, Four Tet and Thomas Bullock (of Rub N Tug and Wicked fame) double headlined the venue with support from Face party and a host of local DJs. A fan of both artists, I headed down to Folsom street with Kahley to see how 1015 was doing since the last time we visited.
The first thing that strikes you is the size of the place. Sure, it looks massive from the outside, but inside, the main room is a megachurch-like space with four auxiliary dance floors, each with their own sound system. Friday night saw three of the four spaces open for business: the entrance lounge, the main hall, and the upstairs stripper pole room--conspicuously absent was the basement, which I've only been in once, but still think is my favorite room in the whole building. The evening was stylistically divided through the partitioning of these areas; Thomas was upstairs DJing with Face party's Eug while a whole gang of local DJs opened in the main room for Four Tet.
The place was packed from the moment we stepped in to the moment we left. The main room had a sizeable crowd going at 11:30 with DJs stylistically slanting towards UK garage, techno, and other future-leaning musics. That is to say, it wasn't exactly four-on-the-floor, but was still danceable (though I wouldn't call it a dancing crowd). The sound, while notably better than at the Tri Angle showcase, was still fairly flat. A promoter friend of mine summed it up neatly: "The system must be tuned for dubstep. It does deep bass well, but there's no mids or highs." I believe he's correct in that assessment, as I've found that the system sounds best at 1015's bass-heavy Low End Theory parties.
From the main floor, we headed upstairs to catch Thomas Bullock's set. As we ascended, the mostly serious instrumental music faded away into the joyful abandon of high speed New York disco. Immediately it was apparent that the two rooms were opposite in nature. While the downstairs was much more packed, the upstairs had it beat with enthusiasm. Dimly lit with sleazy red lights, the upstairs room became a raucous party with a dedicated crowd working out to Thomas' selections: In one corner a barefooted girl channeled the ghost of Merce Cunninham, in another some did a modified group hustle, while all around people soaked up the positive vibes. At one point, a brave couple was so moved that they climbed onto one of the go-go platforms and French kissed in front of a stripper pole. The party upstairs was really fun, but sadly, it really thinned out when Four Tet went on.
At this point in the evening, the main room was completely packed. Yet, in sharp contrast to the upstairs, the downstairs was populated by a stone-faced and immobile crowd of young men. Four Tet took the stage around 1 a.m. and, after a few false starts due to sound issues (I couldn't quite tell what was going on), eased into a relatively straightforward (and at times sleepy) set of experimental electronic music. He mixed his tracks using an MPC-like midi controller, a laptop, and traditional DJ mixer. Looking out at the crowd, it seemed that, while people weren't really dancing, they were definitely getting off. The room had a zoned-out and trippy feeling that was emphasized by the fantastically executed visuals riffing off the music to create a melting wall of digital noise.
We stayed for the entirety of Four Tet's set and left shortly after around 2:30 a.m. It was definitely a marked improvement over last time, but still I can only imagine what the venue would be like with better sound.
Lost in the Night is a column that follows the adventures of former promoter Derek Opperman as he reviews the shifting world of San Francisco nightlife. If you have a party that you would like covered, email email@example.com.