Haçeteria presents Breath Control
Feb. 4, 2012
Better than: The term "hipster house."
What is it about the past that's so attractive? For as long as pop music has been around, previous iterations of youth culture have been an important part of it. Yet, for all the past's constant presence in the contemporary, the '00s and the early '10s have been dominated by an obsession with the sounds of years gone by.
Among the latest variants of this retro-tendency is the so-called "hipster house" movement. Exemplified by labels like L.A.'s 100% Silk and groups like Portland's Miracles Club, it's an attempt by disenfranchised indie rockers and noise musicians to utilize the sound palette and energy of classic house for new ends. The results so far have been scattershot to say the least, with some nailing it (local artists Magic Touch and Bobby Browser come to mind), and others seemingly missing the point entirely (the aforementioned Miracles Club being a particularly egregious example). Love it or hate it, the movement has a strong footing in San Francisco, with a rising group of producers and DJs that have attracted national attention. Locally, the social space for this movement is divided between a few parties, with two at the center: Donuts, the long-standing disco-not-disco extravaganza (now only an occasional thing), and the monthly Deco Lounge event that goes by the name of Haçeteria. You can probably guess which one Avalon and I found ourselves at last Saturday.
Our taxi stopped in front of a busy street scene that had gathered near the Deco. It's best known as the kind of place that hosts wet jock-strap contests, but at the entrance on Saturday there was a mixed, but hetero-centric, pack of clubgoers dressed in faux-'80s attire and casually flirting while sucking down clouds of Parliament smoke. Behind them the Deco's imposing facade was fixed-up with colorful balloon clusters and a giant xeroxed poster that read "Haçeteria."
Inside, DJs Tristes Tropiques and Jason P. presided over a similarly dressed dancefloor with a selection of tunes that never seemed to dip past 1992. Playing tracks like Ariel's "Rollercoaster," Larry Tee's "Outta Space," and Zeta 3's "Crazy Mix," the room took on the character of what I imagine a small (but packed) get-together must have been like in San Francisco during it's rave-y golden years. The flow of music was illuminated by an elaborate projection of grids, pseudo-'80s video effects, and the glow of strategically placed televisions rolling through scenes from obscure French action movies.
Smiles abounded as everyone did their best to dance to a style of music more suited to abandoned warehouses and long-dead superclubs than a dingy bar in San Francisco's bombed-out armpit. The crowd seemed to be made of the kind of people whose first
exposure to dance music probably owes more to Fischerspooner and James Murphy than Junior Vasquez or Graeme Park. Rave sirens and megamixes were met with hands in the air and spastic dancing, while more gritty tracks like DHS' "House of God" (played twice throughout the evening) were met with enthusiasm, followed by confusion. The elaborate house dancing I've seen at other nights was notably absent: In it's stead was a group of people eager to learn and participate in the secret rites of electronic dance music.
Packed to the brim, it seemed that many had come to hear headlining artist Greg Zifcak perform as his Breath Control alias. Zifcak has been on the scene for some time now with a list of well-regarded projects: a Pet Shop Boys cover band (Head Shop Boys), a house collaboration with Bobby Browser (Wav Dwgs, featured in my year end list), and the spacey noise duo Eats Tapes. His set at Haçeteria was a natural combination of his previous work (Pet Shop Boys cover band not so much) with an emphasis on the four-on-the-floor.
Set up next to the DJ booth on a bar table with an IBM thinkpad, MIDI controller, and a knob-laden piece of hardware, he cast an unassuming presence that fit the night well. When the last record of Jason P.'s set ran out, Zifcak started punching buttons. In no time at all, the soundscape had slipped into a set of homespun recordings that mixed house beats with abrasive and chopped-up free jazz saxophones. Wearing a thin suit jacket, he presented the image of an electronic James Chance. Swung-out hi-hats and booming beatdown-style kickdrums created a space for skinny hipsterettes in plastic American Apparel leggings to grind up on scruffy beardos in leather jackets. Throughout it all Zifcak kept a cool look on his face as he punched in and out of the rhythmic arrangements, creating momentary drops and crescendos on the fly.
We stayed until just the end of his set before catching a cab and making our way towards other destinations at the edge of dawn. (Or, in other words, a truly remarkable set by Roy Davis Jr. at an underground loft in SOMA. You haven't really lived until you've heard an old school Chicagoan work the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" to a packed crowd of house dancers at 5 a.m.)