Low End Theory featuring Flying Lotus
Friday, May 4, 2012
Better than: The same party without Flying Lotus?
The first time I ever went to Low End Theory was at its Los Angeles residence, at The Airliner. If you've been to that venue, then you know the incongruous situation of the party's satellite in San Francisco. Down south, the night pops off in a grungy dive -- a fact that lends the proceedings a vibe of raw energy and busted cool. The translation of that feeling to 1015 Folsom (one of the largest and most "super" of San Francisco's clubs) has always seemed an odd choice. All the grit is gone, replaced instead by a sharp clubbiness at odds with the party's stoned soundtrack. Yet, in spite of this, Low End Theory's events in San Francisco are always well attended, and this month's appearance by Flying Lotus all but guaranteed that the venue would be at capacity.
"All I need is snares and deep bass, that's it. Give it to me!" Said a guy in a Navajo-print hat while I ordered some drinks at the front bar. Cool turquoise lights illuminated the side panelling as a DJ tossed the young dancefloor a helping of dubstep-style Beastie Boys remixes; razor-edged wobbles updating the License to Ill concept to Skrillex spec. A crew of backpack wearing breakdancers locked their bodies and adopted frozen poses, casting weird shadows across the back wall.
Meanwhile, the main hall was packed and bouncing to the tunes of DJ Nobody. His selections warmed up the air with a thorough sub bass massage. Precise blips of laser fire and massive projections of pulsating light tunnels created an awesome visual compliment. Along for the ride was Nocando, the club's resident MC/hypeman. Dancing around on stage, his voice would occasionally pierce through the mix adding a vocal component to the almost entirely instrumental arrangements. One line in particular, that he repeated three times with different cadence, stood out: "They're trying to bring the '90s back. I guess I'm okay with that?"
Two minutes of freestyling from Nocando morphed into a full set by guest DJ Dibiase. Starting off strong with some old-schoolish soul sample based hip-hop, he quickly moved towards more rhythmically off-kilter material. Doing long blends, his transitions sounded like intentional trainwrecks, with mismatched snares and kicks slipping past each other creating random and unexpected polyrhythms. The crowd tried to find the beat, but ultimately reverted to fist-pumping, jumping up and down, and occasionally slam dancing.
Countering the rhythmic experiments on the main floor was the action in the upstairs lounge. Local DJ White Mike was in the booth administering a straightforward set of Latin-tinged club tracks to a group determined to put sweat stains on their designer wear. Small dots spun around in patterns as the disco ball's spotlight caught the odd sequin-sheathed body dancing on one of the room's various stripper platforms.
The evening's ultimate highlight came, predictably, from Flying Lotus. The rest of the club began to see a drain as his set time approached. Entire areas once full of people slowly emptied as their contents were integrated into the now uncomfortably packed (and near-untraversable) main floor. Bounding out onto the stage with a massive grin on his face, he commanded the attention of the entire room. Hunched over his laptop, he triggered off a barrage of tracks while the lights pulsed above. Fuzzy, overdriven analog synth chords floated just above head height while his swung out rhythms compelled new dances. Quarters were so tight that dancing was less an act of individual expression than it was a gesture of moving in one direction or another with the mob. The physical sensation coupled with the heady music really got inside some people: During a permutation of "Parisian Goldfish", a guy got on stage, shook hands with Flying Lotus, and then dove into an unsupportive audience. Later, the same guy tried it again and nearly took out some poor girl dancing in front of me. Other memorable moments included a grip of new tracks and a few short interludes spent with the opening lines of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" and Radiohead's "Idioteque."
Flying Lotus finished up around 2:30 a.m. Bowing as he unplugged his gear, the room relaxed in response. The following DJ scrambled to somehow keep the crowd's attention, finally settling on Lil' Wayne's "A Milli." I can't say how well it worked out for him, but judging by the coat check line, it seemed as though we chose the right cue to leave.