Sick Sad World
Somewhere in Oakland
Friday, Sept. 7, 2012
Better than: Similar events in S.F
With a sharp pull on the wheel, we turned off Telegraph and headed towards San Pablo. It was almost 11 p.m. and we were on the other side of the Bridge, driving through downtown Oakland in search of the party. Our destination, though we were having some trouble finding it, was the latest edition of Sick Sad World, a somewhat long-running East Bay party that's built a wild and out-of-control reputation for itself. Promoted by the Trill Team 6 DJ team, it's the social center for a group of up-and-coming producers, artists, and personalities that are re-energizing the Bay Area party scene.
We were standing in the middle of a mob, in front of what appeared to be a repurposed youth recreation center. This loose grouping of people was a funnel-like line leading towards a chain-link fence made opaque by large blue plastic tarps. Puffs of smoke and ambient chatter spilled up, over, and down onto the street. At the choke-point, a burly Latino security guard with a long ponytail checked IDs and waved groups through, occasionally closing the door to get a better handle on the line. In front of us, a girl with dyed cotton-candy-pink hair and black pleather tights shared a flask of whiskey with her girlfriend. "Alright, it's ten bucks to get inside. Give it to me and I'll tell them you're o.k."
The movement was graceful: I handed over my money and slipped through the opening into a loud courtyard. Here there was no music. Instead, it looked like a scene out of a movie trying to depict youth culture. There were skaters, crust punks, hipsters, scenesters, townies, Berkeley college kids, hip-hoppers... My back pocket buzzed. I pulled out my phone, "Lol, post-Grimes dyed hair syndrome." I looked back up and around and the girl I'd seen in line had apparently multiplied or cloned herself -- she was everywhere in varying shades of frizzy pastel.
Screeching feedback and operatic singing; a terrible noise exploded out of a door next to the party's lone porta potty. The blast was followed by a panicked stream of people fighting to get back out into the smoking area. Curious to hear some music, I jammed my way through the side of the door and crawled along the wall trying to get in. Rounding the corner, I turned into a disorienting load of noise made worse by the room's concrete box construction. The source of the noise was a man (not on any of the party's flyers as far as I can tell) standing at the front of the room wearing a pink Ralph Lauren oxford shirt, cargo shorts, and sandals. Sheets of Merzbow-esque noise shredded the meager speaker system while he did his best Bono impression, stopping occasionally to writhe on the floor and chant slogans like "YOU ONLY MATTER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD." It was pretty awful, but it also had a ballsy charm to it. I respect the seven or so other people who stuck around and weren't being paid to be there.
Then there was silence and a mad scramble as the next DJ began hooking up his gear. A girl from outside ran in and yelled, "Yo! You better be better than that last guy. THAT SHIT SUCKED!" Fortunately, New Orleans-based bounce DJ, Rusty Lazer was the next DJ, and he was almost destined to not suck after what had happened prior.
I ordered a beer in a red plastic cup from the keg. Accidentally putting my three dollars into a puddle, I noticed that the guy next to me was wearing brass knuckles. The music started back up, and Rusty Lazer re-invoked the crowd into the room with an easy set of classics. By the time he got around to playing Too $hort's "Blow the Whistle," the room had gotten so packed that the air weighed heavy with humidity. Wooshes of compressed air went off in time to the beat. In front of me, a group of DSLRs crowded around two girls making their butts breakdance. Another woosh of compressed air accompanied the arrival of Montell Jordan's "This is How We Do It." Elbows out, the concrete buckled under the weight of the overstuffed box. I heard the woosh again, but this time it wasn't on beat.
What were all those balloons about?
"Hahaha. Oh, earlier? I took a hit of nitrous and fell over. Sorry man, I'm really drunk. It's like, look. I binge drink when I go out, I just have to. Why are we talking about this again?"