Lights Down Low presents L-Vis 1990, SFV Acid, Urulu
Friday, Oct. 26, 2012
Better than: The book I read afterwards, which featured grotesque images of a dead animal/machine hybrid called the "Rabot."
Last week I finished reading Come Into My Kitchen, a book about the Robert Johnson club in Germany. Located in Offenbach, just outside of Frankfurt, it's considered one of the best-run clubs in the world. The book is kind of hard to find, but if you get a chance, its 375 pages provide concrete examples of club culture done right. However, beyond just the history of the region and the philosophy behind the venue, its essays make some broad points about nightlife that apply to San Francisco as well. These works are written by highly respected figures like Ricardo Villalobos, Theo Parrrish, and DJ Harvey. The most relevant treatise comes from Harvey, who provides "The Ten Commandments or the Sarcastic Disco Decalogue." All the points have some merit, but there are a few that bear repeating: "II. Thou shalt not be a piss head," "VI. Selection will always trump the mix," and "VII. Thou shalt not believe one's hype."
I say this because these are points that, if heeded, allow for the best possible evening for the DJ, the dancefloor, and the party as a whole. Break these fundamental edicts and something's always going to feel awkward. This was the case last Friday, when L-Vis 1990 hopped on the decks, broke most of those rules I just talked about, and delivered one of the worst sets from a headliner I've heard in the past year.
Friday was a weird night to be out in the city, and everyone I talked to seemed to be conserving themselves for something Halloween-related on Saturday. This negatively affected the headcount at Monarch -- there was always this feeling that the party was waiting to begin.
On deck was Urulu, an up-and-coming producer from Los Angeles who is mostly known for his retro-inspired house tracks, like the self-explanatory "1991." He played to the laidback vibe of the room with a set of well-mixed but faceless house tracks. Presumably the purpose of his set was to provide the groundwork for whatever L-Vis 1990 would deliver later. As time wore on, he moved towards more distinctly retro-flavored music with a lone vocal track and something that sounded like it was actually from the early '90s. This shift prompted the night's first real (if semi-packed) dancefloor, with people finally leaving the lounge in back to get close to the speakers. Strangely, this was also when everything fell apart completely.
The music cut out abruptly and off-beat, its presence replaced by confusion and the chatter of people at the bar. I looked at the booth and saw a mob of promoters, technicians, and DJs looking confused at the CDJs. At the center of the panic was L-Vis 1990, who had replaced Urulu shortly before, but had yet to play any music. At first it seemed like a malfunction or some kind of error, but I later heard it came down to L-Vis wanting to begin before his predetermined time slot. Pushing the volume back up, he let the room marinate in annoying shards of noise that sounded like a CDJ stuck in cue mode. Again this seemed like a malfunction until the pitch began moving up and down for dramatic effect. I could see this working in front of a large audience of people high out of their minds, but in that half packed basement on Sixth Street he never had a chance. "L-VIS 1990. L-VIS 1990. L-VIS 1990." said a prerecorded voice through the clatter, adding a masturbatory goofiness to what was otherwise entirely serious.
The bass dropped and dense sheets of fog filled the room to an almost complete whiteout. Like his recent track "Video Drone," the music was rough-edged and abrasive -- two adjectives that really didn't fit the vibe of the party. This went on for a while, each tune doing its part to slowly dismantle the dancefloor to a near standstill. Like magic, acquaintances began to disappear and text me from other venues. Even his serious fans seemed confused by his decision to immediately go so hard with so few people in the room.
The rapid pace of collapse seemed to exert a toll, and toward the end of the night he broke character to try his luck with some disco. But when he got around to playing Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You," people were already on the way out. And by the time he played Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face," I had already handed the girl at coat check my ticket.