What's better than a normal weekend? A holiday weekend, duh. In case you were unaware, Monday is Memorial Day, and that means there's a whole lot of stuff going on. As usual, we've got you covered, with a few suggestions that ought to help make some sense of San Francisco's chaotic nightlife world. So, read on -- your weekend awaits.
9 p.m. Friday, May 24. No cover
"Don't tell anyone." "It's no good here." "Stay in San Francisco." Talk to enough people living in Oakland and a fairly bleak picture tends to emerge -- but don't believe them. As it happens, our neighbor to the east has gotten pretty good lately, with a creative community that rivals, and maybe surpasses, the one here in San Francisco. Its nightlife has bubbled up from the warehouse scene to find a home in a string of aboveground venues. Take Smart Bomb, a new party that uses both floors of the Legionnaire Saloon to throw a mixed-media showcase of all that's weird and good in the Oakland scene. And best of all? It's free.
The party is coordinated by the members of Secret Sidewalk, a five-piece band whose sets combine the head-nodding funk of turntablism with the mind-expanding potential of out-there jazz. "We always had the idea of creating a community hub in the East Bay for future-minded painters, musicians, culinary artists, and thinkers from all scenes to come together to showcase their talents," explains bandmember and Smart Bomb promoter Jason Garcia (aka Asonic Garcia).
The sophomore installment in the Smart Bomb series picks up right where the debut left off, albeit with a bigger lineup. The main headliner is Afrikan Sciences (check out "Wildflower in Dub>"), a West Coast beatsmith aligned with the long-running Deepblak experimental house label. His music pushes the boundaries of electronic dance by using odd rhythms and jazz-minded melodies. The combination inspired us to list Means and Ways, his 2011 debut, as one of our top 10 electronic albums of that year. Joining him on the upstairs stage is E Da Boss (listen to "Do it Anyways") and Secret Sidewalk itself, with DJ support from San Francisco party rockers Mr. Muddbird and DJ Centipede. Meanwhile, the downstairs room will be hit with underground hip-hop performed live on samplers and gear by local producers aligned with New York's cassette-oriented Dirty Tapes label.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Smart Bomb event without extra-musical elements. That means live painting by local artists Safetyfirst, NOA-, and Kelly Porter, as well as food from a vendor named "WTF San Francisco" (which, we'll admit, we first thought was a jab at our city's foodie culture). And then there's that most important part: it's all free. From where we're standing, that makes Oakland look pretty appealing indeed.
Thursday, May 23. 6 p.m. $10-$12
Who says chemistry is the only link between science and hard partying? Every Thursday, the California Academy of Sciences transforms itself into a makeshift discotheque, with DJs pulled from around the city. This week's iteration has the museum reverting to the 1970s, with a groovy planetarium feature on "Astronomy of the 1970s" matched by a soundtrack of era-specific disco. Go Bang! (check out its Soundcloud for an archive of live mixes) takes over the African Hall for a silent dance party among the dioramas, while the debaucherous La French SF Champagne Disco lends some funk to the main room.
Friday, May 24, 9 p.m. $20-$25
While terrestrial radio may be declining in the United States, Britain still holds the medium dear. One of UK radio's most established stars is Gilles Peterson (listen to this mix), a DJ and broadcaster who for the past 30 years has made a career of crossing the globe to connect the dots between jazz-minded and forward-thinking music of all stripes. That means his sets include such disparate but oddly related sounds as bass-rumbling UK dubstep, uptempo '70s jazz-funk, and rhythmically complex Cuban salsas. The door fee this Friday also gains you admittance to Public Works' OddJob Loft for an impromptu '80s R&B party courtesy of Sweaterfunk.
Saturday, May 25. 9 p.m. $18-$22
Lights Down Low has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the closet-sized basement of 222 Hyde. Now one of the most respected party crews in San Francisco, the party will celebrate its seventh birthday with an epic, house-oriented bash that combines old-school street-cred with plenty of name-brand appeal. Headlining the whole thing is Azari & III (listen to "Hungry for the Power"), the Toronto production duo whose releases have done a lot to revive popular interest in the gritty vocal sound of '80s Chicago house. Additional muscle comes from tech house wizard (and co-founder of it-label Hot Creations) Lee Foss, plus original New York hard-house pioneer Todd Terry (aka the man behind such classics as Royal House's "Can You Party?").
Sunday, May 26. 9 p.m. $15-$20
It's easy for just about anyone with a laptop to create decent electronic dance music. But while these new tools are powerful, they often lack the creative unpredictability associated with the hardware of yesteryear. This discrepancy has caused many contemporary producers to look to the past for new production ideas. Enter Magic Mountain High, a European supergroup comprised of David Moufang (aka Move D) and Gal Aner and Jordan Czamanski (who together make up Juju & Jordash). Their psychedelic take on house has earned them a global following solely on the strength of one official release and a handful of highly traded live recordings. Now they're headed to Monarch to perform live, along with DJ sets from Move D and local deep-house player Dave Aju. This one will make you thankful Monday's a holiday.