It's almost June and the prospect of another promising Summer in the city is floating in the air. Astute nightlife observers know that these approaching months are usually some of the best the Bay has to offer, with plenty of fun to compensate for San Francisco's notorious lack of hot weather. That's not really an issue this weekend though, as the forecast calls for an unusually warm climate. To help you get in the mood, we've got a little spotlight on one of the city's best outdoor day parties as well as a full dose of the requisite evening options. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
Sunday, June 2, 1 p.m. $15-$20
Remove the sound system and anything is possible: That's the premise behind Silent Frisco. Go to one of its parties and you'll find a rave's worth of people dancing -- without any perceptible sound. The trick is in wireless headphones tuned to receive a shared signal from the DJ booth. This lack of overt volume is a handy workaround that lets the party use spaces that would otherwise be off-limits, such as Ocean Beach, where Silent Frisco will hold its summer-season opener this Sunday.
The concept of a headphone-centric disco experience isn't particularly new -- in fact, according to Silent Frisco founder Robbie Kowal (aka DJ Motion Potion), it swept the European rave scene in the 1990s. He was exposed to it in 2005, when he was chosen to DJ the first American iteration at Tennessee music festival Bonnaroo. Inspired by its potential, he brought the experience to San Francisco, and he's found it an effective solution to the rising problem of noise complaints. "Our tagline is 'Scene: Not Heard' and this describes it perfectly," he says. "Whatever your scene is, from DJs, bands, theater, politics, education; no longer will NIMBYs have the 'nuisance' excuse to shut you down." So far he's been successful, holding parties in tight spots throughout the city. "We can literally do productions anywhere, including the magical outdoor spots that had been relegated to history.... People want to congregate, enjoy the arts, and dance outdoors or in their apartments. We remove this barrier."
Of course, Silent Frisco is quite a bit different than your usual nightclub experience. With everyone wearing headphones, there's a much more direct emphasis placed on the music, which removes many of the usual pressures of club culture. "In a normal club, maybe 25 percent of the club is actively listening," Kowal explains. "The rest are trying to get drunk, laid, or both -- and the music is a side note to some degree. With Silent Frisco, everyone truly listens and everyone hears the same thing, no matter where they are in the space. Thus they really connect and get deep into the music." Another advantage of this is that its guest DJs often feel more comfortable taking chances in front of a captive audience, leading to a freer (albeit less bass-heavy) party soundtrack.
Add it all together, and you have a refreshing, out-of-the-box nightlife option for a cramped city that seems increasingly hostile toward big, loud parties. We have just one question, though. How does Silent Frisco keep so many headphones clean? Kowal has an answer: "Clorox wipes." If that puts you at ease, we recommend you give Silent Frisco a shot.
10 p.m. Thursday, May 30. $5-$10
It may be hard to believe, but dubstep actually began life in South London in the late '90s as a niche offshoot of drum 'n' bass. Back then there was no "drop" -- instead it was all about menacing low frequencies and ganja-addled abstract rhythms. How it turned into electronic rock music is beyond the scope of this blurb, but if you're the kind of person who's looking to learn about the real thing, we suggest you head to Ritual at Mighty. Held every Thursday, it's the central hub of the Bay Area dubstep scene, and it offers a much-needed fix for those addicted to all things bass. Get a feel for how the night might turn out by checking out Swindle's--tomorrow night's headliner--Soundcloud page.
10 p.m. Friday, May 31. $15-$20
Take enough Xanax and inevitably you'll get pretty ripped -- so ripped, in fact, that you might even go so far as to say you're "wavey." That said, we're going to have to recommend you don't get too wavey at "Wavvey," a 1015 Folsom mega-party centered around hip-hop icon DJ Drama (listen to "So Many Girls"). If you're slumped on the floor or passed out in a booth, you probably won't appreciate the diverse list of artists the night has to offer, totally missing the differences between Antwon's golden-era hip-hop (hear "Living Every Dream") and Sinjin Hawke's Barcelonian bass music (check out this recent Boiler Room mix). At least wait to get wavey 'til after Pictureplane turns the club inside out with hyperactive occult rave tracks along the lines of what can be heard on his Thee Negative Slave mixtape.
9 p.m. Saturday, June 1. $20-$25
Dance music and DJ duos: For some reason they go together like peanut butter and jelly. This Saturday you'll have an opportunity to appreciate that synergy at Mezzanine, which is featuring three of the best DJ duos in the indie-electro game. Headlining are Bag Raiders, the Australian twosome who hit it big in 2009 with '80s-indebted club anthem "Shooting Stars." They'll be joined by Los Angeles pair Classixx, whose poppy take on house and disco can be heard in recent single "Holding On." Fittingly, support for the night comes from RAC DJs, a Portland two-piece that specializes in clever remixes of pop songs.
10 p.m. Saturday, June 1. $10-$20
July 12, 1979, was Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago, one of the worst promotional disasters in baseball history. Thousands of irate rock fans filled the stadium and rioted, burning disco records and much of the field in the process. According to popular mythology, that's exactly when and where disco was finally killed. But it didn't actually die; for in the same town, at the same time, a new generation of DJs and producers were rewiring that same four-to--the-floor beat into a genre called "house." Mighty will celebrate that side of the Windy City's heritage with a night of uptempo Chi-town classics played by badass old-school Chicagoans Roy Davis Jr. (check out "Gabrielle") and Jesse Saunders (who is widely said to have recorded the first house record with "On & On").