Minimal Wave Fêtê // An Underground
The Lab // An Underground
Saturday, July 27, 2013
It was midnight, and the Lab's's white walls flickered with the appearance of a television tuned to a William Gibson reference. The party was the first portion of a mini-festival called the Minimal Wave Fêtê, which saw New York label Minimal Wave take over the Mission hotspot for two days of DJs, live bands, and dark '80s madness.
I was in the middle of the crowd, talking with some friends. All around were people dressed in head-to-toe black, dancing with a practiced disinterested nonchalance. Veronica Vasicka, the labelhead of Minimal Wave, was on deck at the front of the room, DJing a highbrow set of dark industrial dance cuts interspersed with the occasional techno banger.
She played on her laptop, using a MIDI controller to fade seamlessly between tracks. Liaisons Dangereuses "Los Ninos Del Parque" came on the soundsystem, its spiky funk bassline and militantly barked vocals somehow perfectly capturing the spirit of her narrative in one track. A girl in a beret and white jumpsuit did large, leaping maneuvers in front of a speaker, interpreting the rhythm almost perfectly. I turned around and re-oriented myself, taking a sip of my drink to talk with a friend who was telling me why he was getting out of the promotions game.
"Yeah, well, to be a successful promoter it seems like you have to be pretty competitive," I tried to say, before the music cut-out completely. The house lights came on, and a harsh brightness illuminated the large amount of makeup in the room. We all stood there looking dumb while Vasicka, Regis (who apparently played a killer set that night before), and a couple locals scrambled to figure out what had happened. The party began to deflate, with jackets and outerwear quickly disappearing from the floor. It was an odd moment of limbo, the lights kept flickering off, then on, then off. "I heard they're shutting the party down. It's a fucking bummer man, Silent Servant didn't even get to play!" said my friend as he made his way to line spilling out from the door.
The lights flicked back on, but this time they were met with brutally hard techno played at max volume. The speakers were back on, and Vasicka was back at the helm trying to pick up harder than where she left off before. The lights were still on full blast, bathing the room in white. There was a shared sentiment in the air that could loosely be described as a positive: "what the fuck is going on right now?" The lights went black again, the static re-appeared on the walls, and the show went on, albeit minus a good portion of the dancefloor.
What followed was an unusually intimate experience, with Vasicka dropping hard techno tracks for a small but ecstatically appreciative audience. That feeling only intensified when Silent Servant appeared behind the decks and began riffing atop her music with his vinyl records. He took control and built to a wild crescendo by layering snippets of Nitzer Ebb's "Join in the Chant" over one of Vasicka's more drum-heavy cuts. From there he played for a while longer, dipping first into techno and then back into the minimal '80s synth music the night was themed towards. As good as it was (and it was awesome), a half-hour later the room was looking pretty thin, so we decided to meet some friends at an underground across town.
"So what kind of place did you say you were going to?" asked our cab driver as we shot down Market street. "Oh, you know, an underground." We pulled in front of the building, an unassuming and rather grand-looking skyscraper, "You're going to a party in a stock exchange?" The line of people on the sidewalk seemed to suggest the answer was "yes." We waited in line, got in 30 minutes later, and dropped into a large l-shaped room filled with young -- emphasis on young -- hipsters dancing to a jarring soundtrack that mixed hip-hop, trap, tech-house, and some house classics. A projector animated the back wall with aggressive images and slogans courtesy of the Lights Down Low crew.
The highlight of this chapter of the night came at the end, when it was time for Solar's set. He brought the room around, working the superheated atmosphere with breakbeat-laden dance music that built towards a mind-bending moment. It began with Matrixmann's "Protocol" and led into an epic blend of Kraftwerk's "It's More Fun To Compute" and Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker." But then, as earlier, the sound cut out. Only this time, what followed the silence was the sound of a suited man shouting, "TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF! COPS! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!"