Folk wisdom dictates that San Francisco's real summer month is September, which might help to explain why this weekend is looking so lively. More so than usual, the city's clubs and parties are kicking into high gear, with sets courtesy of some seriously heavyweight events in both mainstream EDM and underground techno. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13. $20-$25
"Quality." That's the adjective that local party outfit As You Like It uses as its sign-off and tagline. It's an appropriate choice, since the party has done a lot to elevate San Francisco's nightlife over the past three years, with sets and performances by some of the biggest underground artists in the world. This Friday the crew marks its latest anniversary with the biggest blowout yet, supplying three must-see headliners from the upper echelons of techno, house, and disco.
The main draw comes in the form of a rare DJ set by Jeff Mills, one of the most respected techno artists in the world. In fact, techno as it exists today is largely due to his work in the mid-'90s, when he inspired millions with aggressively futuristic productions and unbelievably precise three-turntable DJ sets. He hasn't slowed down much, still managing to release about an album a year -- his latest is Where Light Ends, a concept LP inspired by the journey of the space shuttle Endeavour. More importantly, his DJ sets are still just as amazing, now going beyond the restrictions of vinyl turntables to incorporate CD players and a live TR-909 drum machine (the most ubiquitous rhythm box in '90s house and techno). You really need to watch this video of him recording his "Purpose Maker" mix to get the hang of why he's such a revered figure in dance music.
The second headliner is German house music prodigy Kassem Mosse (aka Gunnar Wendel). Unlike Mills, he won't be DJing, but instead performing live with hardware. The setup suits him fine, as he composes with a collection of expensive outboard gear: old drum machines, clunky sequencers, classic synthesizers, weird effects, and other obscure instruments. With these pieces, he generates a stripped-down sound that applies the textural qualities and odd patterns of techno to the warm palette and soulful feeling of house. There are few producers in the same league, which is why he releases most of his material on experimental yet dancefloor-focused labels like Workshop, Laid, and Mikrodisko. Listen to his recent Boiler Room mix.
Balancing out the stone-faced seriousness of the aforementioned artists is veteran disco spinner Daniel Wang, who'll be performing in Public Works' OddJob Loft. His productions, which stretch back to the early '90s, tread between madcap disco-house workouts (such as his absolutely wild 1993 dancefloor opus "Like Some Dream I Can't Stop Dreaming (Break Mix)") and more meditative late-night records that incorporate his considerable Theremin skills. Having seen Wang at Honey Soundsystem earlier this year, we can say that he's one of the most fun DJs we've heard in a long time. Add him to what's already one of the most anticipated parties of the year, and you're as close as you can get to a guaranteed good night out in San Francisco.
9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13. $10-$20
Though the U.K. has always been a hotbed for electronic dance music, it hasn't been the best place for house. That's changed in the past two years, as the genre's four-to-the-floor rhythm has become a British club staple. Case in point is London duo Dusky, who've been delighting dancefloors with slick cuts like their recently released late-night banger, "Nobody Else."
7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. $185
Massive spectacle is the order of the day this weekend, when international EDM festival promoters Sensation convert Oracle Arena into a tranced-out aquarium. Well, maybe not an aquarium exactly, but the promoters have promised an intense water theme with "raised canals and numerous fountains" to complement the earwax-melting bombast of DJs Mr. White and Nic Fanciulli. Check out the party's extremely over-the-top promo video.
9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. $10-$15;
Isis might be a new party in San Francisco, but it's fast becoming a local favorite for its clever disco-leaning bookings and open-minded "polysexual" atmosphere. This month it welcomes Tornado Wallace, an Australian spinner of deep and cosmic sounds whose hypnotic cut "Thinking Allowed" is easily one of the best late-night tracks released this year.
9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15. $10
It's not just the U.K. that's seeing a resurgence of house music. Recent years have seen a similar revival in America, particularly New York. Witness young producer Anthony Naples, whose records -- such as "Mad Disrespect"-- recall the sample-based golden years of mid-'90s labels like Strictly Rhythm, but with a slowed-down contemporary European twist.