This weekend heralds the arrival of one of San Francisco's most respected outdoor celebrations, the Folsom Street Fair. For the next few days, SOMA will be partially transformed to make way for a coalition of BDSM advocates, leathermen, and various other practitioners of kinky sexuality. As you can imagine, there are a metric ton of parties catering to the fair -- but there's plenty going on outside of its gravitational pull as well. For this week's Top Five Parties, we selected four alternatives, and highlighted what looks to be the best Folsom-related event, should you be brave enough to give it a shot. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 $20-$30
He might have one of the campiest DJ names in dance music, but Speedy J, aka Jochem Paap, is no joke. Based in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, he was an integral figure in the European response to the then-new sound of Detroit techno. But while Paap's discography as a producer is impressive, he's better known for amazing live performances as a DJ -- thus the name "Speedy J." First a vinyl spinner, then a prolific hardware jockey (he used the same Yamaha samplers as local producers Ghosts on Tape and Bobby Browser), Paap has since embraced the potential of digital performance to go far beyond the expectations of your usual techno dancefloor, releasing a steady barrage of stripped-down, high-tech hypnotism. Listen to this fairly recent mix he recorded for CLR's podcast series.
For Paap, performance is a matter of improvisation. Even when he was a vinyl spinner in the early '90s, he rarely played his records from start to finish, instead preferring to work like a turntablist, using short snippets of each to build something larger. That mentality led to his current setup, which is focused around Native Instruments' Traktor, a digital DJing program that he uses to cut up and layer his minimal techno across four virtual turntables (though in the physical world there are usually only two). "When Traktor came out, it came with all these other possibilities which allow you to treat music as raw material instead of as finished," Paap tells SF Weekly.
One of those possibilities is easy routing between Traktor and other software programs, such as the Ableton Live music production suite and Native Instruments' Maschine drum sampler. Using these he can tweak his sets even more, rinsing his skeletal rhythm tracks in audio effects like delay and reverb while also adding booming hits of on-the-fly percussion. Naturally, so much improvisation can lead to some interesting and often purposefully unexpected places. "I don't like playing robot-style, pre-planned or anything," he says. "I'm not scared of creating moments that push me to come up with solutions aesthetically. I usually find myself in the best moment when I have to solve a problem that I got myself into."
Considering the mutability of his sets, Paap has long been a fan favorite -- and one of his solo sets usually warrants headliner status. But this week, he's headlining alongside a near festival-size roster of spinners pulled from the world of house and techno (notably German techno producer Henrik Schwarz, mysterious disco editors Tiger & Woods, L.A. boogie maestro Woolfy, and U.K. bass futurist Midland) for As You Like It, Sunset, and Public Works' all-day, all-night Indian Summer Block Party.
9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. $5-$10
It's been an especially good year for techno in San Francisco, and that's partly due to the efforts of local promo outfit Hidden Measure. This month the party is back at F8 with a guest set by Splatter. He's a Berlin-based spinner whose music is stripped-down and raw -- suggestive of long nights spent in the bunker-like clubs of the German capital. Get an idea of what that means by listening to his Reaktor podcast.
10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. $15-$25
Mellower sounds prevail in the hazy sonic landscapes of Lapalux. He's an up-and-coming London-based producer signed to Brainfeeder, Los Angeles' freaky bass music imprint. Like that label, his sound borders on low-def G-funk, but he stands apart due to his use of haunting vocal samples, as heard on his trippy debut LP, Nostalchic. Check out his BBC Radio One mix.
9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. $15-$20
Please Don't Dance, implores the title of UK-duo Waze & Odyssey's latest EP. That might be a hard command to obey, as the duo's style is a dancefloor-filling blend of '90s diva-house and bassline-led U.K. tech-house (check out "Don't Bring Me Down"). Their aesthetic is also flashy, which makes them a perfect fit for Lights Down Low's fashion-conscious basement parties at Monarch. Listen to their appearance on Boiler Room.
4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. $25
As mentioned, this weekend is the Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco's yearly celebration of all things kink. With the fair also comes Deviants, its spectacular 10-hour official closing party. This year the soundtrack is bangin' techno, with music provided by Boris, one of the original resident DJs at Berlin's infamous Berghain nightclub. Listen to this live-from-the-board mix from Berghain and then be impressed by the party's extremely polished (and funny) promotional video.