Go Bang! with Michael Serafini // Play: Locals Edition featuring Jason Kendig and Jackie House
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2013
The "D-word." For a long time, disco was a taboo subject. As a popular phenomenon, it's still used as a touchstone for the musical (and general) excess of the 1970s. But at a deeper level, the genre at the root of modern dance music carries some somber baggage: it was the soundtrack to a free and exuberant decade in gay American life that was cut tragically short by the ravages of AIDS. San Francisco was hit particularly hard, which is partly why the sound fell out of favor in the late '80s and '90s: The memories and wounds were just too fresh. It was easier to forget and go underground than try to relive any aspects of that moment. Yet all things move in cycles, and for the past few years disco has enjoyed a renewed presence in San Francisco. Last Saturday I began my night at Go Bang!, a party that peddles the real thing -- there were no polyester pants, light-up dance floors, or John Travolta-inspired finger-pointers.
It'd been a while since I'd last been to Go Bang! Too long, in fact. The last time I checked in with the party, it was located at the now-shuttered Deco Lounge in the Tenderloin. Back then it had a funky, underground vibe and a devoted crowd that might best be described as familial. Nowadays, it's switched venues to The Stud, and I can't help but think it's been a positive change. As great a venue as the Deco Lounge was, the new digs have allowed the party to become what it was always intended to be. Or, at least, that's how it seemed while I stood at the bar shooting the shit with some friends.
While we talked, Jeremy Rosebrook DJed from a booth set up on the stage. He mixed his records using a Rane rotary mixer, blending a careful mixture that was equal parts bottom-heavy funk (War's "Good, Good Feeling") and diva-ish wailing (Diana Ross' "The Boss"). A lesser known fact about club sound is that rotary mixers, those large box-like, knob-covered devices from the '70s and '80s, add quite a bit of sonic punch compared to more modern designs (like, say, the current club-standard, line-fader Pioneer DJM 800). I'm not the right person to explain why this is, but let's just say they have a certain warm growl that can improve even the most modest of systems. This was certainly true on Saturday, as the Stud sounded better than I've ever heard it before, with each track booming out with a solid thump that caused the club's wooden interior to vibrate.
As I mentioned, there were no polyester pants or kitschy disco wear (well, beyond a girl in full-on Faye Dunaway '70s disco dress). Instead, the dancefloor was a mix of energetic and animated men, mostly wearing T-shirts (some sporting ones that bore the party's slogan, "Go Bang! Atomic Dancefloor Disco Action"). They danced beneath the club's large collection of mirror balls, with speckles of light flickering down as the lights shot off in time with the music. "This is awesome! Why haven't I been here before?" said a friend who came with me.
"I didn't really expect this, but I like where he's going," said a DJ in reference to the music. Rosebrook had been replaced by Michael Serafini, the Chicago spinner who owns that city's Gramaphone record store. His direction was markedly different, moving from the intense disco of Phreek's "I'm a Big Freak (R U 1 2)" into a clamor of electronic, '80s-style percussion with a string of synthesized disco tracks like Stopp's "I'm Hungry" and Harry Thumann's "Underwater." Later, he would dip into loopy Chicago-style disco house, with tracky edits that stretched blips of piano riffs across careening stretches of minimalistic rhythm.
Then it was 2 a.m., and we were over at the Endup, dancing in freeze-frame between the bursts of its room-length strobe array. I was reminded of a Yelp review of the place, "Ohh, the endup, where everyone hits their rock bottom ... but has a blast getting there." We were headed toward the end of the night in the capable hands of Honey Soundsystem DJs Jason Kendig and Jackie House. The stabbing chords of Evil Fred's "Get On" ricocheted from the speakers, and the house lights turned on momentarily, temporarily illuminating the smiles throughout the room before plunging back into seedy darkness. It was the kind of set that pulls you in and doesn't let you go, which, of course, can be dangerous at a place like the End Up, where things only end when you make conscious decision to leave. Fortunately for us, they finished at 4 a.m., which meant we didn't have to stick around see the sun rise from the courtyard.