In the pantheon of things that make us happy, few satisfy like a good three-day weekend. And guess what: it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, which means we're all in for a nice, long bout of satisfaction over the next few days. As usual, here's our guide to all the fun, with options that touch on the city's intense rave scene (a little psy-trance, perhaps?) as well as the usual dose of excellent house and techno. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. $10-$20
The bleeding edge of dance music can be difficult to find, but San Francisco is lucky enough to have Icee Hot. For the past four years, the party and label -- composed of XLR8R editor-in-chief Shawn Reynaldo, local producer Ghosts on Tape, graphic designer Low Limit, and DJ extraordinaire Rollie Fingers -- has been responsible for promoting innumerable new sounds from every corner of the globe, beginning first with U.K. bass music and then branching out to encompass hyper-futuristic techno and nearly every strain of house. This month marks the party's fourth anniversary, and to celebrate, it's going big, with three headliners that cover the full spread of the party's musical leanings. (Full disclosure: I sometimes write for XLR8R.)
Sitting atop the bill is Levon Vincent, an old-school New York house DJ who got his start spinning at famous Giuliani-era clubs like the Limelight, but who became famous after moving to Berlin and embracing its warehouse-sized industrial ethos. Tracks like the screaming crossover hit "Man or Mistress" and the dubbed-out "Invisible Bitch Slap" are both oddly familiar and completely alien in the way they work, with rugged techno rhythms evocative of the grind of rusty engine pistons and sparse, repeating melodic motifs informed by his classically trained background in music theory. As a DJ, he has few equals due to his sharp technique, which uses abrupt, turntablist-style cuts to create on-the-fly percussive patterns that spike across the surface of his track selections.
Along for the ride in the main room is Joey Anderson, one of the leading lights of the modern East Coast deep house movement. He comes from a house dancing background, traveling as far as Japan to pit his otherworldly and highly fluid style in competitions. Anderson's music reflects this, featuring a meandering and aquatic aesthetic that could almost be classified as ambient if it wasn't built around such upfront drum programming. His breakout record came two years ago with the rubber-band bass and piano-driven "Earth Calls" (which became a late-night hit in clubs partly due to its inclusion as the opener on Levon Vincent's Fabric 63 mix, recorded for the London superclub of the same name). The past year has seen him pursue an aggressive direction, with Fall Off Face, his release on Amsterdam techno label Dekmantel, revealing a harder peak-time sound characterized by warbling acid-house bass lines and more frenetic tempos.
If neither of those do it for you, head to the Public Works loft for a change of pace courtesy of an extended set from London selector Floating Points. His performance promises a light, eclectic touch, with selections that move gracefully between the jazz-minded complexity of broken beat and the swallowed-up depth of UK dubstep. Add up all three -- plus the resident DJs and guest sets from Honey Soundsystem's Jackie House and Jason Kendig -- and you have the makings of a party so solid we'd run out of breath if we tried to recommend it more highly. Don't think about it -- just go, you'll thank us later.
9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17. $12-$20
Turns out there's more to Swedish dance music than its prolific EDM output might suggest. One example is Ida Engberg, a DJ who came up in the Stockholm techno underground. Her sets are stripped-down and minimal, blending tech-house dancefloor appeal with a purist vision of "proper" techno. Listen to her Awakenings mix live from ADE.
9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17. $5
The past couple years have seen the rise of a fresh generation of underground producers in San Francisco. One of them is Avalon Emerson, a DJ whose tracks navigate between the ruggedness of European techno and the release of American house. This month marks the debut of "Pressure"/"Quoi!", her first 12-inch single. Expect break-laden madness when she headlines this month's all-residents edition of Play it Cool. (Full disclosure: She's my girlfriend, and we're both involved in the party.)
7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17. $20
A lot of parties claim to capture the spirit of raving, but few do it as well as So Stoked. It's a kandi-coated affair that features a euphoric explosion of high energy sounds and a diverse crowd. This month it features the musical selections of Frequency 8, one of the city's most respected old-school psy-trance rave crews. Listen to this live mix recorded by Christopher Lawrence (he's one of the headliners).
9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19. $5-$10
At this point, it's pretty much a given: Honey Soundsystem is one of the best, if not the best, party crews in San Francisco. However, since it stopped its sweaty and house-leaning Sunday night residency at Holy Cow, getting a full dose has proven difficult. This Sunday that's all about to change, as it takes the party to Beatbox for a wild one-off all-nighter featuring its full roster of residents. Check out the party's voluminous archive of mixes.