Icee Hot Four-Year Anniversary with Levon Vincent, Joey Anderson, and Floating Points
Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014
There are many different kinds of parties in San Francisco, but few match the eclecticism of Icee Hot. The event has grown from its bass-heavy beginnings in the basement of 222 Hyde to encompass a range of music whose only boundary seems to be good taste. Last Saturday marked the passing of its fourth anniversary, and, true to form, organizers celebrated by assembling one of its most ambitious and all-encompassing line-ups to date, utilizing both rooms at Public Works for maximum effect. Shortly before arriving, I received a barrage of texts, "Upstairs is awesome. Floating Points just started. Packed. Jazzy piano house. This guy is playing jazz ... now he's playing northern soul 7-inches."
And he was. We were greeted by a highly unusual but excellent set from Floating Points, a London DJ and producer known for his jazz-leaning house constructions. The room was moving and fully primed for peak-time by a warm-up set from Honey Soundsystem's Jackie House and Jason Kendig. Floating Points worked carefully on stage, pulling records and playing them on his own E&S DJR 400 rotary mixer. This might seem an inconsequential detail, but the E&S is a rare bird in the field; it's a boutique-made portable version of the high-fidelity Urei and Bozak rotary mixers from the 1970s. And, like that which it strives to emulate, it has a noticeably positive effect on sound quality, with a round punch in the mid-range that's distinct to this type of gear. "I think this is the best I've ever heard it sound in here," said a friend who came along. Floating Points used this to its full advantage, playing a coherent set that included jazzy cuts like Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" and Funk Fusion Band's "Can You Feel It" as well as house classics like Stacey Pullen and Chez Damier's "Forever Monna." He was up there for three hours, so we kept heading back to take a break from the main dancefloor. It stayed pretty busy all night.
Downstairs the scene was more intimate than usual, with the main dancefloor decorated on all four corners by banners hung from the rafters, making the room seem smaller and more focused. Multicolored dots reflected off the mirror ball, touching dancers' heads as they navigated through the aquatic expanse of Joey Anderson's selections. He stood stoically in the booth and tapped into a current that's heard in many of his productions -- he played deep, instrumental house tracks that enveloped the room like a blanket. (I wish I could share some of these with you, but my trainspotting abilities were mostly useless, and I've never been one to Shazam anything at the club.) "I don't know, it's just not popping off, I kind of want something more," said a DJ friend as we all listened. But I personally felt like this was the point. Anderson's style is rooted in subtlety and a kind of surreal gentleness that's at odds with current main room club tastes, which tend towards obvious progressions and a harder edge. Furthermore, his playing acted as a warm-up for the sharp aggression of what would follow later.
The crowd was relaxed -- though the party spanned both rooms, the whole thing felt familial and inclusive. It was, however, a little sparse, which was hard to figure out, given the international stature of the artists on offer. The downstairs dancefloor stayed fairly light, with Floating Points' room upstairs keeping most of the action. Then, sometime after 1 a.m., the balance shifted; this was a result of the arrival of Levon Vincent. He began his set by riffing off the atmospheric environment created by Anderson, with a string of dubby techno records in the vein of Basic Channel. Then he switched gears, playing his own "Together Forever," filling the room with stomping blasts of mechanical percussion that crunched out of the speakers. Yet it was not your usual techno set: Vincent took risks, and augmented his drive with flecks of color: At one point, he played a Jello Biafra spoken word monologue, later he dropped out of techno entirely to let the room breathe to some Afro-beat music in the vein of Fela Kuti and the Africa '70. It was a fantastic set that left me nearly delirious at the end. We gathered our things, spent some time talking to people in the smoking section outside, and then found a cab home