Something big is happening this weekend. No, it's not a major holiday or occasion -- it's the arrival of Red Bull Music Academy in San Francisco. Not all of it is open to the public, but we've got you covered with a quick guide to all the accessible fun, with parties featuring Erykah Badu and techno dons Carl Craig and Francois K. If that's not your speed, don't worry, there's plenty more happening. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
A Guide to Your Weekend With Red Bull Music Academy
Red Bull Music Academy (or RBMA, for short) may be the cultural arm of an energy drink company, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming one of dance music's most enthusiastic patrons. Since 1998, its exclusive Music Academy events, held in a different city each year, have acted as vital nodes of collaboration among new artists (who apply online: applications for 2014 are still being accepted), while also providing a voluminous archive of interviews and lectures on a variety of topics related to electronic dance music, all of which is freely available on the Internet. This year's Music Academy is in Tokyo. However, as a preamble, RBMA is making the rounds with a smaller, regional symposium dubbed Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp. This week marks its arrival in San Francisco, and while many events are invite-only, plenty are open to the public.
The first publicly available portion begins on Friday, with the initial RBMA club night at 1015 Folsom (10 p.m., $10-$30). The vibe leans towards all things hip-hop, left-field, and soulful, with a headlining DJ set from iconoclastic songstress Erykah Badu, who'll be performing under her DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown moniker. Listen to her set recorded live at The Fame, a club in Madrid. She'll be joined for the evening by frequent collaborator Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner, a Brainfeeder-signed artist who combines mind-warping abstract beats with serious bass chops he acquired as a session musician.
Early on Saturday, you can get a dose of culture at the Victoria Theater (7:30 p.m., free with RSVP), with a screening of What Difference Does it Make? A Film About Making Music, a documentary that explores what it means to dedicate one's life to music through interviews with past RBMA lecturers like Brian Eno, Richie Hawtin, Philip Glass, and James Murphy. Prior to the film, XLR8R editor Shawn Reynaldo will interview famed New York dance music icon François K. To go, you'll need to RSVP online beforehand.
Later that evening, head to the party at Public Works (9:30 p.m., $15-$20). For the main event of the weekend, RBMA is taking over the Mission venue for a stacked night of madness with two major headliners: Up first is François K., a DJ who's remained on the cutting edge of underground dance music since he got his start as a remixer in the '70s disco years. Expect him to go deep into all strains of contemporary techno, with some possible nods to his past in disco, Jamaican dub, and house as well. Listen to his Boiler Room mix. Peak-time responsibilities, however, fall to Detroit techno legend Carl Craig, a man whose works -- like seminal LPs Landcruising and More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art -- have been a driving force behind the direction of the genre since the early '90s. If that's too much techno, check out the loft for a dose of freewheeling house from Los Angeles DJ Suzanne Kraft, as well as a sprinkling of local support from Ghosts on Tape, Austin Cesear, Avalon Emerson, and Shawn Reynaldo.
10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. $10
Navigating the boundaries between dance music's subgenres can be a difficult proposition. In the case of Lee Foss, naming the exact kind of music he plays is mostly irrelevant (though we'd go with tech-house). He's a giant in the international dance circuit, whose highly polished and often soulful grooves are responsible for more than their fare share of debauched nights in Ibiza superclubs. Listen to his Mixmag mix.
9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. $10-$20
New York's DFA records has had a profound impact on the course of dance music in America. In the early '00s, it was the label that taught hipsters how to dance. It's still a vibrant force, which should be evident at this Thursday party featuring the disco-leaning selections of LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney and a synth pop-indebted live performance by his recently formed, DFA-signed duo Museum of Love. Listen to its single, "Down South."
10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21. $15-$25
Specialization has always been a component of dance music. Many producers and DJs hone their aesthetic so that it can fit neatly into the confines of one genre. Not so with Gilles Peterson, a BBC radio broadcaster whose defining characteristic has always been eclecticism. His DJ sets reflect a lifetime spent pushing sounds as varied as jazz-funk, hip-hop, acid house, and downtempo. Check out his excellent Sounds of Cuba podcast.
10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22. $15-$20
Eight years is a long time in nightlife. So, to celebrate its eighth anniversary in style, Lights Down Low is going big at Monarch, with a headlining set by Kevin Saunderson, one of the three Detroiters responsible for the initial creation and popularization of techno in the mid-'80s. "Big Fun" and "Good Life," his pop hits with Inner City, allowed the nascent sound to break out and reach for the European mainstream -- and the rest is history.