This week's party preview has something of a bittersweet edge to it. On the positive side, it's almost the weekend, which means its time to start thinking about where to go and what to do. On the negative side, however, this will unfortunately be my last party preview column for SF Weekly. Thanks for reading everybody, I hope you've enjoyed it, and please continue to go out and have fun in this fantastic, strange city. Read on -- your weekend awaits.
9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19. $10-$20
At what point does sampling go too far? This question has so far defined the career of Berlin house producer Oliver $ (Oliver Siebert). In 2011, after a decade spent below the radar producing a minimalist strain of house, he rocketed to success on the strength of an anthemic, crowd-pleasing single called "Doin' Ya Thang." In the process, Siebert briefly became one of the most controversial figures in underground dance music. "Doin' Ya Thang" is a monotonous drum loop of a track embellished solely by Siebert's extended sampling of a monologue that Detroit house icon Moodymann (aka Kenny Dixon Jr.) delivered during a then-recent DJ set.
Dancefloors loved it, and it's not hard to understand why. "Doin' Ya Thang" is a seven-minute invocation of one of dance music's most entertaining performers. It gives DJs the ability to conjure and convey the unusual spectacle of Dixon's stage persona, which evokes a certain, mythologized strain of black American cool: He drawls stories about "The D" while his music plays, he pours glasses of Hennessy for the crowd, and he plays his sets surrounded by a group of girls he brings from Detroit. "Doin' Ya Thang" was a hit because it captured this unique DJ persona, ripped it off wholesale, and pushed it out into the world for convenient use. Siebert did this without Dixon's permission, and he did it on Play It Down, a notable underground dance music label. One immediate repercussion was a flurry of dubious bootlegs -- Dixon himself is said to have played the record in his sets. Critics and armchair commentators, however, were not pleased by Siebert's track, and for good reason: "Doin' Ya Thang" is lazy, opportunistic, and relies entirely on the strength of its associations.
And yet, there's no denying that it works on a dancefloor. House music is a self-referential genre that has always been based on creative sampling and interpolation -- making something new out of something else. In the past, these samples usually came from records, as is the case with Dixon's entire discography. But with the proliferation of digital media, extending that reach into other new territories, however strange, ought to be encouraged. Siebert's latest release, the jazzy and slow-burning "Pushing On," isn't quite as daring or brazen as "Doin' Ya Thang," but it hits just as hard on the dancefloor. Expect him to go in that direction when he headlines Monarch this Saturday.
9 p.m. Thursday, July 17. $8
Dark, '80s-influenced electronic dance music is back in a big way, and a lot of that is due to the efforts of local label Dark Entries. Originally a reissue imprint dedicated to all things gothic, industrial, and obscure, it's since cultivated a pool of contemporary local artists and outfits that keep the spirit of those bleak days alive. This party kicks off the label's fifth anniversary tour with performances by Inhalt, Bezier, and RedRedRed.
10 p.m. Friday, July 18. $10-$20
New York, Detroit, Chicago, and ... New Jersey? Odd as it may seem, the Garden State has long been a center for American house music. A big part of that is due to the influence of DJ Tony Humphries, a New Yorker who held a residency in the '80s at Newark's Zanzibar nightclub. There (and in the years since), he's developed a sound that's lush, gospel-indebted, and ridiculously soulful.
9 p.m. Friday, July 18. $12-$20
House and techno collide in the music of Josh Wink. Though that's been true since his chart-topping work in the mid '90s (like "Higher States of Consciousness"), it's been borne out more recently via the releases on his Ovum label, which touch on the deeper, more polished end of contemporary tech-house.
10 p.m. Saturday, July 18. $10-$15
In the late '90s and early '00s, disco was reborn in New York City. Justin Vandervolgen was there at the beginning of this movement and has stayed with it since. A one-time member of dance punk outfits !!! and Out Hud, he now specializes in looped-up disco edits and trippy house in both his productions and DJ sets. Fair warning: I'm DJing this party, so drop by if you want to say goodbye (or complain one last time) before I leave the Bay Area for good.