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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Last Night: Dam-Funk at Poleng

Posted By on Sun, Dec 6, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Dam Funk
Poleng Lounge
Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009

Better than:
Any other combination of funk, fog, and deep fried breakfast.

It was a little after 10:30 p.m. last night and DJ Pickpocket had her arms full of donuts. It was her birthday party, and the holiday party for her club night with DJ AC, Donuts, and she was a little rushed in placing the signature giveaway from her popular night around the restaurant/nightclub. Poleng had only recently cleared out the last of the diners, and Pickpocket hurried to put paper plates of glazed, sprinkled, and otherwise delicious fried temptations on the mantle of the fireplace for folks to nosh on.

Behind her, the Sweater Funk crew served up sweet treats as well--prime cuts of funk, delivered by a large crew of crate diggers, some of whom were wearing matching Sweater Funk gang jackets (very slick). For grannies like myself who can't seem to make it to the DJ collective's Sunday night weekly at Li Po, it was great to hear them spin on a weekend, although the crowd was a little shy to hit the dance floor in the hours before Dam Funk popped off the night. One snappy dresser (all in black, white shoes) did a solo dance by the DJ booth, but most people were milling around the periphery of the front room, working up the courage to move to some excellent, obscure funk.

The main attraction, however, was in the damp, cramped, back room at Poleng. Dam-Funk came back from Los Angeles (again, one of many visits up north he's taken this year), and the Stones Throw's golden boy is such a popular commodity he had a circle of dudes chanting his name and jumping up and down for a good 20 minutes before he even hit the stage. The vibe in that back cave was pure adrenaline--and a little '90s rave. One reveler sported an old school t-shirt with a bright, lit up pair of sunglasses, and rainbow colored pixels inside the frames that undulated to the beat.


The dude's shirt was soon obscured, though, as was nearly everything else in the room, when Dam-Funk's presence was announced with giant, San Francisco-fog-bank waves of thick metallic smoke from the fog machine. It quickly got funky in every sense of word, as the space got humid, crowded, and a little surreal. When the clouds of smoke parted, you could watch a rotating selection of images on a video screen: shots of the words "pot," and "sex"; footage of a woman exercising; and glazed donuts floating through space.

At home in the bizarro world atmosphere, Dam-Funk gave an animated, awesome performance. Keeping his sunglasses on all night, he worked a laptop and a microphone for his keytar-driven twist on modern funk. The beats and the banter were good and nasty--talk of funk and fucking were often interchangeable, and the crowd was a writhing, impenetrable mass by the stage. Folks ignored the broken glass where drinks had been dropped, or coupled up and stayed close as possible to their partners, oblivious to anything the deep, thick grooves Dam-Funk was driving through the speakers.

The intimacy of the show being held at Poleng worked as a double edged sword. Dam-Funk really fed off the crowd, which tried to surround him on stage before being (repeatedly) shooed away by the bouncers. And the backroom has a strong speakeasy vibe, which adds to the fun. It got a little frustrating not being able to dance without getting slammed into by someone else equally enjoying the beat, though, and the fog got so oppressive if felt like breathing in metal.

But hey, in the end, it was definitely the best holiday party--and dance party--I've been to in a long time. And Dam-Funk's spaced-out, space-age beats are only gonna propel him into bigger venues as he keeps coming back to the Bay. Catching him while his fans--and crowded rooms--are at a peak seems like a smart way to stay truly funky.

By the way: The pairing of Donuts, Sweater Funk, and Dam-Funk should be required from here on out. The music and crowd for all three went together like fried dough and sugar glaze.

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Ian S. Port


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