Some thoughts, predictions, and musings on the scene in 2007

by Syd Gris

It’s typical to read musings from pundits and wanna be experts in a given genre of pop culture in the new year. Whether it be sports, politics, art, or science, it’s a fun mental masturbatory exercise to wax analysis on things. So, this little Syd blog is my version of that. Off the cuff and perhaps full of shit, let’s discuss where we are and perhaps, where we’re going…. **Disclaimer** This is just one guy’s late night opinion, not intended to be any scale of grand statement, state of the scene address, etc. It’s supposed to be light hearted and in fun. Please dont’ take any of this too seriously, I don’t.**
As a long time student of the scene as dancer, promoter and dj I have windows into some worlds and of course am ignorant of others. I would dare to say I walk in more worlds than many of my peers who are a bit more tied to genre or community. With that in mind, let’s talk bidness.
Of course, the SF EDM (electronic dance music) scene is among the strongest in the world. No doubt. I dare to hope 2007 might be a year of positive transition. After the hey day of the late 90’s crashed with the dot com bust and ecstasy frenzy and the Rave Act, things didn’t look so hot. There was a great retraction, trance wasn’t cool anymore, the underground crept back into greater relevance as the clubs sucked, and we adjusted. Few parties, or even venues still survive from those days. Wicked and Come Unity are of course quiet. Spundae has carried on despite taking some lumps by staying at 1015 for too long. But through tenacity and wisdom have positioned themselves in the world of big name dj’s quite well by moving to the only consistent venue left for the big boys with any credibility – Ruby Skye. With their Thursday night in Vegas, Friday night option in SF, and Saturdays in LA (now at former rival Avalon), they’ll be just fine. Release, another former heavy weight party, (Martel & Nabiel’s) only do parties when their dwindled pool of dj talent comes around and they can stick their name on it. They seem fine focusing on their restaurants and perhaps a new lounge in the future…
Has breaks peaked?
I would dare say yes. Breaks is now well established and will never go away, anymore than that (to me) boring deep house you hear played a lot at certain SF house music parties. But, the breaks frenzy has peaked. Many in the underground scene have already moved on to new horizons such as glitch and dubstep, which for me range from ‘I don’t really care for it’ to worse. I have edited my more loose lipped commentary so as not to ruffle feathers of those who don’t know me well enough to know I’m just talking shit and mean no harm! But, as always, I respect new things, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Look for electro to continue to play a large part of the sound vocabuarly of breaks, house and progressive for the coming year, then it will need to move on to something else. Breaks promoters who don’t diversify will eventually fade from relevance as their base shrinks. Or maybe not…
Should we put a fork in 1015 yet?
No, not even close, at least not anymore than many people already have written it off and will never step foot back in there. 1015 now is mostly ‘in house’, meaning they dont’ work with as many promoters as they used to. They pulled the coup of recent memory by getting Adam Ohana to move Get Freaky, at that point the gold standard of an underground ‘cool’ crowd there to give it more street cred. It worked, if only for those parties. The seasoned and smart Pete, who just sold Mighty to the owners of Wish bar, went over there (God knows why, but we wish him luck!) to manage it so look for more changes to try to make it ‘cool’ again. Ira (the owner) invested big money all year long to make it look nicer, and it does. But, number one, it’s still 1015 to people no matter how many face lifts and tummy tucks you give it, and number 2, as long as their security looks, acts and feels the same (or feels you up the same) in the front, it will be hard to change people’s perspective. But really, they are crowded on Saturday nights with local dj’s playing trance in the main, hip hop in the front, and commercial house upstairs as it is. They take the door and the bar and the building is long paid for so they’re making a grip, so why should they care what us underground snobs think anyway? 1015 also has the power of perseverance, you have to respect Ira for his tenacity to keep the doors open and keep trying to stay in the game. Eventually those of us with less than ideal notions of 1015 will age out and others without those associations, and consequent baggage, will go because it’s still one of 2-3 big clubs in the city. Will they get PVD back for so many dates in ’07?
What’s next for Get Freaky?
I only ask because this party was the flagship of all burning flavored breaks parties. It made certain breaks acts huge in SF and especially with the brave move to 1015, exposed a wider audience to that music and vibe. No party can sustain a high level of hype and of course that includes this pillar in the scene. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a premiere and great party any dj (including me) is stoked to play at. But, some of those big names (such as Adam Freeland) have eroded their hype and Ohana’s daring ventures into alternative music genres (glitch, live / electronic fusion, avant garde hip hop), though very admirable, doesn’t connect and sustain for some people. He still has the lock on some awesome talent (such as their upcoming Stanton Warroirs show) and almost more importantly, he has Lorin. A change of venue will recharge this party. Either way we wish him loads of luck.
Will anyone rival Ruby Skye for the mainstream / big name DJ dominance?
No. Temple was supposed to but they have had ridiculous permit problems with the city. Some of it was brought on by bad choices and bad luck on their part, some of it was the curse of former owner Dr. Winky, and some of it was ludicrous Cal Trans crap that they had no control over. They were suppsed to be open in May, then July, then September of last year. We were supposed to do our LoveFest after party then had to scramble to the way less than ideal SOMArts. Then they finally got smart and stopped telling people when they would open. March ’07 may finally be pay day. After all the drama, it will be interesting to see how they program their parties and choose promoters. Ruby is unrivaled in what they invest in their production and their talent. Their crowd is of course a mixed bag. You get the alcohol laced idiots on many nights. On some of the big name trance nights though, I’ve found the crowd to be very positive and excited and that’s fun energy to be aorund. I admit I am advantaged by being tall, a guy, and able to chill out on the stage when I want, which I’m sure makes a big difference for my experience there. Their staff are generally on point, it is well run, a tight ship, and their owner is smart. With the new Slide lounge / speak easy vibe opening underneath it, they will only have more money to play with….
Is Mighty still the preferred venue of the underground?
Of course, an unequivocal yes. I keep thinking people will get sick of Mighty, but they don’t. Perhaps it’s the easy parking, the laid back vibe, the ultra chill door men (Rick rules), and the community supporting precedence of Jeff and Pete (who as mentioned just sold it). As a promoter there are few other choices for a mid to large sized party. Mezzanine has put their dollar on live acts, many of which they can promote ‘in house’ so they get the door and bar, and according to the manager the last time I tried to book a party there, they drink earlier and more often than us damn ravers. Thus, obviously, they make more money and don’t really need us.
Are we tired of Shine yet?
No way, not as far as I can tell. When it first opened it was like, Oh my God another party at Shine! Things evened out and from where I sit things seem stable. For our community, Shine is the mini version of Mighty. You like the owners (Deep Enders) and you know they know what’s up so you keep coming back. There’s lots of cross over of crowds with the monthlies, but everyone still seems to do OK, so far. I expect another good year for Shine, will it last into 2008 without seriously shaking up the format will remain to be seen. We love them regardless.
What promoter is going to kick ass in ’07?
That would be Seismic. Murphstar’s investment in the Fingerlickin’ (UK based breaks label) will pay big dividends in 2007 with major acts coming through. (I won’t spoil it Brad). He’s got the LoveFest after party and NYE dates at Mighty, 2 major party dates for SF promoters, a winning formula, and great talent to draw from. Plus, with them being in bed with the always respected Cowboys (figuratively speaking only, of course), it adds more bang for the buck in the Mighty Breaks monthly and special events. Speaking of….
Will trance make a come back in SF outside Ruby Skye and 1015?
No, despite Syd’s efforts to bring a respectable progressive trance sound to the underground. I don’t see it happening.
Will any up and coming promoters throwing parties for the Burner / underground scene make in roads into the trifecta of dominance from Opel, Seismic, and Get Freaky?
Unlikely. If it’s anyone it’s Evil Breaks. Aaron Jae and Bam are crazy and amibitious enough to bring in new quality talent you haven’t heard of on a week day in a shitty venue and try to make it work. Kudos to that. It’s HARD to grow your audience and develop a loyal talent pool while retaining the respect of the finicky and fickle SF underground. I hope the Evil boys stay at it, Aaron doesn’t stay too busy with the Cowboys, and they continue to reach out to the youngin’s and not just breaks line ups, that’s their best chance to continue to rise. Of note as far as underground promoters go, Laird had a lot of momentum with Get Yer Freak On, but we think Klara doesn’t let him out much, so we’ll have to settle for his occassional underground at Xeno where I’m still waiting for him to book me after all these years of giving him gigs. That’s a joke Laird!
What’s one possible template for a direction in future party possibilities that has major promise?
Definitely Robbie with the Fringe and Sunset Promotions, and what they are doing with their parties. They are very unique in the SF party scape, for their inclusion and at times emphasis on live music, but still working in DJ’s, dance culture, and promoting to the SF underground. I can see this going in a number of directions if we had the right venue for it. (Like alternative bands and dj’s at the same party, like a micro Coachella.)
Does Burning Man still matter to the SF dance music scene?
You betcha’ it does. But, for obvious reasons mostly only to Burners. I say mostly because we all know Lorin is the #1 voted dj in the Nitevibe poll (which does draw A LOT from a more commercial mainstream crowd) because of his playa influenced fame. It becomes a bit more symbiotic when the non burners see the largely burner dj’s getting all this play. They may just see what the fuss is about and be brought into the fold…
Are people doing too much cocaine?
Yes. Chill the fuck out. It’s ok to be tired and go home.
Are people having enough sex?
No. The people left at the after party doing too much blow at someone’s house are often the ones who couldn’t get laid that night.
Is vinyl dead?
It’s on life support, but not yet. I don’t know how the retail record stores will stay open when people can buy tracks for 2 bucks on Beatport without leavig their house.
Will Burning Man central wake up to the fact they should be doing more to support the major sound camps?
Doubtful, but I intend to find out.
Is Opel going up, down, or plateued?
Opel has peaked too. And that’s OK. As I get busy with a real full time job for the first time in a while, I keep saying I will have to slow down. And yet, every month, there is something fun to do. Look for us to stay with special events that we know are solid and I won’t have to work super hard to get people to come to. If I wasn’t also doing Opulent Temple at BM and sitting on the Board of Directors for Lovefest, there would be more time for Opel. But alas, that is not the case. So I guess you can say we’ll probably stay at the level we did in ’06, with perhaps slightly less….
Where is the EDM world going?
It’s continuing to shrink. Young kids coming up rarely have any chance to hear electronic dance music in the channels of music they are exposed to through radio and suck my dick MTV, let alone actually attend a ‘rave.’ How is anyone ever supposed to be exposed to the scene if they never hear the music or go to that party that inspires them to re-create their world? We have it here in the SF party land, and of course Burning Man, but most of the country does not. Should we care? I do. Our culture has something to offer mainstram society that it needs for evolution to take place. Spread the gosphel of dance music my brother and sisters! Dance music in Ameria is hardly relevant outside of the clubs and a few big festivals. That’s part of the reason you should not hate on the big name commerically accessible trance dj’s such as Oakenfold and Tiesto. We need them to bring fresh faces and inspiration into the scene, other wise parties with underground EDM will be a fucking geriatric scene.
What can we look to for hope?
San Francisco LoveFest (formerly Loveparade). Everything that is best in the scene and the city is show cased. This event is poised to grow into something big and beautiful. Let it come.
Other schwag…
Thank God for Jondi & Spesh’s Qool party. Nuff said there. And what Scott Carrelli has done with Satellite in terms of his ability to get world class talent in a dinky club on a Wednesday night is nothing short of amazing.
Where is the house music underground? Besides Green Gorilla, a fairly insular promoter if there ever was one, I don’t see much happening. We certainly need more venue options. We burned through the Gingerbread and Custer and Rankin. Will something take it’s place? We sure hope so.
Look for a major of a monolith of a new venue to come into play for only very select promoters with access and realtionships with the very choosey Porn Palace….
Where are the up and coming DJ’s? There’s a seeming lack of (or at least less of) hungry new talent bugging me for bookings and willing to bust ass to make it happen. It speaks to the shrinking scene and lack of new blood to replace those of us who will start to have kids and slow down.
I realize there’s plenty of great underground crews /parties and sounds out there I didn’t talk about such as CruX, funkycozy, dirtybird, fork, false profit, downlow, word of mouth, nexxus, subscience, raindance. (Thanks Kevin and Cat for highlighting this). They’re all doing cool things, just can’t talk about everything!
Keeping a sense of humor is key, including while you read this column….
Most importantly, we need to be ready to mobilize for positive social action. The world needs us, and we have to be ready and able to act. But you already knew that….