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by jonathan zwickel on Aug 18, 2004
As San Francisco's electronic music scene explodes in popularity, it becomes harder and harder to find original, innovative dance music at intimate offbeat venues. The city's trademark soulful and sexy House moved the megaclub masses from coast to coast with a classic sound embedded in the styles and standards it established years ago. Recently Electro-Clash came and went through the city's smaller clubs but its cheeky amalgam of retread 80's rock and dirty beats retreated back to Brooklyn. Some may think that local Electronica, and perhaps even the community it fosters, seem to have lost their momentum; however, in a city as culturally caffeinated as San Francisco there's always a jumpstart waiting to happen.
As usual, visionary music leads the way into fresh, untested directions of cultural synthesis. If you want a deep immersion into the latest local artistic underground, dive into the unpredictable currents of San Francisco's Lowpro Lounge.
In the two years since the Lowpro collective first originated, word-of-mouth promotion coupled with a tight-knit fan base have carried the club night from one unorthodox venue to the next, always bringing mind-twisting innovation and a grin-inducing vibe. From the outer Mission tapas bar Lorca to the now-defunct Blue Light Gallery in SoMa, from the unlicensed basement-style Arena on Oak and Fillmore to the Hunter's Point Winery, the Lowpro unit has sought out offbeat venues to match their truly alternative outlook. Lowpro masterminds Jeff Wareham (J Tonal) and Chris Lacek (DJ James Christopher) are two young Electronic music impresarios intent on mining the rich talent reserves amassed throughout Northern California. By combining exotic forms of dance music and visual art in an all-inclusive setting, these two have developed a loyal following of devotees more akin to a family than fans.
Musically Wareham and Lacek keep things fresh by combining cutting-edge DJ sets with live instrumentation, on-the-fly PA production and dancehall and hip-hop vocals. Wareham is a musician's knob-twiddler, working a complex set of laptops and sequencers to lay a foundation for Lacek's scorching DJ sets. Dub, Drum n' Bass, Roots Reggae and Hip-Hop are all fair game, but are usually preceded by a more experimental brand of glitch-tech that might catch listeners off guard. "We feel the experimental stuff creates more of a show-like element," says Lacek. "An hour set of more obscure or experimental music grabs their ears and gives listeners more of an option." Musical collaborations are regular coincidences at the Lounge. When scratchmaster Citizen Ten caught a J Tonal set featuring guitarist Peter D'elia, he asked to sit in on the following week. The result: a completely improvised, tweak-jazz guitar breakbeat scratchfest that was totally unprecedented and absolutely brilliant.
Lowpro Lounge serves as a platform for local artists of all kinds including jewelry and fashion designers, visual and culinary artists and dancers. Live painting by muralist phenom J. Garcia is regularly featured, as are alternative beverages like Guayaki yerba maté cocktails and fresh-squeezed screwdrivers by Guerilla Organics. Most recently, Lowpro's collaboration with legendary San Francisco visual art collective Dimension 7 has added a truly psychedelic element. Using multiple video projections, special effects, live camera feeds and laser animation, the video crew matches the depth of the music with the complexity of the visuals. Says Wareham, "The idea is to create an entire multimedia environment, something that overwhelms your senses and heightens your awareness. Dimension 7 is an internationally respected name; they're definitely on the cusp of an expanding art form."
In the long run, the Lowpro mission is to build a unique and enduring musical community through continued artistic collaboration. At the end of March, Lowpro scores its biggest triumph when they team up with longtime SF House hotshots Looq records for a huge multimedia blowout at the new club Mighty in Potrero Hill. With internationally-respected VJs like Ben Sheppee and Control Machine providing state-of-the-art projections on three-dimensional surfaces and live painting by J. Garcia fused into the visuals, "Sight + Sound" will break into new realms of live video mixing. Music by live breakbeat trio BLVD, DJ James Christopher and dance floor diva Audio Angel, and a set by Looq's own Spesh elevate the adventurous Lowpro ethic. "This is bigger than we've ever gone before," says Wareham. "We're hopefully going to turn on a whole new crowd, and we couldn't be more psyched."
Sight + Sound @ Mighty
119 Utah St.
(near 16th & Potrero)
9 pm - 3 am
$8 presale, $12 door
by jonathan zwickel on Aug 18, 2004