San Francisco in New York — or, what I learned from Jamie Jones in a blizzard
When I set off to write this piece, the plan was to compare San Francisco and New York. As a Dancing Astronaut reader you’re bound to know exactly what is going on in New York on any given weekend, but what about the fine city to the West? The home of the amazing sports teams, beautiful urban vistas, world class dining, rich history, and the most successful industry the world have ever seen? How does San Francisco fare for fans of electronic music?
I never would try to argue San Francisco is better than New York. New York has the advantage of scale and scope; that intangible New Yorkness. Things happen first in New York and they happen in a big way. This applies to fashion, art, writing, and of course — music. Disco was born in New York, and that is the precursor to everything we know and love today. Boom. Argument over.
For people seeking out underground parties in my city, it’s not always as easy as clicking three times on Resident Advisor to find the latest and greatest Blkmarket Membership party, but you can bet that nearly every single DJ that rolls through New York will be in SF before or soon after. The clubs are fewer in number, the tickets are cheap and oftentimes free, and sometimes you can find illegal warehouse parties only by scanning alleyways in Union Square or SoMA at 3am. So supply equals demand, right? Yeah, that’s probably still the case. San Francisco, however, has its own especially wonderful charms. There are promoters in San Francisco doing amazing things — Honey Soundsystem and Body//Current hold it down and local DJs like Conor and Solar just keep getting better and better in my mind. The underground is alive and well in San Francisco, it’s just not presenting fifteen different options every weekend.
So, this past weekend I was in New York. I’d heard all about the Verboten party brand: switching venues every weekend, hosting often jaw-dropping deep house and techno lineups, and generally being kind of the coolest place to party for the seedier members of the electronic music crowd. My fellow Dancing Astronaut writers and a few enthusiastic friends agreed to brave the wrath of Nemo with me and make the trek over to Brooklyn for the musical musings of Jamie Jones, Russ Yallop, Corey Baker, and Rami Deejay. “I’m really excited to see you at SRB,” one said. My general expectations were a) to be completely overwhelmed b) to roll my eyes at every hipster in a bowler hat and a studded t-shirt or c) to feel like I was the only person in the room who did not immediately know every single track ID.
Here’s the thing: none of that happened. SRB is a club I could liken to any number of venues in San Francisco — Mezzanine, Monarch, 222 Hyde, even Mighty. Its bottle service is unassuming, the crowd was laid-back, and I would barely even know I was at a Verboten party had it not been for the giant lightning bolt tattooed to my inner wrist. I felt welcome and accepted, I could focus on Jamie’s loopy grooves and accessible deep house while sipping on a PBR and occassionally flashing a wide grin to my partners in crime. His set was rife with exclusives from the cluster of Hot Creations stars, tunes from labels like Visionquest, Crosstown Rebels, and from names like Claptone and DJ Koze. Time flew by and before I knew it, we were layering on jackets before entering back into the snowy world outside. The evening, to say the least, was satisfying.
Ultimately, what I’ve learned from this fun little comparison is that for me, it’s never going to be about who has the best soundsystem or which promoter throws the SICKEST events. Any where in the world on any given day, you can find a place to enjoy dance music. Some people may be there because they want to be seen, others will come to try something new, others dragged along by friends. But for whatever reason we choose to use a dance music as our entertainment, outlet, or even career — it’s about finding people you can share that common ground with in a genuine way. It’s having a friend or three who you can look to while you’re lost in your own little world and recognize they are on the exact same page. That’s the dragon I chase.
Photo credit: Oliver Correa/Verboten New York