The stimulating and excellently-eared Icee Hot crew is blasting a two-part third anniversary party at Public Works: this Sat/19 sees dreamy R&B chopper Jacques Greene (yes, the guy with the glasses from the Azaelia Banks video, but also one of my favorite producers ever) and Dutch hyperdubber Martyn on deck. Part two on Sat/26 brings in alien techno soundscapist Space Dimension Controller and astral floor-pounder Basic Soul Unit. You will find me face down on the floor in sonic worship for both. (And you may be able to score a pass to both parties for a mere $15 here.)
I've been following the oft-roving party pretty much since its inception.
Usually I abhor parties that just throw a big name guest up and then give partygoers no other vibe-guidance: no decorations or look or neon Easter eggs of any kind. But the Icee Hot foursome -- Shawn Reynaldo, Rollie Fingers, Ghosts on Tape, and Low Limit, all fantastic DJ/musicmakers in their own right -- take an expressionist approach to gigs that transcends the bare-boned, and fends off any cynical charges of money-grubbing (the parties are hella cheap). Their excellent curatorial sense brings disparate, original sounds together to create something more stimulating than the sum of sonic parts.
I traded emails with the Icees on the eve of their blowout to talk about the party's evolution and the SF scene right now.
SFBG Every time you guys throw a party, I trip over myself trying to describe the music with anything more substantial than "awesome" and then I overuse the word "bass." How would you describe the music you look for when considering guest artists?
GHOSTS ON TAPE We have a hard time describing it too. I think that's part of the fun. But since you asked, I'd say we go for weirdo house, outsider artists, and underground pioneers. It's hard to put a finger on what exactly we look for in a guest, they just have to do music that excites us. We also like to book people that are doing things that no one else is really doing, and it's important for us to bring acts that have never played in SF before. That's not always possible, but we try. We don't really wanna bring artists based solely on internet hype, we have to genuinely like their music.
ROLLIE FINGERS I think we just book people we like and people who influence people we like. The overarching theme is house and techno. It’s fine to just call it that. (Ed. Note: Mr. Fingers does not have to write exciting things about nightlife every week.)
SFBG What inspired you to start Icee Hot, and what are some of your favorite memories from the past three years?
SHAWN REYNALDO Icee Hot sort of grew out of Tormenta Tropical, another monthly party that I still throw here in San Francisco. That night is based around cumbia and other Latin/tropical styles, but back in 2009, I was mixing in a bunch of UK funky and other new house/bass/grime sounds. Some of those records were vaguely "tropical," but I gradually realized that they didn't properly fit the vibe of the party. Still, in November of that year, I booked L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok at Tormenta Tropical for their first SF show, simply because I was so enthusiastic about the music they were making. This was right around the time that they were launching the Night Slugs label, and they hung out here in San Francisco for several days, during which time Rollie Fingers and I got really inspired, just by talking with them about music and realizing that there was something interesting happening with all these new hybrid sounds coming out of the UK. We also realized that this music melded really well with a lot of great classic house, garage and techno that wasn't really being celebrated in the SF club scene at the time. Anyways, within a few weeks of that show, we enlisted Ghosts on Tape and Low Limit, booked our first party at 222 Hyde, and began planning ICEE HOT.
In terms of highlights, there are just too many to mention. Hosting Todd Edwards for his first-ever SF show was something special, and it was even better when we brought him back a year later and paired him with MK, one of his musical heroes. Beyond that, there was Robert Hood and Anthony "Shake" Shakir showing us what being a Detroit legend is all about. Ben UFO and Oneman going back-to-back, which was a real landmark for the party. Cedaa literally kicking off his 21st birthday with a midnight set. MikeQ turning the dancefloor out with drag queens doing bicycle kicks on stage. New Years 2011 with Bok Bok and Ramadanman. Girl Unit making his SF debut in the sweaty basement at 222 Hyde. John Talabot, both his DJ set and phenomenal live set a few months later. Our second anniversary last year with Mosca and Altered Natives. I could go on forever. It's been fun.
ROLLIE FINGERS Hieroglyphic Being is an amazing DJ. He played a delayed vocal sample of "I Feel Love" for like 20 minutes when he played. If anyone else did that, it would be messy, but with him, it was bliss. I also have a very distinct memory of DJ Stingray getting out of the cab at Public Works wearing his ski mask. It was deep.
SFBG It seems like the number of parties has grown exponentially in the past few years. What are some of the challenges and rewards to throwing a party in the current SF nightlife landscape? Has it become more a matter of branding, rather than a distinct music or crowd profile? And do you feel that the party scene is being overdetermined by artist booking agencies?
SHAWN REYNALDO ICEE HOT is the product of a lot of hard work. Between talking to artists, negotiating with booking agents, locking down venues, purchasing flights, picking people up at the airport, fulfilling riders, and doing all the other behind-the-scenes tasks, it can be a little daunting, especially when we're operating on a zero-profit basis. I don't know if people always realize this, but ICEE HOT makes a point to keep our door prices as low as possible. Sure, we could charge $20, $25, $30 for a lot of our parties, but we don't, because charging exorbitant door prices is lame. We're not doing this to make money. We're doing this to throw good events, and we don't want anyone not to come because it's too expensive.
ROLLIE FINGERS We don’t mind branding our party at all. Every flyer for the past three years has said ICEE HOT really big on top. I think it’s nice for parties to have a distinct look and feel to them. ICEE HOT always feels like ICEE HOT, no matter what artist we are booking. I like that.
SHAWN REYNALDO And sure, dealing with nightlife landscape in San Francisco can be tricky. Even though the city attracts top-level talent, it's still a relatively small place, so most promoters know one another. Sometimes you wind up competing with other parties to book the same talent, or dealing with booking agents who are trying to pit us against one another. Thankfully, we can usually avoid all of that mess. When booking agents are being unreasonable or don't understand what we're about, we usually just bow out of the proceedings. After three years, ICEE HOT has built up a good reputation, so the artists we're trying to bring out have often already heard of the party and want to come play. Don't get me wrong, it can all be frustrating sometimes, but we're proud of what we're doing and hopefully the parties and the label speak for themselves. Plus, it's hard to really complain too much. Every month, we're throwing parties exactly the way we want to throw them with guests we're personally really excited about. Things are going well, and we want to just keep building on that.
SFBG Why'd you decide on a two-part blowout? It's almost too-too good. Although I know you haven't shot your wad yet -- any hints on who might be coming in 2013 (or who your fantasy artists would be).
GHOSTS ON TAPE The kind folks at Public Works were nice enough to let us use their club two weeks in a row, and since our anniversary is something of a milestone, we wanted to book artists that are in line with our vision of what we like to do at ICEE HOT. I think Martyn, Jacques Greene, Space Dimension Controller and Basic Soul Unit are going to help us celebrate our three-year anniversary in fine form. As far as future bookings, I can't give anything away, but we're going to continue on the same path and keep on booking freakishly talented individuals. In the past, whenever we thought of a fantasy artist that we'd like to book, it always ended up coming true eventually, so I don't want to say anything to ruin any future surprises.