When I lived in San Francisco, I was hugely into drum n’ bass music. I went to as many shows as possible and loved the little house parties where local DJs would spin. One late-night party I went to, probably in 1997, was on Haight Street in a classic two story Victorian railroad car-style apartment. It was a small crowd, the music was cool, and there were random people milling around. Pot smoke was in the air and 40 oz. bottles were scattered on the floor.
One of the things I loved about jungle and DnB was that the scene was really inclusive because there really was no “scene” in the US up to that point. Blacks, whites, Asians and Mexicans all crowded into these small dark spaces and tapped into the intense energy pumping through the speakers. It was a form of dance music that captured the best of punk, rap, reggae and house music and twisted it into crazy, pulse-pounding, soulful assault. The only comparison I could make to surfing was that over the course of a DJ’s set, this seamless blend of bass-heavy rhythms would force you to be in the moment— completely unaware of anything else.
So anyway, I was at this party on Haight for a few hours and the music was blaring and the lights were down. I decided to call it a night and headed downstairs with my friends. On the way down, I passed a guy in a crooked baseball cap and oversized hoodie. As he squeezed by I heard him say, “Fuckin’ mod.”
I looked back, half expecting to see the cast of Quadrophenia behind me, but then I realized from his glare that his comment was directed at me. I definitely didn’t consider myself “mod,” (whatever that meant) but I wasn’t dressed like him either. I believe I was wearing a pea coat. I walked out the door into the foggy SF night wondering where the hate was coming from.
Soon after, I started to notice a shift in drum n’ bass music. What was once a friendly ragga-influenced “jungle” sound morphed into the more aggressive, twisted, mechanical “darkstep” sound. The little clubs that were once filled with eccentric kids, ethnic girls and Brit transplants all freaking out were supplanted by scenes where dudes would park on the dancefoor with their hoods up and bob their heads in time with the rapidfire beats. In the early ‘90s, Brit MCs would call these dudes “bloodclots.” The last DnB party I went to—at a club in East Hollywood probably around 2001—came to a screeching halt when there was a shooting in front. The bloodcots had taken over.
I still listen to jungle and drum n’ bass from the time that I consider the “golden age.” I was thumbing through an old sketchbook from the late-90s and found the doodle above , with a hand made flyer some kid gave me on the lower Haight.
One and Only - Various Artists
The Lighter - DJ SS