Basement Jaxx Fires Up Public Works

07/16/2014

On Saturday, SF was treated to a rare sold-out DJ set at Public Works by London’s original cheeky house monkeys, Basement Jaxx (Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe). They’re releasing their first record in five years, called Junto, on August 25th, and we were lucky enough to catch one of only four appearances nationwide on this run.

Basement Jaxx are well-known for their risk-taking eclecticism and sense of humor, qualities often sorely missed in electronic music. In any given song, you’re bound to hear an army of bongo drums, goofy vocal repetitions, handclaps, and maybe even diva, Lisa Kekaula, belting out the last proud goodbye of a spurned lover, a la Gloria Gaynor. Since they’re so good at mixing genres, with everything from Latin, to lounge, to hip-hop and funk represented in their sound, you never really know what you’re going to get. Only two things are certain when you go to a Basement Jaxx show: you’re going to DANCE and you’re going to have a LOT of fun.

Beyond showering the sweaty, grinning crowd at Public Works with cool Jaxx classics such as the candy-sweet “Romeo” and current house burners such as Shiba San’s head-bobbing “Okay”, these dudes cranked the heater on the decks to 11, provoking us to indulge our inner feral animals. From the cheerful chanteuse daring us to disrobe in the Amazonian “Back 2 the Wild” (I wanna go back / back to the wild / take me to the jungle / let’s get NAKED!!!) to the straight-up propositioning in new track “What’s the News” (I came to party / you came to party / so what’s the news?), let’s just say there was a lot of, um, monkey business on the dancefloor…

The early crowd was a bit aggressive during the opening sets by Jeno and Bells & Whistles, with lots of elbows and pushing to move around the tightly-packed club, but as the night went on and the aforementioned feral animals found their prey, the floor cleared out just enough for the rest of us to swing around like kids hopped up on pixie sticks.

The climax of the night, however, was undoubtedly “Mermaid of Salinas”, a recent Jaxx b-side which will appear on their new album Junto. This wonderful track, with its swinging Latin rhythm, tropical bird samples, and game-show vocal chants, sounds like you just won the best prize package on the Price is Right during an underground rave in Rio. It’s bright, celebratory, and exactly the type of antidote to the frigid San Francisco summer you’d want to hear at 3:30 in the morning, surrounded by a crowd of smiling strangers swinging each other around by the arms joyfully into the morning hours.

Basement Jaxx – “Mermaid of Salinas”

I had the opportunity to see Basement Jaxx at London’s Ministry of Sound mega-club in 2009, and I’m happy to say they’ve only improved since, sounding as alive as ever. These guys are masters of their craft– if you get the chance to see them do what they do best, don’t sleep. You’ll kick yourself when all your friends tell you about it for the next two weeks.

Live visuals by allofitnow.

New Basement Jaxx record Junto due out 08-25-14.
Catch Basement Jaxx on tour here.

Photos by Nate Chavez