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Monday, October 25, 2021

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Arts + CultureNightlifeKnob twists and nice people: Sweater Funk returns to...

Knob twists and nice people: Sweater Funk returns to The Knockout

Pandemic has us thinking; This crew's whole message about spreading love and happiness? Maybe it's not so cornball after all.

Sweater Funk, the iconic San Francisco night that evangelizes boogie, two-step, and modern funk—strictly on vinyl, mind you—is back. You can go ahead and save that casual SF “it’s cool mane” shrug for when the corner store is out of White Claw. This right here is something else; VERY important. 

Starting this weekend, every second Saturday at The Knockout you will find that charismatic crew of men and women of all races and nationalities knob-twisting it up with the best of them. A dedicated throng of record collectors, DJs, and music heads, still putting it down—without laptops or CDJs. Mang … it’s gonna feel so right.

I asked DJ Guillermo what his fave jams for this night are. Here is what I got; Universal Robot Band’s “Barely Breaking Even” and Logg’s “I Know You Will.”

“Both Leroy Burgess tunes,” he says. “Both have been getting regular play since the basement days. Both just sound HUGE on a 12″ and usually will get everyone singing along cuz they’re both anthems even beyond the boogie world, they’re just great fucking dance songs!”

When I first started attending Sweater Funk at its original home of Li Po Lounge in the early days of 2008, I was there digging on all the R&B tunes that used to get major play on New York radio stations like WBLS, 98.7 Kiss FM, and 92 KTU. You know, Black radio in the ’80s. The same joints that stayed in rotation on cassette tapes in old-school boomboxes during basketball practice. 

When I talked with Sweater Funk co-founders Jon Blunck and The Selecter DJ Kirk Harper at that time, they both mentioned—separately, in different conversations—how it was the message in the music, about love and spreading happiness, that caught them. They dug those uplifting sentiments, spread amongst spacious disco pop and synth-based sounds, played to a higher frequency. 

At the time I agreed with both of them, but I did think the premise was just a bit cornball.

I mean it was cool, they were very sincere. But for me, Sweater Funk was about that bassline in Howard Johnson’s “So Fine” that was doing the talking. Those keyboard stabs, the drum machine tempo, and the incremental bass pattern of Kashif‘s “I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)” put me in a zone. The ringtone keyboard hook, church-y vocals, and overall badass-ery of an anthemic prowess in “You’re The One For Me” by D-Train, especially that Francios K remix of it, scrambled my brain. Fusion jazz meets street funk with gospel overtones—how do you make music like that? What kinda genius IQ do you need to put that together? 

Anyway, that’s what I was there for. But after last year, literally everybody on the planet identifies with being thankful for the gift of life. We ALL lost someone permanently last year, and being separated via “socially distanced” kept us all apart temporarily.

And listen, attending funeral services via Zoom is, in fact, the poster child for a double-stuffed crap sammich. Especially when you have no idea who’s just gonna pop-in and throw a monkey wrench into an already awkward and uncomfortable situation. I’m done with the Zooms …

So it turns out, that whole message about spreading love and happiness? Maybe it’s not so cornball after all. And let’s be real, every member of the Sweater Funk crew are NICE humans, empathetic individuals who care. So many heads, so many record bags, so many texts about lost records the next day. They roll deep. 

Over the past decade, they have made The Knockout one of the most welcoming of all spaces for eager record nerds of every single kind. The type who’ll back you into a corner, unwittingly, out of love, just wanting to explain to a close friend, random strangers, or anyone who might listen, about what the hell that last record was that played in its entirety, just blew up the dance floor. 

Add that to being moved by those slowed, refined key elements of disco. The bass-heavy instrumentation. Proto-electronic drum machine and synthesizer arrangement.

Son. That liquid drip called Boogie is damn hard to refuse. 

And just on a nerd angle, the fact that you have a genre,  in the middle of R&B and house, but hip-hop heads, or beat-heads in general, can’t keep they damn hands off those records for sampling purposes? 

Again, bringing folks together. That’s what continues to move me. That’s what makes Sweater Funk a San Francisco happening, a Bay Area institution.

And if that’s not enough to get you hype, here’s a message from the crew: 

“We’re back together again! Back to our regular 2nd Saturday funk party at The Knockout! We’ve missed being together in a booth as one with the dance floor. This is gonna be a long awaited return to the booth for the crew and we’ve been digging steadily over the past year, plus we’ve got a ton of dance floor heat for this party! Come through, let’s get back together!”

SWEATER FUNK SATURDAYS Second Saturdays, starting Sat/10. 10pm-2am, $5. The Knockout, SF. More info here.

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.
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