Nightclubs and dogs have more in common than people might think. For starters, neighbors aren't crazy about either of them. Also, they age at about the same rate. So Sunday night party spot Dub Mission's forthcoming 10-year-anniversary, which happens over Labor Day weekend, is the equivalent of 70 in people years.
"I definitely feel very lucky," says the party's founder, DJ Sep. "I mean, there were definitely Monday mornings where I thought, 'Should I just end this thing right now?' "
According to Sep, Dub Mission, the first Bay Area party dedicated to reggae's musical older brother, dub, was slow to build momentum. In fact, it took nearly three years for the party to hit full stride.
But, nowadays, Dub Mission boasts a strong and loyal following, regularly filling the Elbo Room's upstairs dance floor with dub enthusiasts and fans of experimental reggae.
"I think the attitude here, and the open-mindedness, have had a lot to do with Dub Mission's success," Sep says. "We have a strong independent radio scene here and quite a few independent record stores, which are avenues that allow people to explore different styles of music."
The San Francisco State University graduate happened upon dub while hosting an alternative rock show at the University of San Francisco's largely student-run radio station, KUSF. She says that she was instantly hooked.
"What really grabbed me was how it combines the soulful and the experimental. The soulfulness pulls you in, but your brain is amused, too."
Still, the 40-year-old DJ-producer, who earlier this year temporarily handed Dub Mission off to friends to have a son but is returning on Sunday for the anniversary party (along with all five of the original resident DJs), still considers herself a relative newcomer to dub.
"I definitely feel like I've barely cracked the surface. There's still much exploring to be done. Whenever I hear something new, which happens all the time, I still get excited. And I can't wait to play it for people."
While turning people on to a song, an artist or a style they've never heard before gives her a rush, Sep understands that she has to ease her audience into it.
"I'm not above playing to the crowd," she says. "The fact is, the people (at the club) came to party. So they want to hear some familiar music as well. As a DJ, you have to be mindful of the vibe on the dance floor. It's a difficult balancing act, but that's how you cultivate an audience."
While the music is Dub Mission's heart and soul, Sep says that the club owes its success and longevity largely to her initial ignorance of the less-glamorous business side of throwing a party.
"I had no idea what I was getting myself into," she says. "I think that worked to my benefit. Had I known then what I know now, I don't know that I would have done it."
Sep started Dub Mission on a whim, after someone who heard one of her sets on KPFA, where Sep hosts a world-music show, phoned in to ask if there was some place in the Bay Area where people could go to hear the music she was spinning.
"Dub Mission started based just on that," she says. "I thought, 'There must be other people out there who want to hear this kind of music.' How naive was I? But I was really enthusiastic."
Dennis Ring, who ran the Elbo Room, shared Sep's enthusiasm, and gave her one Sunday night a month at the Valencia Street nightclub.
"He thought it had potential," Sep says. "And he's the one who urged me to go weekly, even though we were barely breaking even at the time."
Over the past 10 years, Sep has seen more than just an increase in the turnout for the club. Dub Mission also boasts one of the city's most mixed crowds, which Sep is particularly proud of.
"It's great to look out on the dance floor and see so many different types of people enjoying themselves," she says. "It's mixed in every way -- age, ethnicity, gender, orientation. That's the payoff for me, if you want to call it that. Whatever I do, there has to be a personal reward beyond money."
While she is very excited to see Dub Mission reach the 10-year mark, particularly in a city where parties come and go in the blink of an eye, Sep has a very Zen attitude about the club's future.
"A while back, a friend called to tell me
that there was a fire in the
building next door to the Elbo Room. I live nearby, so as soon as I got
phone I hurried down there to see if the club was still there.
was. But that experience made me realize that nothing is forever. So you
appreciate what you have right now, because you never know."
DUBMISSION: The 10-year anniversary celebration featuring DJ sets by DJ Sep, Vinnie Esparza, Maneesh the Twister and Ludichris, plus a live performance by J-Boogie’s Dubtronic Science Sunday, takes place at 9 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., San Francisco. $10-$15. www.dubmissionsf.com.
E-mail Bill Picture at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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