HOUSEPITALITY 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY – INTERVIEW WITH MIGUEL SOLARI
With Housepitality’s 5 year anniversary on the horizon, we thought it would be appropriate to sit down with one of its founders, the don of humpday house music parties, Miguel Solari.
1. What does Housepitality mean to you as a brand and as a huge part of the SF scene?
Since we are celebrating our 5 year anniversary and featuring Pillowtalk on Wednesday Sept 30th this is a good question to reflect on. On a personal level it means a lot to me. I’ve worked very hard every week for the past 5 years to produce this and I take a lot of time and care to keep the bookings and the brand fresh week after week. I’ve been following this music scene since 1993 so at Housepitality I get to curate the musical vibe from all those years of collecting 12 inch dance vinyl and listening to the evolution of underground dance music and following its emerging artists. The best part is that I get to do it in the city I lived in and been going out to parties djing or just dancing for the past 15 years. I feel like I am giving something back to the SF underground dance music community. I am grateful I am in a position to provide an experience on a Wednesday night. I have to make sure it stays fresh. That’s real.
Michael Tello (of Pillowtalk), one of my best friends and co-founder of this party with me is the one who actually conceived the brand and logo and it was originally the brand he used for a handful of parties he threw circa 1999. He had done a Wednesday night party for a couple of years before Housepitality called Love It Wednesdays and it had a little success but not quite the same as when we became even partners. The Housepitality logo and name are genius and it speaks to Mikey’s creativity so when I first saw it I was sold and decided to partner to revive Housepitality in 2010 as Wednesday night weekly, done! Doing a Wednesday weekly at the time seemed crazy to me but Mikey’s intuition was right. People needed a place to go and we knew so many stranded party people looking for a place to go on Wednesday. This is by the way where our motto “we got you” came from (lol). Everyone was calling each other trying to figure out where to go but there was nothing going on back then so we put our stake in the ground where no one else would consider.
Ultimately I feel life brought Mikey Tello and I together to create this Wednesday event which I think its very important for the health of the underground dance music scene in San Francisco and it blew up and so did his band Pillowtalk. This is why we are featuring PillowTalk at Housepitality for the 5 year anniversary. They performed live in front of a crowd for the first time ever at Housepitality. It all took root here. Mikey is the common factor between PillowTalk and Housepitality and both entities grew together during the same period. We are honoring our roots and in a way sowing the seeds we planted 5 years ago, plus its his birthday so It all leads up to this moment. Housepitality means a big great deal for us.
2. Housepitality has been going strong for years now. How has it evolved? What are its most pivotal moments that you recall which have created the evolution of this party?
Some of the most pivotal moments for us after have been when we started taking bigger chances with our bookings. One of the earliest ones I can remember was when we decided to bring Portable/Bodycode who was one of my personal favorite artists. Its more like this minimal, funky and beautifully textured melodic techno with deranged yet elegant vocals, it was a huge hit. Up until then we were just booking mostly only traditional funky house music. To this day there are some people who still talk to me about that night, it really hit them in a different spot and it shifted our sails. The night we got Eric Cloutier for the first time also had the same pivotal effect. He dropped techno all night and we packed the house he kept them dancing for hours. That guy is special. Bruce Bailey from Detroit was a hit too because he was completely unknown here and our crowd just trusted our lead and they packed it in for him. He absolutely destroyed it. It was magical. This was true indication that we could book almost anything we wanted and people trusted us. These three gigs opened new directions for us and if you look at them they are all very different from each other.
That is how we evolved. Although its called Housepitality, we don’t just book ‘house’ djs. To me house is the root of all this underground dance music and its evolved in different ways and flavors. It is is our duty as promoters, audiences and performers to evolve the underground sound together. Since the house sound became mainstream many years ago and we hear it elevators and commercials, it forces us dig deeper to find those fresh flavors and grooves that maintain that underground feel.
There are so many other moments that could be mentioned here but I would also like to add that everyone in the crew has played a role in the evolution. Tyrel, Fil and Bryan have brought in some amazing artists to the floor. Our resident/floor manager Victor Vega and promoters Luke Nasaw and Blaine Troxler have also played huge roles in the evolution of Housepitality. Luke is a huge mouth piece for us who people pay attention to. Victor is ninja at what he does and thanks to him our production is very professional and artists appreciate that.. Hug that guy next time you see him, he works hard. Blaine is the latest addition to the crew and he is definitely part of the next wave of our evolution. The night we met Blaine could be considered pivotal, it involved his older brother Seth, Luke’s birthday which is also Blaine’s birthday and the reason he ended up there. Plus Les Claypool of Priums randomly ended up there too and my man Kenneth Scott dropped his solo set debut to the hometown crowd… That is the Housepitality magic I’m talking about and an example of how we keep evolving. Oh, let’s not forget our Housepitality mom, Sarah Tedder. We owe a lot of our success on Wednesday to her. She helped us evolve by way or getting us more organized. She was the first one to approach Mikey and I and offer to help us because apparently we looked like we needed it.
3. Over the last 5 years you have brought out some exceptional talent. Name your top 5 Artists you’ve had play.
This is a tough tough question because I don’t want to say any one was better than another and we’ve had so much amazing talent come thru so in no particular order here are just the ones that pop to mind first. The Derrick Carter showed us all who is still the boss. Hands down, he destroyed it. KiNK for the 3 year anniversary was pure magic. He is playing bigger venues he comes to town but I am sure we will have him back for that truly special moment again. Dan Bell from beginning to end on Halloween was one of my favorite moments. He dressed up like Spock and played all vinyl from 9-4am and everyone was in costume. It was one for the history books. Roman Flugel was also without a doubt one of the best DJ sets I experienced at the Housepit and I gladly gave myself the pleasure of opening that one. I can’t stop at only 5, that is too hard so for #5 I give you a bundle. The SF debuts of Francesca Lombardo and The Black Madonna, Margaret Dygas and just recently the owner of Mule Musiq, Toshiya Kawasaki and Marc Schneider were all serious business. Mark Farina must get a mention here because this cat came and brought his own new Rane mixer and made his own flyer and brought that signature Farina sound to the Housepitality crowd where it truly belongs. I just looked at the list of past guests and I could keep going and going with hot talent that came thru here. Also Claude Von Stroke and Sven. I feel a little bad leaving so many names out but let’s keep the interview going. In general those artists that have played here more than once always comment to us that they love playing our party because they love the reaction of the crowd and because apparently they get to play music that they usually would not get to play anywhere else. That feels great. It’s been a really fantastic ride listening to all these artists.
4. You’ve had this hump day house music weekly going super strong. What’s your secret to the longevity? How do you maintain such a dedicated fan base?
There is no secret there is just consistency. Doing a weekly is a ton of work and I don’t for one second take my eye off the ball and assume we are always going to have a crowd. I treat it as if it was day 1 and we are still trying to get people out. It is still a Wednesday night after all but I feel in my heart that this is one of the most important parties in the city. It ts is a hub to the the rest of the scene, that is our role. The bookings are very important because at the end of the day we are curating a sound and people can come to expect something good every time even if they don’t know who is playing. Because it is a Wednesday night it attracts a certain kind of individual.
People who go out on Wednesdays have very different motives than people who go out on weekends. Think about it. Generally they come out for the music more than anything else. This creates a healthy dance floor.. We are special in this way. There are far fewer pretensions than anywhere else and our vibe is all inclusive. You can come dressed as you like and dance how you like to dance be whatever you are in the most free form of your self. There are no gimmicks, the lights are simple and the room is dark and the bass is thick. It is just good underground dance music on Wednesday night for people who love to dance and follow the artists driving these sounds. Plus, we only charge $10 for the experience and this is an experience in itself. You have to pay at least double that if you see the same artist on a weekend in San Francisco. We could charge more but then it would not be the same vibe. I think some people recognize and appreciate that and it helps us continue strong.
The professional party people and music heads who shape the underground party culture in SF come out on Wednesdays, we all meet there week after week. The friendships and common love for the music grow and our local SF underground dance music scene stays strong and healthy. Its a pretty cool ecology and we are at the center of it. I feel it is our duty to keep this going for the sake of the cultural preservation of San Francisco’s underground dance music culture, especially during these gentrifying times. We have a big responsibility to uphold. All of these things keep us a relevant to the true party people for the long haul.
5. What artists haven’t played there yet that you would love to bring out?
I can’t answer this question because these are my secrets but I will say that am grateful for those tier A artists that still request to play for us because they want that refreshing experience of playing for an engaged dance floor. They make enough money on their tours everywhere else and in San Francisco, they want to stretch out and play for the Wednesday crowd even if they can make way more money at a bigger club on the weekend here. They know what’s up. Its a win win as far as I’m concerned.
6. Now let’s talk about the venue. f8 is a pretty cutty little spot but still brings through some super sick parties. What’s your relationship with the venue and booking process? What do you find appealing about this venue?
So going back to your question of our secret to longetivity. I would say that F8 is part of that secret sauce and the success of Housepitality. The thing is because its a ‘cutty little spot’ it has become the trademark of the feel behind industry Housepitality feel. The crowd themselves nicknamed it the House pit. I started hearing that one day and I asked Luke what it was about and he explained to me that’s what everyone calls it now. It is a nice dark and intimate dance floor with huge sub woofers that pound your body. All of this works in our favor because ultimately people don’t want to necessarily hang out in the same venue they went to on the weekend. Instead they want to come home to their nice dark little intimate spot on Wednesday where they are going to pay only $10 and experience something amazing, usually better than the weekend. The concept of Housepitality on a Wednesday anywhere else in the city would not work because they don’t have those same charms. Also, let’s not forget we hands down have the most friendly security staff in the city and we take care of our people well, everyone feels safe and welcome.
The guys at F8 are definitely our partners. They support all of our efforts and we all grew together from a scrappy place into one of the main underground music spots in the city. F8 hosts the Surface Tension and Sure Thing parties that have their own gravity and are growing their own scenes booking amazing underground talent, We pay attention to what they do and I am happy and glad its happening at F8 and not anywhere else. We are all growing together now and drawing from each other at the same venue.
I think we are still the only venue in the city with “Consent is Sexy” warning signs. Reminding folks not to touch others unless you have consent or else you are out of there. We want to make sure our female crowds feel safe on the dance floor and not getting groped all the time as I hear is more common than we realize in this culture. Ladies if you are reading this, remember to point out the creepy gropers are because we have to filter them out. We are trying to keep things right for you and everyone else, at least on Wednesdays.. we got you.
7. I’ve seen some pretty crazy shit at this party over the years, which makes for some pretty epic memories and fun times to recollect with my homies. What are some of your favorite crazy moments that you recall?
Well, for me it was blood, sweat and Tello.. boy.. if you know Michael Tello well then you know what I’m talking about. I won’t say more because his mom will read this, lol. It is no secret that he was a party legend in San Francisco and easily one of the funniest people we’ve ever met. Anyone that knows him would agree. Everyone has an epic, “the first time I met MIkey story.” We can all go around the room with that one. I love that cat, that’s my homie for life.
A couple of years ago I think I got a little too ambitious and decided to do a 24 hour Housepitality that went from 6am on New Years Day until the next day.. Man.. I will never ever sign up for that again but I saw the dedication of the crew.. My man Victor Vega was running things with me the entire time. We have picture of us 21 hours later and look straight melted from working so hard. Too many beats had passed through our ears by that point. At 2pm it was scary in there, I didn’t recognize anyone anymore and I think I started doubting everything I had ever done up that point in my life. Luckily, Doc Martin came and saved the day. I saw the floor go from like 15 people to 300 within a matter of minutes. I have no idea where people were hiding. The started emanating from floor and walls or something.. His set started at 3pm and went to 7pm and pumped the full throttle Housepitality vibe back into the party. Talk about an epic set, that is actually up there with one of the best sets I can remember seeing at Housepitality. Totally nuts! Thank you Doc!! I hope he reads that.
There was also the time we had a line down and around the corner to the next corner down at 8th and Howard!!! Yes, that happened for the Derrick Carter on July 3rd, no work the next day.. Pretty nuts.
8. Have you thought of expanding your brand outside of F8 or SF? If so, what are your plans?
No. I don’t think I want to get into that again unless my personal circumstances change that allow me the time to do that. I still maintain a day job, everyone in the crew does and that is why its a group effort. I get up on Thursdays and work. I feel the same pain as all our guests and probably double because I have been doing it every week for 5 years. We do sometimes have events at Monarch and we always have plans to take it underground but good underground spots don’t exist in the city anymore. They happen but its not the way we would do it if we were involved. I guarantee if we ever did anything underground it would be classy and very special.
9. You guys discover a lot of talent and give people their first shot at playing to a crowd. For instance, Pillowtalk, who have blown up like crazy and played their first live show at Housepitality. If someone wanted to play your party, How would they go about getting that opportunity? What are you looking for in fresh talent?
Thanks to many of our international friends we’ve gotten hooked up with a lot of dope acts. I ask around and talk to as many people as I can about it and always trying to figure out who is making real impacts. A lot of stuff comes from the crew. Tyrel has brought some interesting things and so has Fil and Victor. One of the best finds ever was Sven Weisemann who Luke suggested. That is one of the best djs I’ve ever seen I will definitely have him back again. I talk to Mikey a lot and he lets me know when he see’s something sick out there on this travels, that’s how we ended up getting Francesca Lombardo first. Good luck seeing her now in a small intimate venue in SF ever again. I listen to new mixes all the time too. I brought Julietta based on a 4 hour mix she had posted on her Slave to the Rhythm Soundcloud. I stumbled upon it one day. So I look for that vibe in a mix that makes it what I consider ‘the Housepitality vibe.” It needs to be a little dirty, the right amount of hard, pecussive in the right way and with the right amount of fresh melodic accompaniments and good bass lines. The grooves must be infectious and the mixing must be solid so that produces that beautiful blended feel in your brain when you hear it. The programming must keep the energy steady and deep which is only something I can define in my mind. When I stumble upon something I like I try to dig for more and read a little about them here and there. It definitely helps when an artists’ mixes have a decent number of plays, it just has to be good on top of that. I can get a good sense of an artist by doing all this work and when I find something I like I go on a relentless hunt to convince them to play for us. That’s it. Some artists like Toshiya Kawasaki, owner of Mule Music just land on my lap. That was thanks to Mike Bee who got hit up. Well duh, of course I want to have the owner of Toshiya Kawasaki play for us and it was better than anything I had imagined. I feel proud to have been the first to feature him too.
I got some dope things lined up that came out of my research. I am happy about the new sounds that will be coming thru for us soon. There is a lot of untapped domestic talent that needs some action too. It is all going to happen in due time.
10. Anyone you would like to thank or give shout outs to? Or anything else you would like to mention?
The whole crew.. all of these peeps have had a hand in the success of our Wednesday night: Victor Vega, Sarah Tedder, Bryan Balli, Luke Nasaw, Blaine Troxler, Rishi Kasyap, Lea Camile, Fil Latorre, Mike Bee, Joel Conway, Sharon Buck, Sean Murray and Tyrel (Tyrese) Williams of course. Special shouts out to our original bar tending crew Kira Buck & Mckenzie Boyle and original door staff Joanna and Amber Taylor Allred. Stacey Picone, girl you are not forgotten. Plus the current support squad: Demitria Ruiz, Nikkole Rathkamp & Laura Vega. The F8 management, Mitch, Eyyo and Rafael and finally, my clumpy brother from another brown mother, Michael Tello.