Show Review: Max Graham at Audio SF | March 21, 2015

The light wall at Audio.

The light wall at Audio.

Back in December, Max Graham played a 5 hour set at Audio in San Francisco. Though I was excited for the show, I ended up passing on it, for one reason or another.

That was a mistake.

For weeks afterward, I watched on Twitter as he and the attendees of that show glowed about the incredible atmosphere that blossomed that night. Max went so far as to immortalize that evening in his profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter. (He posted part of his set from that performance as episode 185 of his weekly show, Cycles Radio.)

Max Graham at Audio.

Max Graham at Audio.

When it was announced that he was coming around to do it all over again, I made it my mission to attend.

Max’s set on Friday totally lived up to my high expectations. While the music selection was, of course, excellent (more on that in a bit), I think a big part of the magic came from the club itself. Audio is arguably the best venue in San Francisco. It’s small in an intimate way, gorgeously decorated with a truly sublime wall of lights that pulses behind the DJ, and a crowd that tends towards more discerning music fans, rather than casual clubbers (perhaps attributable to the excellent roster of performers they bring in). The audio quality is also fantastic, as it rocks a Funktion-One sound system. In short, it’s an environment perfectly suited for just the sort of dreamy techno and house that Max Graham specializes in.

When I arrived at 11, the dancefloor was full and grooving, though happily not crowded. The crowd swelled gradually until about 1, but for the most part kept its relaxed and respectful character. All night, Max kept the tunes deep and smooth, fostering a dreamy, friendly vibe that made time flow by like water in a hot shower.

IMG_8652_2I go to a lot of shows to hear songs that I know; I came to see Max for the opposite reason – to get lost in the beat without wondering about the artist name, song title, or other trivia that I’m always half-thinking about when I go out. In fact, I could only name a handful of songs that he played, most of which came later in the night. (I made a deliberate effort to keep off of Shazam, although I caved a couple of times. Some songs you just have to pocket so you can relive them later.) At one point, I was surprised to hear Andrew Bayer‘s “Bullet Catch” slinking into the set, since its harder set-opening sound didn’t match with the sound Max had been crafting all night. However, he merely plucked out the beautiful piano breakdown, mixing out before the song ramped back up into high-energy territory. Other tracks I recognized included a remix of an old Above & Beyond track, “No One On Earth,” and a couple selections from Cycles 6. New to me was “Trommer Og Bass” by Andre Bratten, which I thought recalled Shiba San‘s huge tune from last year, “Okay.” The beat practically set the room on fire.

For a deep set, it had more drops than I was expecting. Max spiced up some of the builds by playing around with the high pass filter, creating an effect not unlike sticking your thumb over the speaker of your iPhone. It’s kind of a cheesy tactic, so I prefer to see it done sparingly, but the audience was definitely feeling it.

Max Graham at Audio.

All in all, it was an excellent night full of smooth and entrancing beats. Max himself compared the atmosphere to “a living room house party 👌👌.” If dark and groovy house music is your jam, you won’t want to miss this man the next time he returns to San Francisco – which doubtless won’t be too long.

Update, March 29th: Max posted the first two hours of his set from this night on Soundcloud, so in case you missed out, you can experience some of the magic for yourself.

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