DJ Harvey: Another Day, Another Disco

As if to illustrate the point, when we meet up to go record shopping, Harvey can’t remember the name of the club he played in San Francisco last night. “Another day, another disco,” he shrugs. At Record Surplus on Pico, he speed-fingers through the bins like a mad librarian, pulling selections. He’s a connoisseur of important things, like the ’60s meditation record in psychedelic packaging he’s just found, or the Casio SK-1 keyboard he scavenged last week from the Venice alleyway garbage. A pair of Altec Santiago speakers were another dumpster find. Harvey’s still on the prowl for his personal white whale of discarded treasures, one of the large-installation sound systems used in movie theaters during the ’40s and ’50s. It could happen, though, and he knows how. “Imagine this,” he says. “A basketball player decides to buy Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s old house in Beverly Hills. As he goes into the old screening room, he and his interior designer are like, ‘We have to get this big ancient crap out of here and put in a state-of-the-art liquid quartz fucking screen, and little speakers that you can’t even see, and we’re gonna throw all this old stuff in the trash.’ What they’re doing is throwing away the most beautiful in-home Western Electric or RCA system from the early ’20s. And literally, you can find that stuff in the trash. That’s why my eyes are always watching the sidewalks.”

The weekend after Coachella, the initiated flock to an unmarked warehouse outside of downtown L.A., ready to dance until dawn. At midnight, there’s already a line forming. Inside, the softest of softcore Euro porn is projected on the wall, and disco-ball strobe provides fine needles of light in the otherwise browned-out space. The scene on the dance floor feels sweetly democratic: college chicks in vintage prom dresses and too-big heels clutching plastic cups of Bacardi, bespectacled beardos, androgynous waifs with architectural hair. Harvey’s presence is heard but not seen; he’s tucked in an anonymous corner but hard to make out in the haze. Earlier, he explained why his standard for Sarcastic is so high. “Maybe in another disco or another club where I haven’t been before, I can’t be fully responsible for every factor,” he’d said. “But when it’s Sarcastic Disco, I feel personally responsible for the physical, mental and metaphysical welfare of everybody in there. You have everyone’s night you’re responsible for. You fuck up and people are pissed off. It’s on my shoulders and I don’t take that lightly.” Some people take responsibility for their mortgages or their health; others, for a crowd of anonymous partygoers. The volume starts loud and gets louder around two, when overflow from the shuttering bars arrives en masse. People are smoking and drinking and kissing and dancing, oblivious to the parking tickets, day jobs and bad skin that harshes their daylight hours. Nobody’s looking at you here, in the best possible way. Late in the night, a cop car pulls up with flashing yellows, but after a brief powwow with security, drives on by. Sometimes even the law can’t argue with good clean fun.

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POSTED July 4, 2011 10:00AM IN FEATURES Comments (1) TAGS: , ,

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