Gerd Janson and Prins Thomas in San Francisco

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  • San Francisco's electronic underground has taken a beating in recent years. The local real estate market, frequently ranked as the most expensive in the world, is driving out DJs, promoters and other artist-types in droves, with many fleeing to other clubbing capitals like Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. Its warehouse rave scene—once described by Lee Burridge as having the potential to rival Berlin's—is still reeling from a post-Oakland fire crackdown on DIY spaces. On top of these economic and legal issues, there is a cultural war being waged over San Francisco's soul, with Silicon Valley tech bros on one side and the freak, flag-flying LGBTQI community on the other. Which is why As You Like It's seven-year anniversary blowout, headlined by Floorplan, The Black Madonna and others, was both a celebration of the party's esteemed history and a statement of defiance in the face of an uncertain future. On Friday night, I showed up to The Midway, a 40,000-square-foot "creative complex" that houses artist studios, performance spaces, a kitchen and a cafe. As You Like It took over three of these spaces. Robert Hood presided over the warehouse-like main room with his daughter Lyric, the two of them confidently deploying a crowd-pleasing—if somewhat predictable—succession of recent Floorplan hits, like "Baby, Baby" and "Never Grow Old." Their set of M-Plant and Underground Resistance classics, propelled by soaring gospel wails and stomping Detroit basslines, was almost indistinguishable from the one they played a few weeks ago in a parking lot at the Electronic Music Awards in LA. But here, in this cavernous space packed with whooping, reverent ravers, the energy in the air crackled with an intensity that was missing when I saw them last. Down a long corridor dressed with purple lasers was a patio devoted to the Honey Soundsystem crew, who'd turned the tree-lined concrete plot into a raucous outdoor party. Queer club kids hung off the balcony edges, vibing out to disco and acid house under thick clouds of joints and vape juice. Around 1 AM, Robert Yang (AKA Beziér) hit the decks, cheerfully brewing a heady yet heartwarming stew of candy-coated Italo, space disco and feel-good house—all the while flaunting the effortless eclecticism that's made his recent online mixes, particularly this one on Japanese '80s synth music, so unforgettable. The highlight of the night was an impeccable back-to-back between Prins Thomas and Gerd Janson, who fanned out over two sets of decks and CDJs like an octopus, their tentacles criss-crossing as they intuitively tweaked and mixed each others' tracks. The set was a winding trip, journeying all the way from chugging techno to boogie-woogie, peaking at one point with Bullion's nautical house jam "Blue Pedro." "I've never seen a party like this in San Francisco," said a friend who recently moved to California. "It's usually a lot more Burner." Midway through the night, I met the party's scruffy-bearded cofounder, Jeremy Bispo, outside the venue. On the sidewalk nearby, The Black Madonna was being interviewed for a documentary about the birthday. With one eye trained towards the camera crew, Bispo told me that he started throwing raves in the Bay Area during the late '90s. "There was a strong warehouse party scene in 2008," he said. "But since the Ghost Ship fire, there have been less venues—people aren't putting themselves at risk that way." He then lowered his eyes and mentioned that several members of the As You Like It family died in the fire. "Losing Chelsea [Faith], Amanda [Allen] and Johnny [Igaz] was fucking horrible. Having my community grieve together, hug together, cry together, dance together is really special." When I asked if the local rave scene is under threat, he emphatically shook his head. "The city has changed—it's different than what I'm used to. But a party like this shows that San Francisco is very much alive." Photo credit / Bailey Greenwood