About two hours into All Day I Dream, in Hellman Hollow at Golden Gate Park this weekend, I noticed a family on the bank watching and listening to the scene above. The speakers blasted house music, but from where the family listened, they probably heard a sub-aquatic sounding bass and not much more. The family stood motionless in the distance watching the scene below, except one of the two little boys, who bobbed his entire body, like one of those elastic toys that collapses and snaps back into shape. He couldn’t not dance.
Sunday was All Day I Dream’s first time in Golden Gate Park, but the record label and nomadic event has been putting on shows around the world since 2011. Performers this weekend were Hoj, Lee Burridge and special guest Bob Moses. Because of Parks and Recreation’s and San Francisco Police Department’s rigid park policy, the music started at 1 pm and ended promptly at 7 pm as the sun set.
The stage itself felt more like a room than a stage. Rows of tall cedar columns were engraved with birds and flowers, connected lavender, violet and baby blue ribbons and lanterns. It was a windy day and the ribbons flowed like a sine wave for six hours straight. The DJ booth was basically ground level, covered with flowers and backed with a moss looking texture. If you didn’t pick up on the performers’ naturalistic take on deep house, the setting finished the thought for you.
I got there a little after 1pm and quickly realized it would be kind of hard to chronicle this show, or at least harder than it is to chronicle a band at a venue. All Day I Dream time passes to a different click. For one thing, the event was long. Six hours for three sets isn’t unique for house, but it is for music in general. Hoj and Lee Burridge had about 2 ½ hours a piece, and Bob Moses played for the final hour. Because of this, there’s a gradual pacing to peoples’ collective energy. There aren’t any large-scale sudden movements, no stampeding the stage, just a prolonged steady movement. Which is another reason it’s kinda tricky to chronicle. Here I am, dancing for who knows exactly how long, seemingly same for everyone around me; I go to the restroom and come back and things are pretty the same but a little different – people dancing a little denser, music hitting a little harder.
Something hard not to notice about the gathering: Everyone dressed really well. By “well,” I mean there were a lot of people with really distinct, curated and seen-through looks. The kind of outfits that give an abnormally strong impression of what the wearer might be like. It might sound petty, and I’m fully aware that “festival outfits” are a thing, but I also think this kind of expression plays a huge role in what people expect from an event like this. Dressing up, or in way most people generally don’t, is one way to disarm a shared space; it’s a way to lay claim to and constitute, if anything, the space immediately surrounding your body. I’ve tended to think of super expressive festival-wear as an individualistic thing, but at All Day I Dream it registered more as a communal gesture, if that makes sense.
Like a lot of outdoor events, there were several rings of engagement with the music. Furthest from the stage were the bathrooms and food trucks, closer was a crowd of people mostly seated and mostly talking, and closest were the people standing if not dancing in what was the loudest and most shaded area. I was sort of wandering around, sitting and dancing throughout the day, but mostly dancing. The energy of the place was wholly dependent on the distribution of people through the enclosing. If there was a scatter plot of all the attendees and their distance from the stage at every point throughout the show, the average distance from the source shrunk as the day went on, people pushed up, and by the end, I saw people immediately in front of every set of speakers, dancing directly with who knows how many decibels like snakes charmed.
Repetition is one of the main characters in house music. The music itself on Sunday was like a river that doesn’t speed or slow. Repetition is also a way to document change. I think that’s why house music sounds so goddamn confident. It doesn’t budge. And the kind of change repetition describes is a steady, slow burn – more concerned with time than event. Throughout pretty much the full six hours there was constant four on the floor, so constant it fades to the back of your ear behind the higher-end, chord changes and percussion. The throb gets so familiar and buried it becomes near-physiological. Occasionally the DJ or performer would ease into a low pass filtered groove, cutting out the higher pitched noises, and flexing the sound system’s lower end muscles, and when the bass submerged past a certain point, it became more of a sensation with a heartbeat than a sound. A bodied impact on the one two three and four. You definitely hear it, but you feel it as much if not more.
I was there for the full six hours, but I’m having a hard time bringing the whole thing to life after the fact, at least in a vivid or even chronological way. There was no shortage of things to take note of, between the music itself and the festivities (face-painting, normal painting, yoga, Frisbee, drinking, whatever else, eating, talking, taking pictures, posing for pictures, drumming, tanning, dancing, dancing, dancing). But I think this sort of response comes by design. Once the event started it just kept happening, like the music itself, uninterrupted and transportive. A lot of other, more band-driven genres are delineated by moments, house shows aren’t delineated. That’s why I left without much of a narrative, but more of a sustained feeling. One thing that stuck with me, and stuck with me hard, is the song Lee Burridge closed his set with. A remix of this oldie but goodie.
Check out these photos of the event, courtesy of Darrin Harris Frisby.