Marc's Public Blog - Clubbing and Trance


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Ok, so I like electronic dance music, more specifically Trance. When I started in the 1990's, the US was a bit behind in that department.
Still, with San Francisco and San Jose nearby, I've had some opportunities to see some great EDM/Trance DJs. Back in the early 2000's, they sadly played club music in the US that was nowhere close to the hits they had composed and were known for, but over the years, as Trance started becoming more popular, those DJs finally started playing their good tunes in the US too, and maybe from 2004 on, it's only been getting better.
Popsicle Halloween 2004> was really the beginning of great music parties in the San Francisco Area, and thankfully things have gotten even better since then

As a matter of fact, after another 10 years (2015 and beyond) the good news is that Trance has grown quite a following in the US, and places like the SF Bay Area, and while Trance has been declared dead a few times in the last 10 years, it's still going strong here.
Trance Family SF is definitely strong in the area, we've been getting more big trance parties every year, including many top DJs that come visit us what feels like every other week now (as of 2018-2019), and through those events, I made many friends in Trance Family SF. Thanks to you all.

Over those years, I got the chance to meet a few of my favourite DJs, including Armin more than once, and my last hobby has been to work on lights for my shirt and pants (version 3) and (version 4)



You can find all the pictures here

Table of Content for clubbing:

More pages: May 2019 April 2019 March 2019 February 2019 December 2018 November 2018 October 2018 August 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 March 2018 February 2018 November 2017 August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 December 2016 November 2016 September 2016 August 2016 June 2016 May 2016 January 2016 September 2015 August 2015 June 2015 September 2014 August 2014 May 2014 September 2013 May 2012 May 2011 December 2009 November 2009 April 2009 March 2009 October 2008 June 2008 October 2007 September 2007 July 2007 May 2007 April 2007 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 June 2006 May 2006 January 2006 December 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 June 2005 May 2005 February 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 June 2004 August 2003 July 2003 February 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 July 2001 June 2000




2019/05/10 Anjunabeats, Midway SF
π 2019-05-10 01:01 in Clubbing
A mere week from EDC, Anjunabeats came to San Francisco for the end of their tour.

Another day at Midway SF, this time with two rooms:




I only had enough energy for one day, and the first day was the best, with the following DJs in the main room:

  • Tinlicker
  • Grum
  • ALPHA 9 b2b Jason Ross
  • Andrew Bayer b2b Ilan Bluestone
  • Side room:

  • Qrion
  • Spencer Brown
  • Reasonable crowd:




    I definitely liked the sets from Grum, and ALPHA 9 b2b Jason Ross:









    Video Summary:

    See more images for Anjunabeats, Midway SF
    2019/05/03 Allen Watts at Midway SF
    π 2019-05-03 01:01 in Clubbing
    I'll admit that I didn't know Allen Watts, which was on me. I should have known him, and now I do :)

    Eugene Luu opened for the first 2 hours with a good set. We enjoyed it:




    Allen Watts took over at 23:00 for a 3H set, which was really good. It was 3 hours of goodness, and I'm very happy I got to learn about a DJ I didn't know yet and plays Trance I quite enjoy. Thank you to the folks who organized the event and got him over:








    I really enjoyed what he played, here's a quick summary:

    See more images for Allen Watts at Midway SF
    2019/04/25 Orjan Nilsen at Audio SF
    π 2019-04-25 01:01 in Clubbing
    IT had been a while since I saw Orjan. He's a solid trance DJ I had seen in a festival at shoreline years back, and hadn't seen since then. It was great to see that he was visiting SF, even if it happened to be on a thursday night. So, I decided to go.

    AudioSF, however, continued its trend of not bothering to post any set times, or even who the opening DJ was going to be, because I guess it's not important for them to tell us?
    Sadly, the opening DJ, was... well, I try not to say bad things about DJs in general, because even if they're not great or I happen not to enjoy the music they're playing, they're still DJs, and I'm not, so that's probably enough of a reason that I can STFU :)
    But I'll say at least that AudioSF needs to get a clue and use opening DJs that remotely play the same genre than the same DJ.

    Poor Orjan had to work hard to bring the room back to Trance, which in theory was supposed to be the point of that night. Thankfully he did, and good time was had after that.







    he was super nice and posed for a lot of pictures that night. Thanks Orjan
    he was super nice and posed for a lot of pictures that night. Thanks Orjan

    See more images for Orjan Nilsen at Audio SF
    2019/04/19 Ladies of Trance - JES, Kristina Sky, Erika K & Melodie at Halcyon
    π 2019-04-19 01:01 in Clubbing
    It was nice to have a different event, just with Trance ladies this time, mixing DJs and JES Brieden, a famous trance singer.

    DJ Melodie started the night at 22:00
    DJ Melodie started the night at 22:00


    Erika K was next
    Erika K was next




    Jes brought a whole collection of songs she performed for us
    Jes brought a whole collection of songs she performed for us







    Jes was nice enough to take a picture with me, my shirt was too bright for the camera, ooops
    Jes was nice enough to take a picture with me, my shirt was too bright for the camera, ooops

    And Kistrina Sky closed the night
    And Kistrina Sky closed the night

    2019/04/12 Giuseppe Ottaviani at Mezzanine
    π 2019-04-12 01:01 in Clubbing
    Amother week, and more top DJs coming to play in SF, sometimes more than once a week. Hard to keep up :)

    I also used the opportunity to try my new shirt after some more tweaks


    Anyway, went to see Giuseppe Ottaviani, especially as DJ Blurr was opening for him, which he did with a great set:



    By 23:00, Giuseppe came and played a 3H set:







    It was a good set, good to have him over.

    Quick video summary:

    See more images for Giuseppe Ottaviani at Mezzanine
    2019/04/08 Clubbing, EDM Festival and Burning Man LED Pants and Shirt v4 on ESP32 with RGBPanels and SmartMatrix::GFX
    π 2019-04-08 01:01 in Arduino, Bm, Clubbing
    Show me the code:
  • https://github.com/marcmerlin/NeoMatrix-FastLED-IR (same code than my previous shirt, but upgraded for the higher resolution)
  • https://github.com/marcmerlin/SmartMatrix_GFX (API on top of SmartMatrix from Louis Beaudouin, without which this new shirt wouldn't have been possible)
  • https://github.com/marcmerlin/AnimatedGIFs (also original from Louis Beaudouin).
  • https://github.com/marcmerlin/FastLED_NeoMatrix_SmartMatrix_LEDMatrix_GFX_Demos (includes Aurora from Jason Coon, and Table code from Mark Estes)
  • Related pages:

  • Shirt V2
  • Shirt V3
  • SmartMatrix GFX I had to write (including Teensy with SmartMatrix v4 shield vs ESP32)
  • Using FatFS on ESP32 to store Animated GIFs
  • Diffusers for RGBPanel
  • Details: After version 3 of my shirt with a neopixel matrix, I had good fun, but was hoping to do more. Its resolution was only 24 x 32 pixels, enough to display fun patterns, but it's really not a lot of pixels.


    After months and months of work, here is version 4:


    Video demo:

    Sadly, going up in resolution with addressable pixels, is not that easy. While in theory you should be able to fit at least 2 addressable pixels per centimeter (aka P5). Currently my premade panels are P10, which is the only thing I could buy pre-made.

    What allowed me to switch were those flexible P4 RGB Panels from Azerone: https://amazon.com/gp/product/B07F87CM6Y


    With their P4 resolution, I'm able to fit 96x64 on my body using 3 panels of 64x32 chained together. The 3rd panel is then chained to the 2nd set of 3 panels in my back:


    On the old shirt, I put the rear panel inside the shirt, using the shirt as a diffuser, but with the RBGPanels, they were too thick for this to be practical, so I had to put them on top of the shirt. As a result, I ended up uing a black shirt which matches the color of the panels. I had to attach velcro to the new shirt, and confirmed that supergluing them was so much faster than sawing, and worked just as well:


    I unsoldered the power connectors that were too thick, and used small metal wire to connect the panels together (see top middle of the picture). Turned out those metal wires were a mistake as they can cause shorts on the LEDs on the other side of the board:


    Another thing I learned was that the holes I was using to put a metal wire to carry the panels over my shoulders, can't actually take the load, and the wire can cause damage to the copper trace that is just next to the hole. As a result, I replaced the metal wires with fishing wire and didn't use the bigger holes for load bearing:


    Speaking of removing thickness from the board, I removed the top of the ribbon connectors to make them a bit thinner. Sadly, RGBPanels still require 15 wires to send the video signal:


    I then took one panel and covered it with defusing foam (the rear panel, so that it's not too sharp and blinding to people behind me), while the front panel only has the plastic cover to protect the panels and offer a bit of extra diffusion:




    you can see the difference between the diffusion levels
    you can see the difference between the diffusion levels

    I then protected the rear of the panels given how much electronics were exposed:


    Small details had to be solved, like making sure I had enough amps going through the wires (use thicker wires). Without that, my brightest pattern that uses 8 amps, didn't quite make it:


    For fun, I made a pattern that scrolls my C++ scrolling code on the screens:


    As for the CPU that runs it, I picked the ESP32 since it's dual core and can do refreshes on one core while running code on the other core. My SmartMatrix::GFX page has more details on using ESP32 with SmartMatrix


    I went from a breadboard prototype to Jason Coon's ESP32 level shifter board, much more tidy
    I went from a breadboard prototype to Jason Coon's ESP32 level shifter board, much more tidy

    This video shows how things are wired from the ESP32 to the panels:

    Here is what the whole power system looks like:

  • 2 4S Lipos, 5Ah, 80wh, giving a total 160Wh of energy
  • Amp meter in line with the lipos and cell tester with low voltage warning buzzer
  • On off/switch
  • Amp gauge with timer to know how much energy flowed from the batteries (you can't run lipos down or they'll die)
  • Tobsun DC-DC converter to take voltage down to 5V
  • 2nd voltage regulator to bring the voltage further down to 3.3V for the El Wire glasses
  • 5V goes to RGBPanels via separate thick wire to carry the amps
  • ESP32 with level shifters from 3.3V back up to 5V for the RGBPanels (6 channels for the colors to level shifters, 4 address lines to do 16 scan line refreshes). CPU runs SmartMatrix::GFX and NeoMatrix-FastLED-IR
  • 16th data line is used for the Neopixel strips on my arms and legs, running the same code than the previous shirt
  • Walk through video:

    I have around 60 demos running on the panels, including some Animated Gifs on ESP32 FFat with the library I was able to improve:





    Here is an example of 3 levels of diffusers, including a raw set of panels with no diffusers:










    You can see a demo of the outfit being worn:

    If you don't have time for all this, and are ok with 64x64, you can try this backpack from gearbest with everything built in and a very thin board. Just not fun for me because I can't run my own code on it:



    2019/04/05 Paul Oakenfold at Audio SF
    π 2019-04-05 01:01 in Clubbing
    I can't believe it had been 15 years since I last saw Paul Oakenfold in a club, namely Ruby Skye, and funny thing enough the last 3 times I saw him after that were at Burning Man (2005, 2007, and 2014).

    Paul has alwasy been special to me, because he was the first Trance DJ I started listening to in the late 90's. I had 3 of his albums on loop in my not so portable battery powered hard drive archos MP3 player :)
    Sadly, he's falling a bit out of favour over the years, but then again it's been 25 years. It's hard to stay at the top for so long. At the same time, I can understand it must be hard for him to go back from big arenas to smaller clubs (and to be fair Audio SF was a disappoitingly small club). On the plus side, many of the people who showed up were likely his true fans from over the years, so hopefully that was heartwarming for him.

    Chris Willscape opened the evening:




    Around midnight, Oakey took over for what was supposed to be a 2.5H set.

    The first hour of the set was so so, and a slow transition from the previous DJ who was not playing uninspiring music, and then he transitioned into nice trance. Honestly, he didn't seem to have much of a good time initially (he was probably also a bit tired as he made a few DJ mistakes during his set like a very poor off beat transiton, or even playing the same tune twice by mistake), but he eventually warmed up and started playing more nice tunes.

    In the end, the set turned into almost 3.5H because we were all having a good time :)










    By 03:30, the club had thinned out a lot given that it was late, but his true fans were still there, and he was nice enough to stay for pictures, which was the best news of the night for me, a picture with my first EDM DJ, the one who brought me into this rabbit hole:




    Thanks Paul, thanks for the night and all the years before that.

    See more images for Paul Oakenfold at Audio SF
    2019/03/23 TFSF9 at Midway SF
    π 2019-03-23 01:01 in Clubbing
    It's been almost a year since TFSF8 for which I had built my matrix shirt.

    It was time to try my new beta shirt with 6144 pixels instead of 768 pixels per side. That was a lot more work (months of work to get a new driver working and port my code). It's not perfect yet, but it's a good start.

    This was last year, Shirt v3:


    And this year with my Shirt v4:



    If you are curious, this page that shows how I built my EDM Festival and Burning Man LED Pants and Shirt v4 on ESP32 with RGBPanels and SmartMatrix::GFX.

    Back to TFSF9, this year was only 2 rooms/DJs compared to the 4 rooms/DJs in TFSF7 and TFSF8 these last 2 years. There is a case to less is more, too many rooms makes it hard to enjoy much of anything, knowing that you're missing 3 other sets at the same time, but maybe 3 rooms would have been better, or at least using one of the indoors rooms instead of the somewhat chilly outside psytrance patio?

    Anyway, I was there bright and early with my friend Triode to make sure I could enjoy the entire night, and got a few pictures during setup;


    Kim checking out the VIP menu
    Kim checking out the VIP menu

    The 2 stages started going soon after 20:00 and the main room was more enjoyable than last year where it was overrun with smoke and a bit too packed at times:










    Then, soon after 23:00, my I went to check out Triode's custom set he had been working on and telling me about during the week. As we jokingly said, I dedicated it as the "zero fucks given" set :) It was fun to see how it went all over and jumped from tune to tune just enough to tease you and then go in another direction. Quite fun and enjoyable:





    After Triode, I went back to the main room for Ferry Corsten who went from midnight to 03:00.



    In between, I went arond the rooms to mingle with the crowds and catch up with some friends:





    Triode and Afik talking shop
    Triode and Afik talking shop

    And before long, it was 04:00, end of the evening. Thanks all for the great vibes and the music. See you next time!

    Quick, very incomplete video summary:

    See more images for TFSF9 at Midway SF
    2019/03/09 Cosmic Gate @ SF Regency Ballroom
    π 2019-03-09 01:01 in Clubbing
    Cosmic Gate has been celebrating their 20 years with a tour that landed in San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom.

    Taj opened the evening:



    Then Cosmic Gate took over from 10:30 to 02:00 with lots of classics:


    Emma Hewitt came for a surprise visit to sing multiple of those classic tracks:




    After those tracks, they went on for the rest of the evening, great tracks and great night:



    See more images for Cosmic Gate @ SF Regency Ballroom
    2019/03/01 ATB at Mezzanine
    π 2019-03-01 01:01 in Clubbing
    Doors opened at 21:00 with Jonathan opening:


    Niko took over after that:




    After a long wait, ATB finally showed up at 00:30. Despite being close to the front, it was hard to take pictures due to lack of lighting and some bad apples in the crowd that were pushing and shoving to try and get closer. 2 out of control girls kept pushing violently and managed to damage my shirt. Too bad security guys were completely unreachable on that side of the room without losing the spot I had spent hours to get...

    ATB's set, while on the short side (just 90mn), was good. I did my best to enjoy it despite the crowd and shoving issues that Mezzanine was unable to see or address:





    After his set, he nicely came to shake people's hands, which is obviously not something you get at a big festival where you'd usually see him:




    Video summary:

    See more images for ATB at Mezzanine

    More pages: May 2019 April 2019 March 2019 February 2019 December 2018 November 2018 October 2018 August 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018 March 2018 February 2018 November 2017 August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 December 2016 November 2016 September 2016 August 2016 June 2016 May 2016 January 2016 September 2015 August 2015 June 2015 September 2014 August 2014 May 2014 September 2013 May 2012 May 2011 December 2009 November 2009 April 2009 March 2009 October 2008 June 2008 October 2007 September 2007 July 2007 May 2007 April 2007 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 June 2006 May 2006 January 2006 December 2005 October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 June 2005 May 2005 February 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 June 2004 August 2003 July 2003 February 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 July 2001 June 2000