SAN FRANCISCO -- With the mindset of musicians locked into a groove with the crowd, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist stood clearly in control, perched over their turntables, mixing songs like chemicals to create a soulful musical potion.
With every track laid down by the turntablists during the Future Primitive Sound Session Friday night, they seemed to inject the crowd with a renewed energy.
The effects left the attendees clapping, whooping, cheering and, most of all, dancing into the wee hours.
"We just kind of put things together and went over it and went over it," DJ Shadow said, after his performance.
The turntable partners said that they spent a week planning out their set, song by song, for this special DJ night. Their practice was unmistakable in the seamless mix they presented.
Working together to create a flow of music, the two DJs seemed to pull out every obscure single from their record collections for the first-ever "45 Session" in the Future Primitive series. This special theme night, which is held irregularly at various locations throughout the year, saw a number of top-name turntablists stepping up to the challenge of mixing an entire set using only 45 RPM singles.
The task was formidable, since 45s have smaller grooves than 12-inch records and are much more sensitive to DJ mistakes. "It's very hard to scratch with 45s, because the 45s tend to slip," said San Francisco's Rasta Q-Tip, 28, who spun at the show. "You have to be really light. You can't be really crazy."
Instead of scratching like mad, the DJs went crazy with the choice of songs they mixed together.
Over the course of the evening, classic hip-hop tracks from Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys were played next to funky tracks by Godfather of Soul James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic and classic rock songs such as Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride." The audience rolled with the changes, cheering equally loud for both Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" and Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."
Z-Trip, 27, a DJ from Phoenix, said he went out of his way to bring unexpected music into the mix. "That's my whole goal -- to try to take it back to the original sh--," he said. "Hip-hop was always about rocking beats and odd breaks, and people have kind of forgotten about that."
While most of the crowd was dancing, there was a sizeable group gathered around the turntables, with people craning their necks to get a glimpse of the DJs at work. For those who weren't close enough to see for themselves, there was a video camera projecting their moves onto the walls.
"I think these guys are really amazing and the energy of this place is just fantastic," attendee Molly Yarnell, 27, said. "Everyone is just smiling and having fun."
The event, held in a warehouse-size club space south of Market St. had crowds lining up at the door early. A shuttle brought fans from downtown to the club so that, by 10:30 p.m., it was packed. Psychedelic lights were projected onto the walls, and campy visuals from old movies were intercut with live video of the DJs.
Most of the DJs, including Rasta Q-Tip, Nu-Mark, Z-Trip, Cool Chris and Romanowski, spun sets consisting of familiar tracks. That changed when DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist took over the decks. Their set focused mainly on obscure soul selections from DJ Shadow's sizeable 45 collection.
Cut Chemist said he was glad that DJ Shadow finally got a chance to play many of the records he loves. "I wanted him to play soul, because that's his forte," he said. "No one ever gets to see him do that. They only see him spin hip-hop."
Toward the end of their set, the two began to play with some of DJ Shadow's own recordings, re-creating and remixing " The Number Song" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Organ Donor" live onstage. To do this, they used some of the records he originally sampled to make those tracks.
At the end of the night, all the DJs came back to the decks and took turns mixing records together, playing off one another's work. When they finally shut off the music at 3 a.m., fans mobbed the DJs, who seemed more than happy to comply with requests for autographs.
"There's a lot of attention being given to DJs right now, and I just think it's karma coming back," DJ Shadow said. "DJs were in the background for a long time. I think it's great that people are willing to come out and listen to DJs spin records."