Before Jay Denes' Naked Music label arrived from New York, there was a West Coast sound in dance music that was meatier, funkier, and more tribal. While the Naked sound set Kenny G.-like moods to a house beat, the pre-Denes flavors of left coast house music were heavily spiced by dub reggae and the psychedelic bliss of a handful of British expatriate DJs who arrived in California in the late 1980s and early 1990s to escape rave crackdowns and drug violence in the U.K.
Chief among those immigrants wereGarth
, co-founders of the Wicked Crew DJs, which put the Golden State on dance music's global map in the mid-1990s. Both also helped organize the infamous Full Moon outdoor gatherings, Baker Beach events that paired the Bay Area's psychedelic past with a DJ-driven future - long before Burning Man appropriated the more-hedonistic elements of rave culture. The pair's heyday dates to the mid- and late-'90s, but only because they're no longer the flavor of the moment. (Naked's smooth house sound soon took over, and now the children of that shiny, happy genre, such as Kaskade, are ruling club-land). But Garth and Jeno's rubbery bass lines and chugging, bell-bottom grooves are intractable. Garth, in particular, has carried the torch for true California house music, unleashing tunes via his
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label, which was named after his 1947 Greyhound sound-system bus.
Along with Los Angeles-based Doc Martin, who spent time the Bay Area rubbing shoulders with Garth in the late '80s, these spinners represent the true West Coast sound, hybrid in its origins yet unified in its reverence for up-tempo funk. When you experience a Garth and Jeno set, you feel the music and you soak up some of its history. Garth and Jeno, perhaps more than any other DJs, have connected San Francisco's countercultural past with its cyber-cultural present. Just because it's not rock doesn't mean it's not subversive. They have a gravitas that's missing among today's laptop spinners. Check them out Tuesday, August 25 at Focus OC.