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SF Weekly Music Awards 2003

Americana DJ/Selector/Turntablist Electronic/Electro Hard Rock/

Metal Hip Hop/Rap Jazz Latin/

International Lifestyle Music New Genre/Beyond Pop Punk Rock/Indie Rock Soul/Funk/ R&B 

If music be the brandy of the damned, then we're drunk off our asses


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DJ Vinnie Esparza

In a town that's packed with nimble-fingered scratch masters, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that deep crates and good taste can get you just as far as circus-sideshow vinyl manipulation. DJ Vinnie Esparza may not be laying down the "wikki-wikki" with his left ass cheek anytime soon, but his preposterously varied collection of wax and impeccable gift for selection rarely fail to rock the party.

A 10-year turntable veteran, Esparza got his start spinning on the radio in Santa Cruz before making the move to the Bay Area and hitting the clubs. Where many DJs find a niche genre and stick to it exclusively, Esparza's expertise covers a broad band of the global sound spectrum. Over the course of a typical set, you'll find b-boys body-rocking to obscure hip hop, salseros swinging hard to Latin boogaloo, spliffed-out reggae fans nodding to echo-laden dub, and party people drunkenly throwing down to crowd-pleasing funk nuggets. In addition to regularly tag-teaming on sound systems at the Hush Hush ("Loose Booty" and "New Conception"), the Elbo Room (a monthly residency at "Dub Mission"), and Milk ("Hella Tight") with such luminaries as Soulsalaam and Asti Spumanti, Esparza has turned his keen ear toward spreading sonic wealth to the masses as one of the principals behind Dis-Joint/Re-Joint Records. Founded with Groove Merchant proprietor "Cool Chris" Veltri in 2000, the label recently issued its first compilation of dusty gems and newly minted dance-floor fillers titled Dis-Jointed: 10 Heavy Duty Sure Shot Selections.

DJ Mark Farina

Few DJs personify San Francisco's house music scene like Mark Farina. Raised in Chicago, where the genre first took shape, Farina lived and bonded over house, Detroit techno, and new wave with fellow music fanatic DJ Derrick Carter. As Carter got busy reviving the Chi-town house club scene after its late-'80s slump, Farina injected the music's relentless thump with his broad-minded mix aesthetic, which encompassed jazz, funk, and uptempo hip hop. A visit to San Francisco with Carter convinced Farina that the West Coast was the best place to develop his style, which he had refined in both his popular Mushroom Jazz mix-tape series and later as an even more popular CD series by the same name for local label Om Records. Starting in 1992, Farina solidified his S.F. following with his weekly "Mushroom Jazz" club night, which fed off the acid-jazz mood of the city and drew packed crowds for most of its three-year run. Since then, he has been consistently touring the globe and releasing mix-CDs on Om, like San Francisco Sessions Vol. 1 and Connect, the latter of which balances the deep and sunny S.F. vibe with the funky club sound of his hometown. Air Farina, his debut artist album, which hits the streets this month, reflects Farina's hip hop and Chicago-friendly take on S.F. house, and features guests like local house producer Kaskade and old-school hip-hoppers People Under the Stairs.

DJ Sep

In the Bay Area, there aren't too many DJs who have the scope, ambition, and drive of Sep Ghadishah, otherwise known as DJ Sep. As an artist, label owner, and club promoter as well as radio and club DJ, Ghadishah has transfigured the traditional DJ role of simply playing records with her brand of diverse musical activism. Local reggae fans wizened enough to remember what Sunday nights in San Francisco were like before Labor Day 1996 give thanks and praise to Ghadishah for starting the club night "Dub Mission" at the Elbo Room. Over the past seven years, Ghadishah, along with her crew of DJs (including award winners like Vinnie Esparza and J-Boogie), has transformed a virtually barren evening at the venue into a dub-lover's weekend delight. She's hosted neo-dub figures like Tino Corp, Ben Wa, and Dr. Israel, as well as dub forefathers Mad Professor and Adrian Sherwood. As co-producer of the compilation Babylon Is Ours: The USA in Dub (on Germany's Select Cuts label), she exposed the bounty of American dub talent to the world. Ghadishah's involvement in the city's world-music scene is no less impressive, with residencies and guest spots on nights like "Noor" with DJ Cheb i Sabbah and the South Asian night "Dhamaal," along with programming and promotions duties for the S.F. World Music Festival. On top of all that, Ghadishah's been the opening spinner of choice for everyone from Zap Mama to Kill the Robots, a range that speaks volumes about her diverse turntable repertoire.


Gravy Train!!!!

Although the pop world has learned to love 2 Live Crew's stupid sexuality, J.J. Fad's dumb cuteness, and the early B-52's synth silliness, most listeners are simply not ready for the poly-perverse love child of all three, otherwise known as Gravy Train!!!! If you haven't heard of this filthy-minded foursome, well, it's most likely because you value good taste. Made up of pudgy MC Chunx, Casio beat-maker Funx, and vocalists/dancers Drunx and Hunx (the group's sole male, er, member), Gravy Train!!!! has made a name for itself as the city's only mega-lo-fi novelty band that addresses every sexual subject you thought was wrong to even think about. Its four-song Menz EP from 2001 and debut album, Hello Doctor (released this year on the vaunted Kill Rock Stars label), comprise a portrait of four people who've achieved the impossible: making unrepentant songs about cruising Catholic schools and giving birth to hamburgers actually sound cute. Of the band's live repertoire, the tune that usually gets GT!!!! audiences howling is "You Made Me Gay," which explicitly chronicles the apparently true story of Chunx's conversion of the formerly straight Hunx. But more ribald than the narrative itself is the near-nightmarish visual of a tall, lanky man in pink hot pants and a fuzzy-bear hat spitting rhymes over plinking keyboard beats as he is virtually sodomized by his bandmate's microphone. It's shtick like this that keeps Gravy Train!!!! in that must-see-to-believe category of San Francisco's music scene.


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