Founded in 2006 by veteran DJ Ken Woodard and Jacob Sperber, Honey Soundsystem is a San Francisco-based queer collective of DJs, musicians, performers, designers and artists, who all aim to provide an alternative option to the mainstream music found at many an LGBT party. Having found their inspiration in the Golden City’s infamous underground gay party scene of the past, they added their own modern edge with massive avant-garde installations and performance art pieces, involving everyone from drag queens to furries.
As most good ideas do, the idea for the group came about at a 4/20 party, and in the twelve years since, it has since grown from a San Francisco residency to an international phenomenon that is considered one of the best party crews in America, with no 'queer' qualifier needed. Their unique events are difficult to capture in words, but usually described as ‘decadent’, often themed around hallmarks of gay culture – think lots of black leather.
While some artists have come and gone, Honey Soundsystem remain stronger than ever with Jason Kendig and Robert Yang (aka Bézier) now running the show with Jacob Sperber (alter ego Jackie House), and filling out the current DJ roster. Those who catch their tour sets can expect a mix of back-to-back and solo performances, and while each of them has a slight variation in style, overall, their sounds consist of minimal beats mixed with a dab of disco or even a hint of Hi-NRG.
It’s a party atmosphere and ethos that saw them described in 2016 by Vice's former electronic music outlet Thump as ‘both tastemakers and unofficial historians of the queer dance culture movement’. But it’s not just about their own line-up, and they’ve hosted a number of big international names, including DJ Sprinkles, Prosumer and Boris, with the most notable being Norwegian spinner Todd Terje. In addition to their own events, their artists have played countless Boiler Room sets and shows around the world, including Glastonbury festival.
The group also recently established Honey Soundsystem Records (also known as HNYTRX) as means to release their favourite underground producers, so far showing off the work of Justin Cudmore, Mike Servito and Octo Octa – who is one of very few electronic musicians to undergo gender-identity transition after gaining notoriety. The crew also has a passion for archivist work and digging out lost gems, which resulted in their resurrection of a catalogue of lost gay porn soundtracks produced by Patrick Cowley, a pioneer of electronic dance music in the 1970s until his untimely death from AIDS at the age of 32. They even managed to track down one of the original singers on his tracks, Jorge Socarrás, and had him perform at one of their renowned events.
Although you won't get the full-scale experience at Dada (we can’t expect them to travel with two women who dress as horses and neigh at each other), they will be bringing the free-loving vibes that have made their parties a staple of the San Francisco party scene. And we could definitely use more of that in Beijing.