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Spesh (né Stephen Kay) has three claims to fame. ONE, he is half of the world renowned production team Jondi & Spesh. TWO, he founded San Francisco’s longest running electronic music event, Qoöl (possibly the city’s most popular clubbing night, ever). And THREE, he maintains a large fan base of insanely dedicated clubbers who connect with his totally enthralling, off-the-beaten-path style of DJing.
In the global dance music community, Spesh is best known as half of Jondi & Spesh, the duo that Mixmag called “the dons of progressive house.” Muzik magazine rated their artist album “We Are Connected” as one of their top 40 albums of the year. Fans of the game Dance Dance Revolution are more familiar with the trance sound of Jondi & Spesh, but as producers they refuse to be pinned down, having released music in every EDM category (including house, tech house, breaks, drum ‘n bass, and ambient) on over a dozen labels (including Bedrock, Global Underground, Renaissance, and their own imprint Loöq Records). The sound of Loöq is equally ambitious and eclectic. Started in ’98 and coming up on its hundredth release, Loöq Records releases have received enthusiastic support from the world’s top DJ’s (including Nick Warren, Sacha, Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, Lee Burridge, Danny Howells, and dozens of others).
Spesh has been the artistic leader of San Francisco’s dance music scene since the early nineties. With musical influences including Punk, Ska, New Wave and Funk, Spesh quickly rose in the local scene with a high profile residency at Release. Next on the list was Qoöl, a weekly happy hour party Spesh started at the now iconic 111 Minna Gallery. The unique vibe and format of the event quickly earned it a massive following, and the world’s original underground pan-techno happy hour soon had lines wrapping around the block. Jonathan Lisle visited and compared Qoöl to the legendary Hacienda in Manchester.
Spundae founder Guiv Naomi says Spesh is one of the best DJ’s from SF and one of the coolest promoters around. “I wish I could have spotted the records he was playing, because he was playing some Blinders,” says one writer from Xpander NL after seeing Spesh at a gig in Amsterdam. “It was funky, it was electro, it was breaks, it was pure progressive!” John Digweed simply says (on his KISS FM show featuring a Spesh mix) that “Spesh is an excellent DJ” (high praise coming from Diggers). Ben Westhoff, a visiting writer for San Francisco Magazine, says this of a Spesh set at Qoöl: “I can still see Spesh searching for the perfect LP, that obscure house recording from England or Finland or Australia that is exactly what the party needs to go from happy hour to ecstatic hour. Suddenly he drops a cut so fabulous that we simply lose ourselves, ‘peaking,’ on the most frantic, layered, and inspirational music of his set. An entire dance floor erupts into bliss, arms in the air and hips shaking to the quick, hard beats.”
Spesh can be counted on to bring something new and unexpected to every gig. His refusal to take the obvious route makes his many fans more passionate than usual. They expect more than fantastic dance music flawlessly mixed; they expect to be transported to another dimension. Over nineteen years of spinning records has given Spesh time to develop his talents to a nearly unconscious level. As Spesh himself says, “I’m doing my job when everybody in the room, including myself, has completely lost track of time.”