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DJ Bus Station John

Perhaps the most important DJ on the San Francisco gay scene in the past decade, Bus Station John has been the musical conduit for a huge cultural reawakening among younger homos. Called “the godfather of bathhouse disco,” he’s revered throughout the dance music world for his fastidious attention to party detail and his inimitable blend of extremely rare 1970s and early ’80s soul, boogie, garage, …funk, Italo disco, Hi-NRG, and NYC no-wave.

But his influence goes far beyond helping to inspire the underground disco revival that has displaced techno as the music of choice on many of the world’s sophisticated dance floors. Believe it or not, disco and Hi-NRG used to be verboten in most gay clubs in the ’90s and early ’00s, sonic reminders of the early AIDS crisis that were trampled beneath pounding circuit music beats and generic diva screams. Imagine queers being ashamed of disco!

The arrival of life-extending protease inhibitors for HIV-positive men in the late ’90s opened the door for a not-so-painful appreciation of the recent gay past, and the time was ripe for a DJ to reprise the fantastic sounds of a generation tragically swallowed by disease — sounds that San Francisco had a huge hand in creating through the likes of producer Patrick Cowley, singer Sylvester, and dozens of other integral analog musicmakers.

Enter DJ Bus Station John in 2000, tastefully flaunting his dedication to the hot and heavy bathhouse and backroom days of yore. (The city, still gripped by AIDS panic, continues to outlaw these queer sexual venues.) Although the music is central to his mission, his parties are a complete package. From Xeroxed flyers of hand-made Gluesticked collages featuring Grace Jones or Joan Crawford in a spiky forest of exaggerated phalluses to his notorious “no cell phone” policy on the dance floor, he conjures the heady lust of gay history before social networking and the Internet replaced genuine human contact. “I work without a net, as it were,” he says. “There’s still a sense of discovery when you walk into my parties — no predetermined list of ‘friends’ who are going. It’s a fresh and spontaneous mix.”

Bus Station John parties have also fostered the discovery of new spaces for homos to get down — past gigs have brought Deco Lounge, the Gangway, and the old Transfer to light as viable venues. His current regular parties include the disco-drenched Tubesteak Connection (Thursdays, 10 p.m., Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, 133 Turk, SF) and frequent appearances at Comfort & Joy events.

(Source: SFBG Goldies 2010)

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