These days, the East Bay is fairly awash with DJs. Almost any night of the week, you can hear somebody working the turntables at venues like Kingman’s, Radio, the Ruby Room, Oasis, the Golden Bull, and Shattuck Down Low — even Albany’s Ivy Room features a regular DJ night. But it wasn’t always that way. Seven years ago, “you had to go to San Francisco to hear electronic music,” DJ Delon recalls. Yet despite plenty of turntablist-friendly bars, clubs, and restaurants, there was also what he calls a “clique-iness to the SF scene,” which made it difficult for outsiders, especially African Americans and women, to land gigs.
Delon, who also is the music booker for Berkeley brewpub Jupiter, decided to do something about it. Teaming up with his friend DJ Yamu, he launched Beatdown on Jupiter’s outdoor patio, recruiting a rotation of guest DJs to spin “atmospheric” dance and chill-out music — drum ‘n’ bass, house, and downtempo. The night proved popular with both the after-dinner crowd and those warming up for a late night on the town, and word quickly spread through the DJ community; all-woman crew Witches Brew and Add1 soon became regulars, while electronic music luminaries like Blacktroniks passed through to pay their respects and sip IPAs while munching gourmet pizza.
Beatdown not only kept locals dancing over seven successive summers, but became a template for Jupiter’s current “laptop funk” Selector Series, as well as breaking ground for the current East Bay DJ scene. Many Beatdown alumni are still active locally, Delon notes. He currently spins second and fourth Thursdays at Kingman’s, while Add1 has residencies at DNA and Suite181 while also being the regular DJ for the Warriors and the Giants. As for Yamu, he’s been out of the loop — for the past two and a half years, he’s been running a restaurant in Costa Rica. But this Thursday, he’ll be back behind the decks for the Beatdown Reunion (7 p.m., free, 2181 Shattuck Ave.). Hopefully, Delon jokes, “he can dust the cobwebs off and see if he’s still got the old magic.” Visit JupiterBeer.com for more details. To hear one of the East Bay’s best DJ nights, you’ll have to voyage to Jupiter.