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Forget ’American Idol’: S’Frisco Had a ’Top DJ’ Contest

by Jim Hauck
Wednesday Jul 20, 2011

What do Russ Rich, Byron Bonsall, and Brian Maier have in common? They are all residents of San Francisco, they are all DJs, and as of this week were named to the first, second and third place positions in San Francisco's Next Top DJ contest.

An event conceived with Past Curfew (producers of Play T-Dances in San Francisco) and Folsom Street Events (producers of Up Your Alley Street Fair and Folsom Street Fair), several DJs entered the contest by completing submissions for judging by a panel. Following the judging panel, the top five DJ submissions were loaded up online and the second round of judging was cast out to the social media streams to secure top votes.

The prize, a chance to play at the Up Your Alley Street Fair Dance Area on Sunday, July 31, with the winner getting the prime time spot and a chance to headline a future Play T-Dance party.

The contest online voting ended on Friday, July 8, and the tallies showed that DJ Russ Rich was the winner, followed by DJ Byron Bonsall and DJ Brian Maier.

Russ Rich has had recent fame and success at a number of parties in the San Francisco scene, including recent gigs at Industry, Fresh SF, and Bearracuda. Making his rounds on the scene, Russ has started to make his ascent into bigger and more prominent time slots, delivering a range of music from high-energy T-dance vocals and anthems, to darker tribal beats.

He credits influences from the Freemasons and Wayne G to Moto Blanco and PeterRauhofer. "Being in the contest was a lot of fun. It took some discipline to figure out what sound I wanted to go with", said Rich. "I tried to keep it fun and upbeat, and at the same time working in a sexy vibe."

He has always wanted to do a contest and to have an opportunity to spin at Dore Alley (Up Your Alley). "It felt great to win the contest because it will help me grow as a DJ," explains Russ, "but it was strange because I'm pretty good friends with almost all of the DJs who were finalists, and they all did an incredible job!" Russ has podcasts available on his website.

Byron Bonsall is another well-known DJ in the San Francisco scene. He's been spinning at Shangri-La, Dragon, and San Francisco Flagging in the Park. His uplifting sound pulls tracks from production houses like 7TH Heaven and he is influenced by major DJs like Phil B, Paul Goodyear, Wayne G and Andy Almighty.

"I had a great time putting my submission together and was excited to have made it to the final round." Check out Byron's website for music selections .

Brian Maier has spun at Rebel, Bearracuda and Reach Pride T-Dance. He pulls in a completely different and more progressive house sound, pushing the limits to techno and very soulful house. Brian has roots in influences from his time on the play at Burning Man and such major talents as Sasha, Digweed and Syd Gris. "I like to spin music I like to hear, something different" says Maier. Brian has several sets loaded up to Sound Cloud for immediate listening.

All three of these guys are personal favorites and I am honored to call them all friends. I have watched their careers grow and develop and it is wonderful to see them shine. San Francisco is a lucky town to have such amazing homegrown talent giving us all a reason to dance under the shiny disco ball.


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