Dirge for a beloved deejay
In memoriam: Pioneering local deejay, artist and music-scene ambassador Daniel Osterhoff passed away unexpectedly this past weekend, and the Sacramento music scene is devastated.
“I look at Sacramento and I see a loss whose magnitude cannot even be possibly calculated,” wrote Terra Lopez of Rituals of Mine. “The streets are filled with his energy, with his art and with his love for the culture here. He is undeniably one of the reasons I ever felt confident enough to start creating electronic music, and I know I’m just one of the many who feel this way.”
Osterhoff performed under the moniker DJ Whores, which he adopted as a dig at groupies who jock club deejays. In 2010, he founded Grimey, a bass-music series on Tuesdays at Townhouse in Midtown, which exploded as the city’s most popular dance night. Grimey captured the spirit of Bay Area warehouse parties, and it became a haven and safe space for Sacramento’s underground and LGBTQ-plus communities.
But Osterhoff was about more than just electronic beats; he was versatile, a deejay also at home mixing funk, soul, hip-hop, ’80s pop and R&B, thanks to his mom’s influence.
He inspired and charmed his peers with his irrepressible passion for music and his drive to make Sacramento a thrilling live-music town. “I owe a lot of what I am as a deejay to Dan, for making me work harder and stretch further,” wrote DJ Shaun Slaughter, a longstanding contemporary, friend and collaborator. “Any DJ who’s been in town long enough will tell you the same.”
April has been a particularly tragic month for the local creative scene: Two other artists also passed away, including fashion photographer David Alvarez and John Carlson, the sound technician at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub.
Osterhoff, 37, was also a prominent sign artist, a craft he learned from his father. He is responsible for numerous murals and business signs in the city, including Anthony’s Barbershop and B-Side.
“He’s done so much to push our music community forward and that effort, and its impact, often goes unnoticed,” wrote Clay Nutting, local music promoter and restaurateur. “As a person, he was such a solid dude, loved his daughter so much. He was a treasure.”
On a lighter note: Do you know what a music paradox is? I made this one up. It’s when two local bands, one sludge and the other neurotic indie-pop, rock the same show. It just doesn’t happen. Black metal bands play with doom bands, pop-punk shares the stage with post-pop, and never the subcultures shall meet, unless it’s the bill of an outdoor festival or someone’s house party.
But lo, a tasty buffet of genres began with Josiah Gathing on Saturday night at Starlite Lounge. The singer of the Palsy Bells blew through a set of sleepless indie rock poetry on a single, sprightly electric guitar with Mallard’s Alison Jaster on drums. It was a perfectly paced backlog of Gathing’s solo work.
George Seruset and Cameron Betts were the night’s second duo, the ever-despondent Eugene Ugly. The two crafted well-told musical stories of anxiety and internal woes. Seruset’s humble percussion bowed in and out to Betts’ semi-operatic vocals and indie rock riffs, and half the fun lay in hearing that complex conversation.
The heavy trio Chrome Ghost conjured an awesome contradiction of fuzzed out wallops and civilized vocal harmonies. Their disembowelment soundtrack was reined in by the fact that front man-guitarist Jake Kilgore and bassist Cole Thompson can make awfully pretty sounds together with their voices.
Similarly, the boys in Mad Tantra were nothing like the other bands. One minute, they played heady math jazz and guitar solos, and the next, radio-friendly funk rock. They were all seriously gifted musicians, but not without a light heart, which they showed in one of a few rap songs called “I Love My Squad.”
Not sure if this was an anomaly, or if we’ll see more shows like this at Starlite. Either way, the night’s softer vibes made sense until Chrome Ghost brought their bedlam. Then it made perfect sense.