Oliver Wang will be hosting discussions Thursday at Skyline College in San Bruno and Saturday, Oct. 17, at the South San Francisco Library about his new book Legions of Boom.
An underground musical movement started by San Mateo County teens which eventually grew to breed a generation of disc jockeys who garnered international recognition is the focus of a book by an authoring touring locally.
Music journalist, author and college professor Oliver Wang will be hosting discussions Thursday, Oct. 15, at Skyline College in San Bruno and Saturday, Oct. 17, at the South San Francisco Library about his new book Legions of Boom, which is an exploration into the mobile DJ culture which permeated Filipino communities throughout the Bay Area in the 1980s.
Mobile DJs were crews of teens, primarily living in Daly City, South San Francisco and northern San Mateo County, who would pack audio and visual equipment into their vehicle and throw parties at empty gyms, garages and conventions centers, said Wang.
At the height of the popularity of the scene, thousands would attend large concerts featuring dozens of mobile DJ crews from across the Bay Area, culminating in 1987 with a massive party held at the San Mateo County Event Center, said Wang.
Young fans were encouraged to participate in the culture, and start their own mobile collective, because they could easily identify with the DJs throwing the party, as many of the most popular crews were comprised of other high school students, said Wang.
The movement grew organically, said Wang, without the benefit of much publicity or modern technology which can now aid the rapid ascension of musical talent.
Yet still, the accessibility of mobile DJing 30 years ago is the same concept that fuels some young people today to search out fame.
“It’s a viral idea,” he said.
But despite the popularity of the mobile DJ scene in the Filipino communities throughout Northern California, it remained relatively insular for years, he said.
Part of the joy of the process of writing the book, which began more than a decade ago for Wang, is shining the light on the innovators of a culture who have largely gone unrecognized.
Wang, who is also a DJ in his spare time when not working as a professor at California State University at Long Beach, said he was compelled in part to write the book due to his appreciation for a generation of artists who were inspired by the mobile DJ culture.
Many of the Daly City’s renowned DJ crew the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, including Q-Bert, who has won multiple world titles at DJ competitions, and Mixmaster Mike, who has recorded with the Beastie Boys, grew their passion for the craft while attending mobile parties, he said.
He credits the popularity of the mobile DJ scene in the 1980s as being integral in laying the groundwork for the next generation of superstars who would go on to revolutionize the art of playing, and scratching, records while building a generation of fans which included Wang.
Wang said during his speeches locally about his book he is also offering the DJs who performed at the parties an opportunity to come and talk at the events as well.
During the event at Skyline, he will be moderating a discussion between Yogafrog, also of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, DJ E-Rock, retired mobile DJ Glen Suarez and Melanie Kong, who has also worked to document the culture.
He said he hopes the book, and the speaking tour, will help breed an interest and more thorough investigation of a culture which he believes deserves greater exposure.
The mobile DJ culture is ripe for the potential focus of a documentary movie, Wang suggested, and said some filmmakers have expressed interest in reaching out to him to for help investigating the culture more fully.
“My hope is that other people will now seek out the stories I’ve missed,” he said. “It’s never been a well-documented community and scene.”
He likened the underground popularity of mobile DJ culture in Northern California to the burgeoning growth of hip-hop culture in New York during the 1980s.
What ultimately differentiated the two subcultures was hip-hop proved to be broadly economically viable as record labels were able capitalize on selling the music, while mobile DJing did not lend itself to a larger marketing campaign, said Wang.
“This was a culture that was largely about live performance, not recording,” he said.
The lack of focus on recording has aided the mobile DJ scene to fade into obscurity over the years, which is what compelled Wang to investigate it.
“This is a story that has yet to have been told,” said Wang.
Wang will speak Thursday, Oct. 15, from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. in Building 4, Room 4180 at 3300 College Drive on the campus Skyline College in San Bruno.
He will speak Saturday, Oct. 17, from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the South San Francisco Main Library, 840 W. Orange Ave. Visit www.legionsofbooms.com for more information.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105