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Electronic Sriracha Festival Spices Up Labor Day

In Culture
DJ Basura, resident DJ at the Blank Club, is one of many local DJs spinning at the Electronic Sriracha Festival.

DJ Basura, resident DJ at the Blank Club, is one of many local DJs spinning at the Electronic Sriracha Festival.

Even the guy who organized the forthcoming Electronic Sriracha Festival, slated to take place Labor Day Weekend in San Jose’s St. James Park, isn’t exactly sure why he decided to pair the the popular hot sauce with electronic dance music, or, in the parlance of our times, EDM.

Sriracha hot sauce and electronic music don’t ostensibly have much in common. One comes in a plastic squeeze bottle and makes all kinds of foods spicy and delicious; the other comes in many different forms and makes people dance.

“It’s one of those things that doesn’t make any sense,” says Ryan Sebastian, founder of the San Jose-based food-truck-event planning company, Moveable Feast, which is organizing the festival and has previously put on the Taco Festival of Innovation and the Bacon Festival of America. In a way, though, it does make sense—“on so many levels.”

There are many parallels between the ascendence of the Sriracha and EDM. Both products first established footholds overseas, both initially enjoyed only a small niche audience in the U.S., and both have exploded into the mainstream over the past five years or so.

Sriracha

The origins of Sriracha can be traced back to Thailand, where a variety of recipes for the condiment abound. In 1980, a Vietnamese immigrant named David Tran started producing and selling his own version of the sauce. Tran has said he never imagined his Sriracha would sell to more than a small group of Asian immigrants, as up until that point, spicy food had never been big in America.

And while some of the earliest house DJs began making minimalist, dance-oriented music in Detroit in the late ’70s, electronic dance music didn’t take off in the U.S. until recently. Club and rave culture was much bigger in Europe until about 2010—the year Bon Appétit magazine named Sriracha “Ingredient of the Year”—when noisy, maximal producers, like Skrillex, first started catching American ears. Both Sriracha and EDM are now pop culture sensations.

So, it is perhaps little wonder that the response to the announcement of the Electronic Sriracha Festival has been so overwhelming. Still Sebastian was caught off guard.

“We thought people would talk about it because it’s such a weird connection,” Sebastian says. But he didn’t expect to see his event picked up by the national press. The festival has been covered by Fox News, Huffington Post, LA Weekly and Vice. Not all of the coverage has been positive, and the Vice piece was particularly snarky, but Sebastian isn’t concerned.

“If no one ever criticizes you for anything, you probably haven’t taken enough risks,” Sebastian says, adding that he isn’t just trying to capitalize on a trend. “People have been using Sriracha in San Jose for a long time—a lot longer than some hipster from Hollywood has.”

Sebastian will be giving away custom Electronic Sriracha Festival bottles—manufactured specifically for the event at the Huy Fong plant in Southern California—to the first 7,500 people through the gate. Once inside, patrons will have plenty to do. Food trucks and vendors will be serving over 120 Sriracha-infused dishes, including cupcakes, ice cream, cotton candy and more.

There will be three stages—all focused on mellower electronic sounds, like deep house, and steering clear of bigger, brash high-energy electronic artists that spin big house, dubstep and trap. “It’ll have more of a chill out, feel-good, happy, summertime vibe,” says local DJ John Beaver who is booking the festival’s Olmstead and Kennedy stages. Mathew Gonzales from Sonido Clash is booking the Hart stage.

Some highlights from Beaver’s stages include Sam F, a Bay Area producer that’s worked on a lot of recent Lonely Island tracks, Aaron Axelsen, program director for LIVE 105, Thee-O, a cutting edge DJ from Los Angeles, and Beaver himself, who’s played Coachella, and opened for all the big names in electronic music like Tiesto.

Gonzales will have more offbeat electronic music, including groups like Los Disco Duro, play electronic cumbia music by mixing live percussion with keys and sequencers. Headlining his stage is SF DJ That Girl, who brings a global soul, future funk mix to her sets.

The Electronic Sriracha Festival will be held on Saturday, Aug. 30, at St. James Park in San Jose. More info.

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