Fault Radio opens music club in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Kohli became involved with Fault after losing his job as a booker at the Public Works nightclub during the first COVID-19 closures in 2020. When the pandemic began, Fault Radio maintained its momentum by playing DJs spinning records at their home. When public health restrictions allowed some small businesses to reopen, they staged shows from record stores and restaurants. The list eventually grew to about 120 locations in the Bay Area, Portland, Los Angeles, and even some international spaces.

Since then, Fault Radio’s lineup has grown from five or six regular streams to a jam-packed 30-show schedule, featuring genres like G-funk, drum and bass, footwork and soulful house. “If you come to play on Fault, we bring you here to express yourself artistically and creatively,” says Kohli.

Station manager Mohit Kohli (left) talks to DJ partners April Garcia and Veronica Garcia during a live video broadcast at Fault Radio’s new physical location in San Francisco’s Chinatown on July 13, 2022. April and Veronica pass by Motown Mami and Vero G. during their set, Stoned Soul. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

All of Fault Radio’s DJ sets are archived on its website, which also includes articles highlighting local artists and labels. The station doesn’t measure success by numbers or views, so DJs have the freedom to dig deep into niche genres and spotlight specific subcultures.

For Vero G., who grew up listening to old San Francisco lowriders, Stoned Soul is a way to pass on the music and culture of her parents and grandparents. “We keep the music alive, we keep it alive,” says Vero G., real name Julia Veronica Garcia. “And that’s for the next generation. That’s how I see it. I leave a small piece behind me for my grandchildren.

Given the changes and shifts in her hometown, Vero G. says she appreciates the inclusiveness of Fault Radio. “It’s something new that brings together a lot of people, a lot of different cultures, a lot of different music, different people,” she says. “It’s for everyone.”

Veronica Garcia takes a recording on the turntable during a live video stream at Fault Radio’s new physical location in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She and her friend April Garcia go through Vero G. and Motown Mami during their set, Stoned Soul. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

For Vero partner DJ Motown Mami, Fault Radio provided a much-needed sense of community. “During the pandemic, he was isolating himself. Especially as a person who lived alone, ”explains the artist, whose real name is April Garcia. “It was really good that we could still connect with soul music. So I’m really happy to be here in the flesh. … It’s the music; it’s the food and seeing the people, the laughs, it’s the beers, that’s all, it’s an atmosphere for sure.

This unassuming atmosphere is exactly what Fault Radio founders Dor Wand and Dundee Maghen wanted to create when they launched the station four years ago. Both are originally from Israel, and Wand lived in London for 9 years where he worked for the influential independent label Ninja Tune, which counts Bonobo and Kelis among its artists. When Wand arrived in San Francisco, he was surprised to find a music scene pushed to the fringes despite the city’s rich art and counterculture history.

“We were like, how can we change this narrative from ‘the artist is the victim of the bay’ to ‘the heroic artists of the bay’?” he says. “Because if you can make art in the Bay Area, it’s such an expensive place, so you need a fucking medal.” This is a difficult work. It’s much easier to be an artist in Los Angeles or New York, even because there is a favorable environment.

Taewook Lucas Kang, also known as DJ 3kelves, watches a recording during a DJ set at Fault Radio in San Francisco’s Chinatown. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Fault has done his part in building this support network. Taewook Lucas Kang, aka disco and house DJ/producer 3kelves, says he found it difficult to get into electronic music without connections. His luck turned when he sent a cold email to Fault Radio, after which he got his first show in just two weeks. Over the next three years, he was able to secure local and international bookings, bond with labels and collaborators, and eventually quit his job to focus full-time on music.

“Fault Radio really opened it all up for me,” he says. “I keep telling everyone that Fault Radio is the best thing that’s happened to the Bay Area, period.”

Fault Radio’s founders, Wand and Maghen, have since left the Bay Area. Maghen has returned to Israel, but still helps write grant applications. Wand lives in Los Angeles and is still involved in business operations, leaving station manager Kohli and artistic director Ryan Ormsby in charge locally. Now that the space is open, they want to turn it into a community center with educational workshops, signs, and other events.