By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
—Anonymous former raver
For those who experienced the L.A. rave scene in its infancy, it was a time and place that can never be duplicated. Acid house and techno were the buzz words, but the kids craved the persistent thumps, the drugs and the unity and freedom they felt when they were dancing together. Promoters like Tef Foo and Devin the Mad Hatter tried to outdo each other with wilder, wackier events, from Mickey’s Big Top (which featured real circus acts) to Under the Paw Paw Patch (on a ranch), to events at water parks and even one on the boat to Catalina Island.
“I hear some older, jaded ex-ravers talking about how great the scene used to be, but if you go out there and talk to the kids now, they’ll tell you it’s still great,” says Brian McNelis, manager of Cleopatra/Hypnotic Records and producer of the recent rave-culture film Better Living Through Circuitry. “Law enforcement and mainstream media really make it hard — they don’t understand the culture, and they’re shutting down parties, which in an ironic way still makes it exciting, because it’s not completely homogenized.”
Even with more and more clubs showcasing electronic DJs, the underground — now led by groups such as Go Ventures (Circa, the Love Festival) and B3/Cand.E Productions (JuJuBeats) — is still the major catalyst for dance music in L.A. “The underground will always be king,” says Mike Messex, who has deejayed at raves and hot spots like Power Tools, Impala and Saturday Night Fever, and currently mixes rock & roll with popular big-beat artists at the dance orgy known as Cherry. “That is where the fresh, undiscovered talent grows.”
House of style
Thanks to the open, experimental atmosphere of the rave world, and a gradual growth in the number of clubs, house music (like trance) has enjoyed a renaissance in L.A. in the last couple of years. Promoters like Albert Castro and his Melodic events showcase out-of-town turntablists like Chicago’s Green Velvet and DJ Diz, and local jocks like Juan Nuñez and Little Chris (both also resident DJs at Doc Martin’s weekly Wednesday-night club Release). Long-standing parties like Tony Largo’s 7-year-old after-hours Does Your Momma Know? at Coconut Teaszer serve up classic house beats for a demanding new generation of four-to-the-floor connoisseurs.
Promoter Danny B, who in addition to his long-running Saturday-night event High Society currently produces no less than seven after-hours clubs at parties around town, has seen the evolution of house and continues to celebrate the power of soulful, layered grooves. “Before, we were doing after-hours clubs at undergroundlike warehouse locations that were really cool but we didn’t have the permits,” he says. “It’s legal now, and that’s great, ’cause trance is starting to take off in L.A. like house music has over the past couple of years.” From its house scene alone, L.A. has developed an international reputation for having a battering-ram crew of first-rate jocks, such as wax-wonder Marques Wyatt. â
“House music is as strong as it’s been in a while,” says Wyatt, whose bi-monthly Sunday-night Deep event (formerly held at the Viper Room and currently at Vynyl) features a diverse palette of house-music legends including Juan Morales, Mark Farina and Kerri Chandler. Wyatt also credits the music’s renewed local popularity to the collaborative efforts of DJs like himself and Doc Martin, with their Body ’n’ Soul–ish Sunday-afternoon affair called Revival, whose sustained momentum owes to the combined drawing power of the DJs, each having his own established following.
“The scene is really focused,” says Jamie Thinnes, who heads house-music label Seasons Recordings and also has a residency at the roving house-fest called Dynagroove.
Another local fave, house-specialist DJ Dan, ranks L.A. supreme when it comes to house-music parties: “I’ve played raves in Scotland and London, and in comparison, the raves that I play here kick ass. The people here are so much more energetic.” Fellow globetrotter Doc Martin, who not only owns Wax Records on Melrose but is one of the most respected DJs in town, has lotsa local love too. “Every time I play here, it’s amazing for me,” he says. “I’ve played all over the world, and I definitely think L.A. has something very special that people tend to overlook.”
Whether it be via the Internet or by local clubgoers trafficking overseas nightlife havens like London and Paris, the city is slowly and surely becoming an international electro mecca. And while worldwide influence plays a big role in L.A.’s club scene, it’s the city’s polyculturalism that makes it unique among other dance-music scenes around the globe.
“That’s one cool thing about L.A. — it’s got a mix of people from Europe, Spain, Brazil or wherever,” says British transplant DJ Mark Lewis. “Dance music is global now, so it’s really hard not to know what’s going on in places like Ibiza, Prague and Berlin. We’ve got a very solid base in the international underground.”