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
The hyperactive buzz of house and trance may be the sound of the moment, but there’s a consensus among both DJs and promoters that the diversity of the music here is what really makes our nightlife so exciting. Ambient, old-school, Latin, dub, jungle, trip-hop, world beat — there’s something for everyone here if ya know where to look.
“The music scene mirrors Los Angeles itself,” says Jed Wexler of Ritual Productions, an event and marketing company that meshes fashion and music with happenings that feature world-class DJs and performers from all points on the musical spectrum. “People take pride in discovering what’s up here . . . and it’s a lot less about commerce than most people think.”
Like Ritual, the publicity group known as Green Galactic has turned a love for the music into a successful business. It helps promote dance-music events around town and has been providing a downtempo electro experience for six years at its gathering called Public Space. “It’s totally different here from Europe,” says Lynn Hasty, the club and company’s creator. “It’s not part of pop culture like it is over there.”
Jason Bentley, who hosts two dance-music radio shows, KCRW’s Metropolis and KROQ’s After Hours, as well as his own club, Bossanova, and has a day job as an A&R guy for Maverick, agrees. “There’s a surge of talent here pushing up from the underground,” he says. “And we’ve developed it on our own terms.”
At the Bud Brothers’ Monday Social at Louis XIV, the crowd is as varied as the performers who play there, and the vibe is always original. “We’ve been growing stronger and stronger for almost five years now,” says Freddy Be, the club’s co-promoter. “We’ve created a place that supports tomorrow’s rising stars.”
Bud Brother Mick Cole (who also deejays at the Viper Room’s electronic night, Atmosphere, and serves as music editor for Lotus magazine) shares his partner’s enthusiasm for both the underground and legit events like M.S. “Clubs cater to a more crossover audience,” says Cole, “and clubs have bigger budgets, so they can bring in a lot more international talent.”
By both broadcasting and signing these talents, Bentley has helped make the crossover happen as much as the clubs themselves. His personal passion may be house (he connected with it during “the summer of love” in the U.K. back in ’88), but he realizes that tastes, especially in fickle L.A., are always evolving, even if one thing remains the same. “People want to feel like they’re part of a cultural movement,” he says. “The message here is that we can all come together and dance and plug into the rhythmic experience.”
Love conquers all
“We have a very colorful culture that’s not like anywhere else,” says Urb magazine publisher and DJ Raymond Roker. “It’s kind of neat when you go out to hip-hop parties like Firecracker or Malathion and you get a cross-section of people that you’re not going to get anywhere else in the world.” DJ Dusk, in residence at Gabah’s Thursday-night hip-hop event the Root Down and at Nappy at the Roots at Fais Do-Do, credits the mixed crowds to local underground hip-hop DJs’ commitment to splicing genres like salsa, soul and rare groove for their dance floors.
Starting out as a house party for like-minded friends and eventually moving to funky spots like downtown warehouses, Gabah’s Chocolate Bar has emerged over the past three years as a hip-hop institution in Los Angeles. “Someone came up to us the other day and said, ‘You should call this place Diggin’ in the Crates,’” says the club’s resident DJ Daz. “And that’s what we do — we dig in the crates and bring out everything you haven’t heard and everything you’d like to hear, from hip-hop to funk to reggae to house music to jungle — whatever we feel like we want to play.” But what’s striking about Chocolate Bar is the across-the-board ethnic mix of its clientele, which ranges from Asian to black, white and Latin, a stewpot similar to that witnessed at Medusa’s Nappy at the Roots and Chinatown’s bimonthly hip-hop party Firecracker.
Lisa Yu, co-promoter of Firecracker, â feels that a social consciousness within the hip-hop community lends itself to a mixed-culture togetherness in the hip-hop club scene. “Hip-hop draws lots of different people together. The music speaks to people across color lines, people who obviously enjoy what hip-hop brings and fuses together.”
It may cater to a completely different crowd, but Paul V.’s Dragstrip 66 features music that, like Firecracker, appeals to more than just the obvious faction of clubsters. The format for the monthly dress-up party, now in its seventh year, ranges from ’70s pop, disco and classic rock to soul and ’80s new wave, and it attracts an eclectic mix of both gays and straights.
Catch One’s DJ Ben, who also spins at Circus Fridays, says he has no problems attracting a varied clientele to the predominantly black gay club, either. “Things are going great at the Catch,” he says. “Lately I’ve seen more of the straight crowd partying here with gay folks. A lot of them come here just to check out the music.”