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
With the opening of new dance palaces and events like the Playground, Circus Fridays and the Factory, along with other established clubs and haps around town like BoyTrade, Catch One, the Men’s Room and Rage, La La Land (which has the second-largest gay population in the U.S.) offers an abundance of clubbing events for local gay culture . . . and they just keep comin.’ Since opening earlier this year, Jeffrey Sanker and Manny Lehman’s event Saturday Night at the Factory has played host to dance-music giants like Victor Calderone, Mark Anthony and David Knapp. “There’s just more activity going on in both the straight and gay cultures right now,” says Factory resident DJ and top circuit-party mixman Lehman. “Now you can get a space and fill it with 2,000 people.”
Looks like L.A.’s clubgoing masses are finally wising up to the rapturous rhythms of electronic dance music — yet there’s still a large portion of ’em who just don’t “get it.” No sweat: For those who find the spacy, synthetic sounds of techno cold and soulless, there are more than enough alternatives to get jiggy to.
At Café Bleu, it’s like mod London in the ’60s, with everyone decked out in go-go boots and retro wear, shaking rump to soul tracks, “6Ts” and Britpop. And at Bang! it’s a veritable history lesson on the music from jolly olde England. “Our appeal is nostalgia,” says Bang!’s Jason Lavitt, who hosts a dance club spotlighting every era — the ’60s (Shout), ’70s (Makeup), ’80s (Fashion) and ’90s (Bang!). “Each decade has its own special flavor, and we reproduce that with visuals, go-go dancers and music.”
His partner, Joseph Brooks (a pioneer in the dance-club scene who’s also involved with Sin-a-Matic and goth haunt Coven 13), sees the success of his clubs as a natural thing. “It reminds people of places and events in their lives,” he says. “And those who were too young to experience it the â first time have an affection for the look and style of a particular era.”
That affection is no surprise, considering the fact that Britpop bands like Blur, Suede and Pulp borrow heavily from the past. But many of these groups have begun to look to technology when creating new material (Oasis’ collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, etc.), so even L.A.’s retro kings like Lavitt and Brooks offer an electronic “future beats” room at Bang!, while Michael Stewart and Bruce Perdew (owners of Blue and promoters of Velvet and Clockwork Orange) incorporate techno, house and trance into their mostly ’70s/’80s promotions.
“There’s always new stuff to play,” says Lavitt on why electronic music is seeping into the retro scene. “There’s some incredible new music flowing in, and a lot of it isn’t as shallow and empty as it was. It works with old stuff, because it combines familiar sounds like disco and new wave with great beats, giving it a whole new depth.”
While local club culture is definitely enjoying a boom, L.A. still faces a few handicaps — we don’t have enough outlets for the music, namely radio stations (the Internet excluded), and the city is still too spread out for clubgoers to know what’s happening and where.
“The main problem with L.A. is that we don’t have a true metropolis,” says Carlos Guaico, co-promotor of Rootdown at Gabah and member of the hip-hop band Breakestra. “It takes a while to let people know on the Westside what you’re doing in Central L.A. A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of getting the message to them.”
The massive sprawl of the city and lack of a full-time electronic-music radio station may be drawbacks, but the inspiring minds behind L.A.’s turntables and nightspots are more concerned with making things happen than worrying about what we don’t have. Savvy promoters aim to provide Angelenos with good music and a great time. Promoter Sandy Sachs, owner of the Factory, is a good example. Her enthusiasm about her events is as contagious as the music that vibrates inside the club each week. “Wednesday night is the most fun night of all — that’s ’80s Night — my favorite. People just have a blast. There’s no guest list — you just get in line. I make it cheap, so everybody can get in. It’s a scream. What’re you doin’ tonight?”
That’s the question forever on the minds of DJs, promoters and club owners across the city. When it comes right down to it, it’s all about having a good time, checking out and letting go. Dancing is one of mankind’s most ancient and honored ways of releasing and giving energy. L.A.’s club scene reflects the city’s own need to interact with this energy, whether it’s on a mammoth scale, like the 28,000 ravers at the How Sweet It Is event earlier this year, or a few dozen or so gay square dancers hee-hawing away at Oil Can Harry’s.
So, exactly what are you doin’ tonight?
See Dance Clubs in Calendar section for dates, times and locations.
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