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 history of pop music is full of competitions. Beatles versus Stones. Blur versus Oasis. Kanye West versus 50 Cent. This New Year’s Eve, downtown Los Angeles will experience its very own epic showdown as hipster DJ heavyweights MSTRKRFT and Justice square off in a battle of dance-party supremacy. May the best moustache win.
In actuality, it’s L.A. party people who win, as up to 20,000 of them will descend upon downtown on December 31 to attend one of two megaparties taking place less than two miles apart. For the eighth year in a row, megapromoter Giant is presenting its Giant Maximus event, a three-stage party with the world’s top DJs, including MSTRKRFT, Tiësto, Roger Sanchez, Kascade and Z-Trip. Having moved around the city, from Hollywood Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard to the Bonaventure Hotel and now in its second year at Eighth and Figueroa, Giant reigns, according to the promoters' claim, as “the largest 21-plus New Year’s Eve event on the planet.” A destination for dance music aficionados (and serious hedonists) around the globe, the party will take place under three circus tents, an evolution since the 2006 Giant was postponed due to inclement weather. “We strive to deliver a ‘boutique’ festival environment,” says Dave Dean, head of Giant Maximus. “We push our productions each year to top the next.”
On the same night, straight down Sixth Street heading east, will be L.A.’s newest holiday event, Hard New Year’s Eve Music Festival. The scrappy newcomer to Giant’s veteran status, Hard grew out of a series of Tik Tok warehouse parties thrown by veteran Los Angeles promoter Stephen Hauptfuhr in late 2006, just as dance music began to wrestle with indie rock as the hipster genre of choice (full disclosure: I have deejayed several Tik Tok events). “We specifically went in a more dance-oriented direction again,” explains Hauptfuhr, whose promoting experience dates back to throwing raves in the early ’90s under the guise of Mr. Kool-Aid. “The success of Tik Tok proved there was a larger audience for this kind of music again,” he adds.
For Hard, Hauptfuhr has partnered with another senior L.A. promoter, Gary Richards of Nitrus Records. The pair secured the city blocks around the warehouse where the Tik Tok parties took place (at Sixth and Santa Fe), making room for three stages and a “VIP Warehouse” to host the event, which features DJs Steve Aoki, A-Trak and Busy P. “We really tried to create something unique that would appeal to everyone,” says Richards. “Our show reflects just that. Justice, Peaches and 2 Live Crew are headlining and the rest of the artists and DJs are as diverse.”
Of course, even the most casual observer would be hard-pressed to see either Giant or Hard as anything but dance parties. In fact, they are most notable because they are exactly that. Two extremely large dance parties in a country where dance parties (particularly of the late-night variety) allegedly died out years ago. Los Angeles fared better than most cities during the early-’00s revolt against all things DJ-driven, dismissed by first the government (R.A.V.E. Act, anyone?) and subsequently the fans. Dance music never died off in Los Angeles; it was kept alive in megaclubs like Avalon and Giant while the same music almost completely faded from view in cities like New York and Chicago. Even Giant’s 2006 foray into rock & roll — courtesy of headliners the Killers — was DJ-driven at heart, according to Dean: “Paul Oakenfold played that year, as well, and he was a key selling point for the Killers to play the gig — Brandon Flowers was a big fan of Paul.”
At the same time, the new wave of dance-music stars grew from the burgeoning hipster scene that germinated in small clubs like Starshoes, Beauty Bar and Cinespace, and that has since given rise to a nationwide music and style phenomenon. DJ-promoter Franki Chan has had a hand in many of these weekly parties and is working closely with Giant to promote the stage that will feature MSTRKRFT, Z-Trip and Miami DJ Lazaro Casanova.
“I think it’s amazing that just over a year ago we hosted Justice’s first show in L.A. with MSTRKRFT,” says Chan, referring to the Halloween party he threw in 2006. “Now they are both headlining two of the largest New Year’s Eve events in the country. In the same city!”
“There is a demand and openness toward this new style within what some describe as the more classic dance crowd,” says Jesse F. Keller, one half of MSTRKRFT, who spent last spring on tour with trance-titan John Digweed. “We’ve seen this happening around the world when we tour and I think it’s a sign that the barriers between genres are coming down.”
More to the point, Los Angeles is a place that likes to party and where music is accepted en masse, rather than compartmentalized. From Coachella’s extrabroad musical palette to KCRW’s always sold-out programs at the Hollywood Bowl to the city’s festivals of all sizes — Sunset Junction, Arthurfest, Fuck Yeah Fest, Neighborhood Festival and L.A. Weekly’s own Detour fest, where Justice drew more enraptured crowds than even headliner Bloc Party, the city streets are full of music, and there are enough fans to support all the events that could be thrown in a single night. Particularly the biggest party night of the year.