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
Kids. We’re talking barely-teen children sporting braces, bleached hair and underwear their moms just bought them, wall-to-wall, and striking sassy poses in overgrown bangs, skinny jeans, Technicolor T-shirts, striped tights and checkered Vans. There must be a gallon of unisex mascara in the house. Neon punks dance in every nook of a sparse warehouse in Hollywood. You round a corner: kids. Gyrating. If they were bugs, you’d run for the exits and call an exterminator. In the center of the venue, a human circle forms on the concrete floor, where lanky, rubbery young men perform a hyperkinetic dance that’s part Chicago “jacking,” part crumping. There’s not a drop of alcohol in the venue. And if anyone had a joint, we sure didn’t smell it. But something turned them on.
The musical shaman for the night is 23-year-old Cesar Rios, a.k.a. DJ Paparazzi, who has made an industry of hosting club nights and promoting and spinning records.
“I grew up in the house-party scene,” says the Montebello native. “Now, club promoters in L.A. — myself, Steve Aoki and Franki Chan — are setting the bar for the United States. Bands and DJs in the U.S. look to L.A. for this type of movement.”
At the party, which he calls “Dance,” he plays Daft Punk’s “One More Time” and then interrupts to announce that “I love you guys, I really do.” He goes on to play a historical mash-up, all synched via the Serato Scratch Live program on his laptop. The jackrabbit bounce of his bass lines echoes the energy of ’90s-era “hard house.” Paparazzi even drops “Show Me Love,” a 1992 tune by house diva Robin S.
If you think this nu electro youthquake feels a little like electronic music of yore, it does. Its aesthetic is borrowed directly from the failed, ’80s-flavored contrivance called electroclash (Larry Tee, et al.), which came and went with the turn of the millennium. And still, the playbook — take punk-meets-electronic new wave and add it to the linear groove of DJ culture — is the bible for nu electro stalwarts like Paparazzi. The reincarnated scene is stronger in L.A. than anywhere else in the states.
“This notion that New York is always at the forefront was slightly true at the beginning of electroclash,” says DJ Paul V., host of “Neon Noise” Saturdays on Indie 103.1 FM. “But now it’s the opposite. I don’t know if you could find the amount of clubs and DJs and fervent attendance anywhere else.”
While nu electro’s superstars — Daft Punk, Justice, Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco, the Black Ghosts, MSTRKRFT, Boys Noize — are from outside the U.S., L.A. has a cadre of acts and DJ duos that seems to grow like fungus in the wet: Guns N Bombs. L.A. Riots. Sam Sparro. Acid Girls. Casxio. All Neon Like. Weird Science. Classics. Afrobots. Dan Oh. DJ Skeet Skeet. Them Jeans. Ad infinitum. The movement is L.A. to its core, from its Hollywood glam to its Echo Park base, from its Latino adherents to its American Apparel uniform, from its image-is-everything bands to its use of locally based MySpace to spread the word.
It all started fairly recently, in 2006, when legions of indie-rock fans were exposed to posthouse act Daft Punk’s electrifying performance at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. “Daft Punk at Coachella was an epic moment,” says former Coachella festival director Shalyce Benfell, who recently partnered with DJ Paparazzi for the club promotion and artist management firm they call 1017 Events.
“A new generation of kids was born.”
Follow-up shows by Daft Punk, along with appearances by Justice and MSTRKRFT — all adherents of the crunchy, loopy, nu electro sound — galvanized those fans and inspired many indie clubs (Check Yo Ponytail, HangTheDJs, Bang!, Le Disko, Moscow) to go electronic. Similar evolutions were happening in New York (LCD Soundsystem) and London (the Klaxons). Indie flavor even began to seep into the fiercely electronic world of superclubs, with the likes of L.A. Riots deejaying at Avalon and Vanguard.
“Initially, a lot of people came from a rock background, and there’s sort of a rock feel to this music,” says the Riots’ John O’Brien, 29. “It’s riff-based, and a lot of the tunes are shorter. They’re not epic eight-minute techno songs. It’s a fresh new twist on dance music. A lot of the indie-rock kids really jumped onboard because it was familiar but fresh and new — and theirs.”
The success of L.A.’s nu electro economy — DJs such as Paparazzi are booked solid, clubs go off every night of the week, and events such as HARD Haunted Mansion host thousands of fans — suggests a new model for the music industry. Outside of acts such as Shiny Toy Guns and the more-rockist Ima Robot, none of the local nu electro artists has record deals. And yet they thrive. Unsigned Guns N Bombs recently opened for top nu electro act Digitalism on its North American run. The label-less L.A. Riots went on a four-day tour sponsored by carmaker Scion and is currently touring the world. Who needs a label? Guns N Bombs gives its singles away on MySpace — the better for fans to get a taste and become paying customers at shows, where the real money is.