View more photos in the Club Hell slideshow.
By 11:30 p.m., Club Hell, the monthly fetish-tinged industrial party at Ivar, was packed. Throughout the smoking patio, up the stairwell and inside the vast Hollywood venue were shiny, tightly packed clusters of people engulfed in a dense cloud of sweat. It's at times like these when you start to feel bad for those dressed in latex and PVC and, if you've ever been to Club Hell, you know that's at least half the crowd.
As DJ/promoter Robo-DM said, Club Hell is "first and foremost and industrial dance club." But Wednesday night industrial clubs aren't necessarily known for bringing out people in droves, and they certainly aren't known for gathering together the local rivetheads with some of the most conservative looking people you'll ever see at a nightspot that plays Front 242 and VNV Nation. What makes Club Hell the weeknight madhouse that it has become is the atmosphere, a chaotic multi-room adult playground that blurs the line between fantasy and reality.
"Promoters have a short attention span, so we just started adding on more and more components to keep ourselves entertained," said Robo-DM.
At last night's psych ward/medical party, no corner was left untouched by the theme. In the Autopsy Room, hosted by Girls and Corpses Magazine, patrons could pose for photos with a real corpse and a variety of biology class specimen. Out on the dance floor, the DJs weaved samples of dialogue from relevant movies in and out of the mix, go-go dancers moved as though they were in straight jackets and cigarette girls roamed the room with goods packed in Dixie cups labeled with medication names.
Out in the performance area, men and women were bandaged, restrained and wheeled around on gurneys. Amongst the seats, some people pulled each other around on leashes, while other simply basked in the scene. But despite the unusual nature of the event, there was nothing particularly creepy about this tableaux. In many ways, the effect was closer to interactive theater than it was to a dance club.
"The approach is to be more artistic and entertaining rather than gross people out," explained Robo-DM, who also promotes Fetish Nation at Circus.
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At Club Hell, there might be little distinction between fantasy and reality, but the line between free expression and respect is never crossed. If you stand close enough to the performances, you can hear the dominatrices checking to make sure there is no physical discomfort during the acts. People walk around holding cocktails, but still appear sober. Those who were visibly intoxicated seemed to disappear from the club quickly. Many in the crowd seemed to be paired into couples, but there was little in the way of public displays of affection. In fact, despite the NSFW imagery, Club Hell is fairly tame. This writer can safely say that she's seen far raunchier scenes unfold at indie rock shows.