If you want to sustain a long-running party in Los Angeles, you have two options: either age with the crowd until you become a retro night, or reinvent yourself often. Ryan Jaso and Chris White (aka Whiiite when he's on the decks), promoters of Control, chose the latter. This Friday, the weekly dance party that has served as a hotbed for up-and-coming EDM acts, celebrates its sixth anniversary at Avalon. That's no small feat for a club whose target audience is college-aged.
"The kids that are 19 now were 13 when we started it. They weren't in high school yet," says Jaso. "You continually have to appeal to new generations."
Launched on December 5, 2008 ("We're a little late," says White about the anniversary bash), Control quickly became the spot to check out the next generation of festival headliners. DJ Snake played here before "Turn Down for What" became an inescapable dance floor hit. Porter Robinson and Zedd both turned up on Control rosters as support artists before they became EDM stars.
Above all, Control may be forever known as the place that kickstarted the career of a local DJ/producer named Skrillex, who was billed third on a line-up headlined by Wolfgang Gartner in 2010. That gig is an integral part of Skrillex lore — as noted in a 2011 L.A. Weekly cover story on the artist — and still a highlight of Control's run. "It was the busiest I think I had ever seen Avalon," says Jaso.
It was also the moment when Control, not even two years old at the time, hit its stride. Jaso points out that nights like that aren't automatic or guaranteed. "You have to build it over time with different artists and you have some winners and you have some losers," he says. "In the beginning, you lose more than you win."
Inside Jaso's office in Hollywood, the two club promoters recount their history in the nightlife business. They started out in Orange County, running a monthly event at Detroit Bar that boasted guests like Afrika Bambaataa, Steve Aoki and Datarock. From there, they set their sights on Los Angeles, eventually landing a Sunday night promotion inside a small Hollywood bar. "It was really the only place at the time that would kind of give us a shot," says Jaso.
From there they moved to Mondays at Area, a now-defunct venue, where White served as resident DJ. It was at the height of celebrity-centric club culture in Los Angeles and their party drew that young Hollywood crowd. Samantha Ronson played for them once. The late DJ AM stopped by often. White was then hired as a resident for a party called OMG at Avalon, which only lasted a few weeks.
When OMG fell apart, White asked if he and Jaso could start booking parties at the club. It was a way for him to maintain a gig as resident DJ. In the beginning, they worked with Gary Richards, aka Destructo, who now leads the Hard festival series, and Matt Goldman of MFG Productions, who now does School Night at Bardot, above Avalon. Felix Cartal played the first party and has come back a number of times since then.
From the start, the concept was to build line-ups that mixed DJs who could draw a large crowd with the new kids that White and Jaso found through music blogs and MySpace. Although the tools for discovery have changed — they now rely on SoundCloud to spot emerging talent — the mission hasn't; the supporting artists are the people they think can move up to headliner status.
There's a careful balancing act involved in keeping your party of-the-moment. "If you're too early, you're actually behind," says Jaso. That was the case when DJ Snake played the party a couple years ago. "If it were two months later," says Jaso, "there would have been people hanging from the roof."
Then there are the times when the timing is perfect. Jaso mentions recent gigs from relative newcomers Ganz and Trippy Turtle as some of the highlights from the first half of 2015. "If we had them last year, we would have gotten destroyed," he says, "but they were some of our biggest shows this year."
Control has moved smoothly through EDM trends, from dubstep to trap to electro-house. Still, there are times when the promoters know they need to step up the game. Jaso says that he thinks it's "weird" when dance music fans in L.A. haven't heard of his club. That's when he asks, "How do we get to these kids?" — and goes out in search of the next up-and-coming artist that will suck in a new crowd.
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Control's 6-Year anniversary party, featuring MAKJ, Daktyl and Whiiite, happens this Friday, May 29 at Avalon.