Welcome to the second installment of Lina Lecaro's biweekly column, featuring candid chats, exclusive news and anecdotal audaciousness only an insider can give you, with the promoters, club owners, DJs, door people and scenesters out there making it happen in L.A. every night.
Booking in L.A. is a bitch. Promoting can be a pain. Making money from a club or rock show is full of risk — financial and social. From the bands to the DJs to the club owners, you're dealing with myriad personalities and interests, and you can’t always please all of them.
Mitch Edelson knows this all too well. The son of nightclub impresario Steve Edelson, Mitch grew up watching his dad open some legendary L.A. hot spots: Glam Slam (with Prince), Martini Lounge, Dragonfly, the Joint, Forbidden City, Zen and the Garage, to name a few. Along the way, the elder Edelson stacked up a significant swell of admirers, competitors and, yes, haters. A shrewd, passionate operator, Steve is what some might euphemistically call a "strong personality." The club world is chaotic and he seems to thrive on that.
Compared to his father, Mitch is more subdued, even mellow. He likes order and he does things by the book. He’s soft-spoken but still talkative, and no less ardent about the nightlife business. He’s a likable 20-something who goes to Dodger games, takes his two dogs with him everywhere, and likes to chill at home as much as he likes to go out. Despite growing up as club royalty, he never acts entitled. He’s a nice guy in a crazy business who seems to have found balance.
I got to know Mitch after working with him on some benefits for my daughter’s Silver Lake elementary school at Los Globos, the club he runs with his father, and (in the interest of full disclosure) I've been booking occasional events there ever since, and also written a few press releases for the club.
In attempting to put shows together and promote them at Los Globos the past few months, I've learned a lot from Mitch. Above all, I've learned that despite all the stress involved in the nightlife biz, a great party is its own payoff.
During a chat in his office at his new locale, the soon-to-be open Union nightclub, it’s pretty clear that the younger Edelson is in it for that payoff, not accolades. Yes, he inherited his dad’s business savvy, but for the most part he prefers to be in the background, doing set-up and watching people have a good time. It’s how he learned nightlife in the first place.
“I’ve been in and out of bars, clubs, restaurants hospitality my whole life,” he says, revealing that the family business went even beyond his dad: His mom owned a bar and so did his grandfather, both in Chicago. “I’ve been a waiter, host, booker, ordering, payroll, answering phones. I did everything when I started."
Growing up in Ojai, Mitch came to L.A. when his dad bought El Cid in Silver Lake. He was put right to work at 17. “I worked there for several years and then we sold that and then we opened Los Globos and I got involved with the booking side of things.“
Los Globos, a former Latin music dance club, has had its issues in the past, mainly with noise complaints from nearby residents (which have mostly been resolved these days), but also — as I learned when I began booking shows there — with bands who have been frustrated when scheduling conflicts interfered with their sets. A multiroom venue like Los Globos can present a lot of challenges when it comes to the timing of multiple events and how they complement each other, or don’t. I ask Edelson how this is going to work at Union, which has even more rooms.
“Los Angeles has got to be the most competitive nightlife market in the country," he says. "You’ve got Live Nation and AEG here, and all their subsidiaries: Goldenvoice, FYF. They all have their own rooms here in L.A. and then you have to go against every independent concert promoter, too. There's a lot going on every night and you're always trying to book the best for each room. Luckily we have more rooms here to do different things ... and we have multiple entrances, too.”
Edelson has left Los Globos and is now full-time at Union, in the space formerly known as Jewel's Catch One. The Catch One, which hosted mostly gay and hip-hop/R&B events — as well as, perhaps most notoriously, goth/industrial night Das Bunker — was a great space, but for many years, until its closure last July, its history in many ways preceded it. Edelson hopes to both preserve that history and expand on it, in part by expanding the space itself.
In addition to overall improvements to the building, Edelson and his team have opened up some new rooms, too, The new club has an even more labyrinthlike feel than it used to, with a new area Edelson calls “the Loft,” just outside the main dance area, and a room he calls “the Tavern,” adjacent to the black-walled “Noise Room,” which he says was named in homage to the clamor-fests Bunker used to do inside.
Bunker moved to Los Globos after Jewel’s closed, but this past Friday it returned to its old stomping ground as a “preview” party for the space, and it's back there for good now. Other biggies such as HAM on Everything and Brownies & Lemonade provided sneak peeks as well, though finishing touches are still happening. The real opening — or “grand reveal,” as Edelson calls it — happens Friday, Feb. 12, with Rhondavous, a mega-bash from Rhonda International, who host their popular A Club Called Rhonda "polysexual soirees" at Globos.
“Loren, Greg and the whole Rhonda team have always been friends, since I worked with them at El Cid and then Los Globos," says Edelson. "I always loved their parties and they're one of my favorites in Los Angeles. It’s a very inclusive party and LGBT-friendly and it’s a perfect reflection of what we're doing at Union. We really want to respect the LGBT history of the space."
Respecting the space was obviously important to Edelson. There is much better sound now (fresh Funktion-One systems), more bars, really nice bathrooms and a clean, modern yet industrial look all around. But the old Catch One neon (including the famous "Disco" sign) remains throughout, and the feel of the main room, which is very New York in the 1970s, is intact.
As his shaggy pups nibble his sneakers, and workmen hammer away outside, Edelson shares his vision for the club. “This is an events space more than a nightclub. Punk rock, comedy, storytelling, reggae, ska, world, international DJs, national acts, speaking engagements, quinceañeras, bar mitzahs, you name it. We don’t want to back ourselves into any one corner. We want to do everything here.”
His inclusive outlook is one thing he does share with his dad. Edelson senior has always understood that the history of a space is important and that something for everyone can yield customer loyalty over exclusivity. He did that at Los Globos, maintaining Latin music after he bought it, and at the Garage, showcasing Silver Lake’s music scene before it was an actual "scene."
His son takes the idea a little further. Though all the hottest parties seem to be clamoring to do something at the new club, he’s looking to nurture new promoters and ideas, and minimize the monetary demands of throwing parties at other venues around town.
“Every club has pressures. There’s 52 Fridays and there’s 52 Saturdays. And you have to make money out of all those," he explains. "If you have a room that holds 500 people and you’re only bringing 200 people, there’s pressure there. But here at Union we’ve got six different rooms where we can do entertainment. We have the ability to do, say, a band that only might bring 150 people, and they can play in one of our rooms on a Saturday. They can build their audience, and a club night can find its crowd and grow, too.”
And what about the area? Union is at 4067 W. Pico Blvd., south of Koreatown and east of Mid-City, in a neighborhood called Arlington Heights that even many lifelong Angelenos couldn't find on a map. Does Edelson worry about it being somewhat off the beaten path to club-goers?
“Not at all. This is probably the best location in Los Angeles," says Edelson, who is a member of the neighborhood council and sees the area gentrifying in a good way. “We’re right here off the 10 freeway. Right down the street from downtown and Staples Center. Down from Koreatown. We have a parking lot and there are two more nearby. Plus with Uber and Lyft, parking isn’t as much of an issue anymore.”
Edelson might be young, but he’s more thorough than a seasoned vet when it comes to considering every aspect of nightlife. Kinda like his pops. But he's forging his own style and attempting to step out of his dad's formidable shadow.
“He helped a lot with the design and I learned a lot of valuable lessons from him. But I've been doing this a long time, too. I'm excited to go off on my own and show people what I'm all about and what I can do. This place is not your father’s nightclub, and it’s not mine either."
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Rhondavous goes down Fri., Feb. 12, at Union with headliners Bonobo and Guy Gerber. For more on Rhondavous and other February nightlife happening, read Lina's monthly party picks.
Los Angeles native Lina Lecaro has been covering L.A. nightlife since she started as a teen intern at the L.A. Weekly (fake ID in tow) nearly two decades ago. She went on to write her own column, "Nightranger," for the print edition of the Weekly for six years. Read her "Lina in L.A." interviews and party picks for the latest nightlife news, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.