The 20 Best DJs in L.A. Right Now
Bonobo, acclaimed for his original productions, is also one of our city's best DJs.
Photo by Dan Medhurst
Contrary to what you may have read on some bitter techno blog, DJing is not a lost art form. Every night in our city, you can find dozens (or hundreds, on weekends) of men and women doing it the old-fashioned way, mixing records live (whether they be on vinyl, CD or flash drive) and conjuring up new soundtracks for your night out. No lasers, pyro or beat-matching software required.
The following list is our attempt to sift through those dozens and hundreds of DJs and identify the ones who are operating at the very top of their game. They're a reflection of the sonic diversity and depth of talent that makes our nightlife scene arguably the best in the nation. They aren't all necessarily L.A.'s greatest of all time, but they're the greatest right now.
If you go to a club and one of these 20 DJs (24, if you count the teams) is spinning, you know you're in for a good time.
Courtesy of the artist
The apple-cheeked JSTJR is a recent Los Angeles transplant, but the multigenre bass music producer and DJ has quickly made the city his own. He already had a presence via Mad Decent and Smog Records with his banging releases on those top labels. His monthly bass party, Plugged In, features not only a great array of talent but also EDM celebrity attendees. JSTJR has a number of indigenous lenses through which he filters both his productions and his fast-paced DJ sets. He has a honed ear for creative, regional bass tones, and he has a knack for combining them into a fresh sound that is all his own. —Lily Moayeri
19. AC Slater
We've sung the praises of L.A.'s patron saint of bass house many times before, but it bears repeating: AC Slater's monthly Night Bass parties at Sound remain one of the best club nights in the city. Together with fellow residents Bones and Petey Clicks, plus a rotating cast of ace guests like DJ EZ and Sinden, Slater represents his emerging genre with a down 'n' dirty sensibility that encompasses everything from U.K. grime and garage to G-house and electro, woven together over filthy, funky bass lines that keep the dance floor bouncing. Fresh from his first Coachella and poised to wreck the decks at Hard Summer and on Night Bass' eight-city Summer Phases tour (local stop: July 1 at Union), Slater continues to tear it up. —Andy Hermann
Courtesy of the artist
18. Amanda Jones
L.A. native Amanda Jones has been enhancing and enchanting L.A.’s best-known gloomy grinds (Malediction Society, Bar Sinister, Das Bunker, Evil Club Empire parties) for more than two decades, and she only seems to get better as time goes by. The struggle is real when it comes to being taken seriously as a female DJ in the clubs, and if you’re hot, multiply that by 100. Yeah, we’ll say it, she’s fun to look at — but it’s about her energy and flair, not what she looks like in fishnets. Jones' gothic, industrial and darkwave sets go from heavy and hard to familiar and fun and back again, a meld that always seems to move her to dance behind the decks, and turns the floor before her into a fiendish free-for-all. —Lina Lecaro
Photo by Dylan Gordon
17. Michael Stock
If you ever wanted to dance to the original O.C. hardcore punk of The Middle Class, the dub-influenced funk-punk of A Certain Ratio and the call-and-response thrash of L.A.’s late great Mika Miko, then Michael Stock is your kind of DJ. For more than a decade, Stock has been showcasing the huge musical spectrum that punk music encompasses, and the new bands (especially L.A.-based) that add to that spectrum. You can catch him at his weekly club night, Part Time Punks, at the Echo; PTP’s sister club, Punky Reggae Party, at La Cita; and on his KXLU radio show, which currently airs Thursday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m. —Sam Ribakoff
16. Lovefingers and Heidi Lawden
Frequent collaborators Lovefingers and Heidi Lawden are a dream team of dance-floor eclecticism, with nearly a half-century’s experience as house, techno and disco tastemakers between them. Equally at home on the airwaves at L.A. underground radio station Dublab or atop the Mayan Art Car on the dusty expanses of Burning Man, the duo’s aesthetic balances vintage crate-digging nerdism with stylish panache. Andrew Hogge began the Lovefingers moniker as an early and influential MP3 blog before founding NYC-based analog-chic label the ESP Institute, while Lawden makes music under the names Locussolus with DJ Harvey (whom she has managed since before he had a moustache) and Heidi Hoven, and hosts the show "Magic Roundabout" on Dublab. Put ’em together, and it’s no surprise that they know exactly how to get a party started while accommodating the occasional chin stroke. —Jemayel Khawaja
15. Masha and Alison Swing
Promotion partners Masha and Alison Swing DJ separately, but if you hear their sets bleed into one another at their Dig Deeper parties, it's clear that the two up-and-comers are on the same wavelength. Both DJs have a fantastic sense of mood and energy, and use eclectic collections — filled with everything from synth-pop to house to world music — to warm up the crowds. As the duo heads into summer with a weekend-long party at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs this June, their stars continue to rise. —Liz Ohanesian
14. Peanut Butter Wolf
Chris Manak is a mild-mannered dude who goes by Peanut Butter Wolf when he’s mixing records or running his label. He doesn’t need a loud, corny personality to get booked. He lets his records do the talking, and he’s got one of the best collections in Southern California. The Stones Throw don has become known for increasingly long, high-concept DJ events, such as his 12-hour Boiler Room mix on 12/12/2012 and many others in his now-retired numerology series. He’s known in particular for his collection of funk, soul, boogie, disco and rap 12-inches and 45s, but he can rock you in any way he sees fit. His vinyl (which weighs a ton) often requires a U-Haul to transport to the gig. If there is one DJ who encapsulates the diversity and history of L.A.’s many music scenes, it’s Wolf. —Jonny Coleman
13. DJ Dan
Though he hails from Seattle, DJ Dan was integral to the early rave scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco. As a member of Funky Tekno Tribe, he played breakbeats so devotedly that one of his more famous early mixtapes was an all–James Brown production. In the late 1990s he abandoned breaks, moved to L.A. permanently and became a top-of-the-flier adherent of banging, festival house. Dan’s energy is full-voltage, and his beat-matching, a lost art, is mesmerizingly perfect. His 1999 mix CD Funk the System is a subtle beast that’s a fascinating assembly line of animated grooves. —Dennis Romero
In 2009, just as the racket of proto-EDM electro grew louder, veteran DJ triptych Droog went against the grain and launched Culprit, a label dedicated to deep house and techno. The imprint has played a key role in the underground renaissance we’re all currently enjoying in L.A. In between exporting their homespun Angeleno club aesthetic everywhere from London’s Fabric to Space in Ibiza, Droog legitimized the Standard Downtown as a dance venue by hosting the likes of Seth Troxler and Dixon at their iconic rooftop Culprit Sessions. The label’s catalog has established a world-class tech-house pedigree that has seen them become a beacon for the scoop-necked, long-shirted masses that are the lifeblood of L.A.’s underground scene. You can catch them next on May 27 at, in true underground fashion, a location TBA. —Jemayel Khawaja
When Simon Green aka Bonobo was the surprise Sunday-night headliner at the Do Lab stage at Coachella last year, any thoughts anyone present may have had of braving the crowds for Drake melted away. Green is justly revered for his full-band live shows and original tracks, which mix breakbeats, jazz, trip-hop and future bass into a soulful stew that has nourished heads from London to Low End Theory and beyond. But his live DJ sets are, in their own way, just as good. Relying more on four-on-the-floor house beats, but never straying far from the lush melodicism and jazzy sensibilities that are his trademark, a Bonobo DJ set can encompass everything from Todd Terje to Four Tet to Moderat, as well as his own remixes and edits. Green is DJing all over the summer festival circuit, including a stop at Electric Forest, but since the native Brit now calls L.A. home, we'll likely have a chance to hear him on the decks again soon. —Andy Hermann
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