The first thing that becomes painfully obvious as I arrive last night for the grand opening of The Conga Room, another new space at the L.A. Live complex downtown, is that I'm woefully under-dressed. What was I thinking? This isn't the reopening of the Snorkle Room or the Loser Room, this is the frickin Conga Room, and here I am in jeans, a corduroy jacket and some black and green Pro Keds that would be classy for the Smell but look retarded here. Most people understand that this is an event, a Grand Opening of a new Latin club downtown, and treat it with the reverence it deserves: suits, evening wear, Prada and DeBeers. Here I am with three left feet and a cordoroy jacket. Somebody get me a drink.
The new Conga Room is a continuation of the club that was born
on Wilshire and is co-owned by Jimmy Smits, Sheila E., Paul Rodriguez,
Jennifer Lopez. Designed by Belzberg Architects, it's as beautiful and
inspired a new room as anyplace in the world, a music and dance club
with a perfectly placed stage, clean sight-lines, and a dance floor
worthy of soft soles and softer feet gliding across it. The ceiling is
comprised of patterned white tiles that resemble inverted daisies, and
reflect the room's lighting, which over the course of the night turns
from blue to purple to yellow to orange.
wasn't sure what to expect from the new Conga Room. Honestly, I find
the other spaces in the LA Live complex to be dystopian and somewhat
oppressive -- utilitarian black-boxes over-analyzed for proximity and
comfort but under-imagined in the vibe department. The new Club Nokia
feels like a meeting hall in a Leni Reifenstahl documentary, and the
big Nokia Theater, with it's pure blackness and twin Jumbotron screens
on either side of the stage projecting images, feels cold and uncaring,
like a concert hall in Bladerunner or something.
The Conga Room makes up for the lack of color elsewhere in the
downtown megacomplex. The 15,000 square foot room is all warmth and
hue. The three bars each have a distinct look and feel, the outdoor
patio has a view of the L.A. Live casino-like courtyard (which is way
too in-your-face for my tastes) and, overall, a feeling of comfort. It
even has a little mid-1960s go-go club sense to it, like a place
designed with pleasure and indulgence in mind. Unlike the other venues,
it's someplace you'd look forward to going, somewhere that signals that
the evening is going to be a little fancy.
It even felt that way for will.i.am., who gave a nice little show after a
warm-up from the Conga Room's resident percussionist. The Black-Eyed
Pea and expert producer was the only person more under-dressed than me,
the difference being his (totally awesome) leather blue jeans (I know,
sounds weird but wasn't) cost more than my combined wardrobe. Plus,
he's will.i.am., the man to bless and curse for those songs that you
don't want to like but end up humming the next morning. He was joined
by a two-guitar live band, and, for a while, fellow Pea Taboo, who
looked swank in a green cardigan.
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Taboo can get away with
that stuff. Not me. Thank god there wasn't a velvet rope tonight, or
I'd still be standing outside. Next time I'll know, and prepare an
outfit worthy of the gorgeous Conga Room.