Rave Promoters Are Eyeing DTLA's Grand Park
Photo by Timothy Norris for LA Weekly
The plans for a summer festival featuring Jay Z at downtown L.A.'s Grand Park include an electronic dance music component, or "techno area," and could open the doors to controversial raves, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a memo that argues against the Aug. 30 and 31 concert.
The memo, obtained by the Weekly, says, "Allowing this event would set a precedent for other concerts."
And we have learned from sources in the concert industry that, indeed, rave and indie promoters have been eyeing the park for events, including electronic dance music's HARD, indie rock's FYF Fest and one-act DJ concerts:
The LAPD memo says costly perimeter policing would result if Jay Z and rave artists were allowed to take over the park. According to the document, Jay Z's party could draw gatecrashers:
The loud music and [a] $100.00 price would encourage persons to jump fences in order to enter the location, especially near the "techno music" area, where attempts to sneak into the venue is commonplace and almost a challenge.
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Jay Z aside, raves and electronic dance music (EDM) concerts have had a hard time finding venues in the Greater L.A. market. As the scene has grown - Electric Daisy Carnival sells more than 100,000 tickets for its annual fest in Las Vegas - neighbors' tolerance for their booming bass and party-hearty crowds has waned.
On top of all that, EDM's HARD Summer festival and FYF Fest are without their usual L.A. homes this year because their previous venue, Los Angeles State Historic Park, is closed for renovations. HARD is headed to Whittier Narrows Recreation Area this summer, as the Weekly reported first in February.
One concert insider, who did not want his name used, told us that HARD's organizers were interested in using Grand Park at some point but would first see how things go at Whittier Narrows.
Insomniac, the company behind Electric Daisy Carnival, which helped to shut raves out at the publicly owned L.A. Coliseum complex after a teen who had sneaked in and later died of ecstasy intoxication was inextricably linked to the event, is also interested in Grand Park.
The company, arguably the largest EDM show organizer in the nation, announced in February that it doesn't have Southern California venues for some of its biggest annual events after holding three festivals last year at San Manuel Amphitheater.
The company's CEO, Pasquale Rotella, told us this:
We'd love nothing more than to bring a festival back to our hometown of Los Angeles. Finding a venue that's big enough to host a festival is always a challenge, and Grand Park could be the perfect location with an amazing backdrop.
Another top concert promoter, who did not want to be named, told us he had been talking with Grand Park officials on and off for more than a year about hosting a festival there. He wouldn't say if he had EDM, indie or something else in mind.
The police memo shows that Goldenvoice's FYF Fest requested to use Grand Park two years ago but opted for the State Historic Park near Chinatown after being turned down.
Though raves have been the subject of bad press throughout the nation in recent years, things have changed a lot since 2010, when L.A.-based Electric Daisy Carnival became the lightning rod for controversy over the parties.
For one thing, the biggest concert promoters in the country have largely taken over the electronic dance music market. Live Nation is the king of concert companies, and it has a 50 percent stake in Insomniac. Likewise, it bought out Hard in 2012.
Boosters of EDM argue that the events have become increasingly safe and professionalized as a result.
We reached out to a Live Nation representative but she did not address our questions.
Our concert insider who gave us information about HARD's potential designs for Grand Park said Live Nation has shown interest in doing a variety of ticketed events at the downtown venue. The Live Nation-promoted Budweiser Made in America festival featuring Jay Z, which appears to have been green-lighted by the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, would sell 50,000 tickets for two days.
It would be the first ticketed concert at the venue, which was billed as "the park for everyone" when it opened in the summer of 2012.
A City Hall official, who did not want to be named, said L.A. leaders appeared to be open to raves, but he emphasized that each event at Grand Park would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. "Any event is possible if it's well planned out," he said.
Keep in mind that Garcetti, who appeared on KCAL9 TV last night sounding enthusiastic over the possibility of a Jay Z show, appears to be a fan of EDM. When he was running for mayor, he held a fundraiser at Avalon Hollywood at which top DJ Steve Aoki performed.
"If you like electronic music, then L.A. is where the DJ scene is at," he said during the May event. Then he said:
This party tonight literally could determine the outcome [of the race]. If you were each responsible for 100 voters, this room could turn this election my way.
The next month he told a Reddit Ask Me Anything audience that raves should be able to return to L.A., specifically to the publicly owned Coliseum.
Two representatives at the office of L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who is largely credited with getting Grand Park built, said she wouldn't necessarily object to raves. The venue is run jointly by the city and the county, though the city could have outsize influence as a result of having jurisdiction over park-dissecting streets that would have to be closed.
When it comes to Jay Z or raves, Molina spokeswoman Roxane Márquez told us, "So far she doesn't have any objection. Grand Park was envisioned as a venue for all different types of events, including concerts. She's concerned with just making it safe."
Márquez said that although an objection by Molina would carry much weight, programming at the venue is "pretty independent."
We called Lucas Rivera, director of the park and the man responsible for programming. A spokeswoman said the Jay Z event was "a rental" with the city "working" directly with promoter Live Nation.
We weren't able reach Rivera to ask what he thinks about raves.
Photo by Timothy Norris for LA Weekly
Brady Westwater, a concerned resident sometimes credited as being the unofficial "mayor of downtown," didn't like the sound of it when we told him raves could be coming to Grand Park.
"If you're going to go straight-up rave, I think that would be insane," he told us. "I'm not even a huge fan of doing ticketed events there. In public parks, security is going to be porous at best."
KPCC broke the news of the Jay Z concert Tuesday. That same day LA Weekly learned that the concert was such a done deal in City Hall that a press conference had been scheduled for Tuesday to announce ticket sales. It was canceled after news leaked of the event.
Downtown area city councilman Jose Huizar, who clearly appears to feel like he was cut out of the loop, filed a council motion that asks for a report on "any permits, actions, public safety concerns, and any necessary cost implications of the proposed" noon-to-11 p.m. event. He proposes to withhold permits until he's seen that report.
One of his main concerns is downtown street closures that could last as many as 10 days, according to the motion. The mayor tried to assuage critics by saying approval for two-day party will be brought before the full City Council, although such a move is neither customary nor necessary.
A few months ago the LAPD issued that opinion about the Jay Z show, unbeknownst, apparently, to the local councilman and the public at-large. It states, in part:
The city may run into legal issues should they deny other events after allowing this Music Festival. Approximately 2 years ago, Goldenvoice Entertainment requested this area for a smaller audience (Approx 20,000 persons) and was denied. As a result, they began holding the shows in the LA State Historic Park. Allowing this Music Festival could result in several "Raves" a year in the downtown area.