When you fly into Los Angeles, the turquoise rectangles signifying the many, many pools of the city are noticeable. Yet despite its representation to the contrary in films and television, Los Angeles is not a city known for public pool parties like, say, Las Vegas. There are a few exceptions (A Club Called Rhonda's Rhondesia shindigs, Nightswim at the Roosevelt) but, for the most part, poolside soirees are not about getting wet or breaking a sweat.
Wicked Paradise has changed all of this. The roving daytime, outdoor, pool or boat party makes weekly stops, more often than not at the Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel, but also at the Rooftop at the Standard DTLA, the Highlight Room at the Dream Hotel and Liquid Frequencies Pool & Terrace at the Custom Hotel as well as on a ferry that sails around Long Beach Harbor.
Here, bikinis and bare chests are the default, with diaphanous cover-ups not really covering anything. Getting an intimate view of perfectly formed butt cheeks is not unusual at Wicked Paradise; neither is frat boy–type energy. Plus, there is a good number of revelers in the pool as well as clustered around the DJ, tropical drinks aloft.
Tom Astley Williams is possibly having the best time of all. He stands behind Autograf at the decks at Skybar, requisite drink in one hand, the other hand raised in a pumping fist, head bobbing. Williams is one of the two promoters of Wicked Paradise, the other being Matt Orlove. L’Affaire Musicale and Orlove Entertainment are Williams’ and Orlove’s companies, respectively, established some five years ago when both relocated to Los Angeles from New York, the former originally from the U.K., the latter from Florida.
“We saw a gap in the market,” says Williams, who, after a midweek lunch al fresco, far from the hedonism of the Skybar, is entirely calm and supremely confident, his outer appearance as smooth as his assertions.
“L.A. is a beautiful place,” he continues. “The weather is always nice. Being from Europe, knowing the Ibiza scene, knowing the outdoor club scene, I was like, ‘Why aren’t there more day parties here?’ That’s when we started scouting venues. There were a few promoters, but it was on a small scale and more like a social lounge club. We went full HAM in booking a summer series and named it Wicked Paradise.”
Los Angeles is not known for being welcoming to new promoters, especially ones not from here. Orlove and Williams weren’t unaware of this fact, but their tactic was not to book one show, see how it went, then book another. By the time they had booked their first show, they had the following five already booked, announcing one after the next, not giving anyone a chance to go against them.
“We did everything ourselves,” says the almost always baseball-capped Orlove, a happy grin permanently plastered on his face. “We didn’t ask for help from other promoters. We worked 16-hour days. We didn’t outsource anything. We paid for everything up front. We booked, curated, struck deals at different venues and went on a mission to do as many shows as possible, regardless of if they were successful or not. Even if a show didn’t sell well, we would do everything in our power to fill the room. Once we proved ourselves, it became easier. Venues wanted to work with us and we were able to book the artists we wanted.”
This steamrolling mentality is a combination of Williams’ background as an artist (Hellfire Machina) and a promoter (BFM Events) and Orlove’s background in events production (Joonbug). The two didn’t know each other in New York or when they moved to Los Angeles, even though they lived a few blocks from one another. But they were of the same mindset, booking similar artists — that is, the more sophisticated and high-brow ones on the electronic music spectrum — in the same venues and going for the same demographic. They were introduced by a mutual colleague, went for coffee, and the next day Sound Nightclub suggested they team up since both were going after a show with Le Youth for the venue. It didn’t take any arm-twisting to combine their efforts.
A little over three years later, Wicked Paradise has a series in Miami at the Delano Hotel from October through April, and both New York and Chicago have experienced its boat parties. The long vision is to go global with their flagship brand. For now, in its home city of Los Angeles, Wicked Paradise is having multiple events. Labor Day Weekend alone sees a triple header: Saturday is Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage Pool Party at the Skybar followed by him live at the Kibbitz Room, Sunday is Mark Farina playing a six-hour all-vinyl DJ set at Liquid Frequencies alongside Williams (who DJs as Astley), and Monday is back at the Skybar for Penguin Prison and LAMP DJs poolside.
Meanwhile, Williams and Orlove have numerous other successful brands, including the hip-hop Panic in L.A., the throwback blog haus party D.A.N.C.E., the 2000s disco-punk Take Me Out; their format parties: the French Touch Daft Brunch, the dark wave NightWav and the new wave Music for the Masses; as well as a bar-crawling company, Barcrawlerz, which is active in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Additionally, they launch the Los Angeles version of their successful New York 2000s emo/pop punk party, the Black Parade, at the Echoplex on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend.
“Our vision is very precise,” Orlove says, “We’ve hit all our goals for the year — including securing Pete Tong for Wicked Delight on Sept. 15 — and we still have six months to go. We have a similar aesthetic in mind for our brands and how we market them. We’re personable, honest and direct. We never cut corners. We’re never late on anything. It shocks a lot of people who work with us.”
“When we first started, we had definite roles,” Williams says. “I came in more on the creative, musical side and [Orlove] came from a more production and execution side. Now, there isn’t anything we both don’t do. We both have the same roles and wear many hats, and that has become a pinnacle part of what we do. We can always pick up after each other. We want to get to 1,000 shows a year nationwide. As we’re getting bigger and we’re evolving, the business is starting to change for us. We have to be adaptable. Our strength is in the fact that we work so hard. We never stop. It’s sheer determination to get to where we want to be.”
Tickets and more info for Wicked Paradise featuring Justin Jay’s Fantastic Voyage on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Skybar here; for Mark Farina on Sunday, Sept. 2, at Liquid Frequencies here; and for Penguin Prison on Monday, Sept. 3, at Skybar here.