For many L.A. natives, growing up, going out and essentially being bred on the dance floors of Los Angeles becomes part of who you are. For DJ/promoter Jason Lavitt, it became his entire life. From Valley goth-boy to zealous clubster to fledgling DJ to the promoter and music curator behind some of Los Angeles’ most popular dance clubs, Lavitt’s club love might be unrivaled in this city. (Disclosure: Having covered nightlife for just about as long as he’s been doing events, I’ve gotten to know Lavitt pretty well and consider him a good friend.)
Lavitt has been conceptualizing, promoting and providing the soundtrack for multiple generations over two decades now, and over this three-day MLK Day weekend he has several events that represent his diversity and longevity.
Club ’90s, paying tribute to hitmakers of the decade (Friday is an *NSync night) is the party he throws with veteran promoter/DJ Bruce Perdew and DJ Jeffrey Lyman, currently at Los Globos. It’s become one of his most successful clubs ever, meshing pop hits with theme-driven dress-up, photo booths and giveaways. This Saturday, the ’90s brand’s more intimate offshoot, which spotlights more alternative sounds and artists, offers a Nine Inch Nails vs. Depeche Mode night at the Lash.
“The big ’90s party is a younger, more pop-driven crowd and it’s just crazy,” Lavitt explains. “The Lash parties allow us to play other stuff and it seems to attract a bit older groups who like things more intimate.”
The ability to home in on what works for his crowds and what doesn’t is something that Lavitt has clearly perfected over his many years behind the decks at his own parties and on the dance floors of others. Several years ago, we discovered that we possessed a similar enthusiasm and stamina level for club-hopping on a given night, so he and I would make plans to hit multiple venues together, hoping to soak up their varied vibes. We called them “club tours,” and our record for different spots in one night was six, if I remember correctly.
As natives, our voraciousness came from a lot of the same sources. “If you grew up in L.A., KROQ 106.7 was the radio station everyone listened to in the ’80s," Lavitt recalls. "Rodney on the Roq was the best DJ on air, and as a kid I would glue myself to the radio and listen to his show. He would talk about his nightclub on the Sunset Strip, the girls in glitter tube tops, Elton John and Elvis Presley in his VIP area, the glitter-rock records he would bring over from London that he’d play. ... Rodney was an instant idol who schooled me on the nightclub scene.” Lavitt would go on to spin beside his idol at a glam club they co-created called Flash; they also revived Bingenheimer’s legendary English Disco for a stint.
Like many SoCal adolescents, Lavitt rebelled against fun-in-the-sun stereotypes and became a black-wearing denizen of dark dance music. Being gay, he saw the goth clubs as a welcoming haven for self-expression, in both fashion and sexuality. “The gothic scene was the first huge thing for me. If I went dancing in Hollywood during the ’80s, chances are I’d turn up at a goth club. Michael Stewart and Bruce Perdew spun amazing DJ sets at clubs like Helter Skelter and Scream. I was at all of them every week.”
His enthusiasm eventually led to working at the clubs, learning from Stewart and Perdew and ultimately joining them behind the decks at their Evil Club Empire events. Later, he joined forces with Joseph Brooks, owner of the import-driven record store on Melrose called Vinyl Fetish, and DJ’d at both Scream and glam-rock haven the Cathouse. Brooks took the glam-rock resurgence of the ’80s and revived it in the ’90s with Lavitt’s help, throwing a bodacious monthly party known as Club Makeup at the El Rey Theatre. But Makeup was only one of many decadent dance parties of the time.
“I loved the whole new-glam era in the ’90s,” says Lavitt, who by that time had made a name for himself throwing his own parties, too. “Hollywood saw an explosion of so many different genres then. It was exciting. DJs/promoters like Joseph, Paul V. at Dragstrip 66, Bryan Rabin and Mike Messex with Club Cherry. ... Nightlife goes in waves, and for me that was a good one with all the glitter and glamour.”
In many ways the glam revival wasn’t much of a stretch from the goth of his youth. Both scenes were dramatic in their own way, musically and aesthetically. Lavitt was in his element with these late-’90s parties, but he sought new inspirations, too. Well, old ones, actually. He created Beat It, a popular ’80s night, and joined forces with the gals from ’60s soiree Café Bleu for the mega-mod affair Club Shout! — which, like Club Makeup, was able to sell out the El Rey every month.
“Another one of my inspirations was the great late DJ Billy Limbo and his retro Club 1970s, which ran for 10 years,” Lavitt says. “There has always been a need for nostalgia at nightclubs. If you are 18 to 25, chances are you want to reminisce about your childhood as an adult.”
For Lavitt, Club ’90s was obviously a natural progression. But he was a bit ahead of his time. It took a while for ’90s to resonate in the clubs, but when it did, it really did. The irony of his and Perdew’s current success with a concept that covers the era when they were actually doing clubs hasn’t escaped either of them.
But Lavitt’s biggest nightlife success has been driven by contemporary music. His gargantuan gay dance party Tigerheat has been packing the Avalon in Hollywood for 16 years, playing the newest and most popular pop hits and videos, and touting millennial-friendly promos such as record-release parties and product launches. Last night it hosted a bash for Kylie Jenner's new makeup brand, with a look-alike contest and prizes.
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“Tigerheat is the best idea I ever had,” Lavitt says of the long-running shindig. “It never gets old because pop music is always popular and changing. It’s a very young and very mixed crowd. Being 18 and over, and going for so long, many people have grown up going there.”
Lavitt gets the significance of this better than anyone. “Growing up, it's so important to have a place to go,” he says. “Most of my best friends to this day I meet at nightclubs. There’s always been something about smoke machines, disco lights and your favorite song playing while dancing with your BFF. I used to go out dancing to these brand-new records, and now 20 years later I'm the one playing them a second time around at the clubs and working side by side with the DJs I admired. It’s all really come full circle.”
This weekend, Club ’90s presents three events. Friday is *NSync Night at Los Globos. Saturday is Nine Inch Nails vs. Depeche Mode at the Lash. Sunday is Club Y2K (early 2000s hits) back at Los Globos.
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