Dance parties are big business in Southern California these days. There was a time, however, when you didn’t know where the party was until right before it started.
You had to call a number to get a recorded voice telling you an address — a "map point" — which was not the party location, just the place to pay for entry. Once you were there and paid up, you got the actual address for the event — which was, more often than not, an illegal venue. All this added to the excitement of experiencing the music, which was the main draw at these parties. It certainly wasn’t the DJs themselves, who were, for the most part, unknowns to the attendees.
Los Angeles native son Marques Wyatt comes from a time even before this. Playing music for fun in his teens, Wyatt wasn’t expecting DJing to turn into an actual career. That is, until his twenties, when he started getting flown out of state, and even out of the country, to DJ on a regular basis.
Before all that, Wyatt's original 1987 underground party, Mac’s Garage (which ran for two years), was the precursor to Los Angeles’ 1990s rave scene. The “acid house party,” as it was known, was held at various spaces, including downtown warehouses, all night long.
“It was a different mentality,” says Wyatt, toned biceps on display in a sleeveless shirt, leaning back on a lush lobby sofa at Santa Monica's Casa del Mar hotel. Born and raised in Santa Monica, and still a nearby resident, he's at ease here. “It was new for everybody to stay up until six in the morning, see the sun coming through the windows of the warehouse. Everyone was hugging after a party. We stopped Mac’s Garage on a high note, leaving out of one driveway with the tail of a cop car pulling into the other driveway.”
No matter what else is happening in dance music, Wyatt stays in touch with what sounds right to him. In the early ‘90s, when events started getting younger and more drug-driven, Wyatt started throwing his party Brass, featuring appearances from acts like Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai. At the end of 1998, he started Deep, a weekly party on a Sunday night, which is celebrating its 16th anniversary this month with a rare Saturday engagement at the Belasco Theater in DTLA.
Every Sunday from 1998 until 2012, Wyatt hosted Deep with guests from all over the globe, creating a family through the trust that was built from the high quality and consistency of his party. His instinctual knowledge of club culture tipped him off that it was time to pull back to once a month, which Deep is now, the third Sunday at King King. Once every two months on a Saturday, he’ll do a nostalgic Remember night of classic house at King King. On holiday weekends, there will be special event Deep nights at Sound. Wyatt also brings the party to the desperate-for-a-good-event Westside with Venice Gets Deep, and brings his passions for music and yoga together with Deep Exhale, co-hosted by yoga instructor Cristi Christensen.
“People would rather go to clubs where they feel they know what it’s about and they know what they’re going to come away with,” says Wyatt, whose style is based in house music, with generous doses of soul and funk. “The whole thing is about the connection people have made with the artist. Once the artist has made that connection, they can lead people where they want them to go. As long as the love for the music is there, the people will be there to support it.”
Wyatt understands that DJing is about playing to the crowd, but maintaining a signature style. This is what makes him just as good in a festival setting as he is in a dark, late-night club. It is also what has kept him relevant through many years of scene changes, fluctuations in dance music’s popularity, and the even more changeable status of house music in particular.
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“There is so much about this business that can feed your narcissistic side,” says Wyatt, who is in the studio working on original productions every chance he gets. “You never want to be the person that doesn’t have a grasp on reality. I’m not listening to new music because I feel like I have to; I need something fresh. This younger crowd is so into the music; they’re fiends for it. These kids are savvy with technology and have done their homework. They know who you are and come with a lot of love and respect. I’m interested in creating something with this newer generation. What does that look like?”
Deep's Sweet 16 with Osunlade, Marques Wyatt, Big Cee, Sabo, Goldcap and Patricio happens this Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Belasco.