M Dinner House was a Japanese jazz club nestled into a strip of bodegas and windowless brick facades atop the Hollywood Freeway. Once a week, the club hosted Grown, a lurid soiree soundtracked by the best chill-out, house and bass music in Los Angeles. Top-shelf talent spun for appreciative aficionados.
When it was shut down last summer, Amanda Brown's 100% Silk, a boutique off-shoot of her vanguard experimental label Not Not Fun, emerged as the new home for retro-fetishistic dance heads. Not two weeks after the demise of M, many of its regulars jammed Hollywood's Freak City for the label's first eponymous party. Now, following a successful international tour with Silk artists, Brown's back, and throwing the second edition at Little Temple tonight.
Brown says she's inspired by the legendary parties at New York's Paradise Garage and San Francisco's Trocadero, where there was no parking on the dance floor, and the talent behind the booth responded in kind. "We're trying to explore actual dancing -- instead of dance music that people stand around to -- by making it housey, classic, luxurious, and pleasurable," says Brown.
Really, the 100% Silk aesthetic is closer to that of Factory Records, the legendary Manchester label that turned a lifestyle -- freaky dancing and incestuous artistic collaboration -- into a business venture.
Last July, the label hosted their first party at Freak City, a clothing store-cum-nightspot whose dissonant interior design (comically large off-brown support poles, flickering green plastic trees, digital b-boy threads on the racks) resembles the Philip Johnson-inspired furnishings that crowded the floor of The Hacienda, the nightclub owned by the label.
Musically, many of the Silk artists pick up where the acid house and Manchester's late '80s/early '90s Madchester scenes left off. Consider the talent tonight. Magic Touch, the solo project of Damon Palermo of San Francisco's jungle brothers Mi Ami, might be Silk's answer to the Happy Mondays, those goofballs who color soundtracks with a palette of canned piano settings. SFV Acid, a resident DJ at Grown, is the post-punk band Durutti Column, an enigmatic student of the game, tweaking out on familiar grooves. Pharoahs are Section 25, chin-stroking conceptualists taking New Wave shimmer to taut, krauty heights.
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That makes LA Vampires, Brown's alternate persona as a provocative disco diva, the New Order of the bunch, the crowd-pleasers with a significant financial stake in the enterprise. She's not playing on Friday, but she's earned the break. Last November, Brown took Silk on the road, and threw shows with label stalwarts Magic Touch, Innergaze, and tonight's headliner Ital -- the Eurocentric alias of Daniel Martin-McCormick, also of Mi Ami -- in house music meccas like Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto.
The sounds of trance and house are now inescapable on hip-hop and pop radio. It's no secret that the indie world was tinkering with those sounds first. But while that infatuation can sometimes pull a band or label apart -- see the implosion of Factory in the mid-'90s, or the dissolution of the late, great Out Hud a decade later -- Brown and her extended crew of experimentalists are having their cake and eating it too.
Like Portland's Honey Owens, who records both as the cryptic Valet and as house revivalists Miracles Club, Brown's balancing her uncompromising work in Pocahaunted and Not Not Fun by blowing off steam with her party people. When your art is your life, sometimes it's best not to mix business and pleasure.