Every fourth Wednesday beneath the red glow of twinkling Christmas lights at La Cita Bar you can find Malabomba!, the city's finest Gypsy night, although you really shouldn't call it a Gypsy night. Attendees wear three-piece suits, cravats, harem pants, elaborately stitched peasant skirts and feathered hats. The chic, sharp-tongued redhead at the door will stamp you wherever you want to be stamped.
Folks get quickly lubricated on vodka and beer before joining the sweating throng on the dance floor. The DJs spin everything from Black Sea cha-cha and Balkan brass beats to Gypsy punk and psychedelic Peruvian cumbia to Soviet disco and indie klezmer to Slavic soul and vintage belly dance. There are also bands that blend folk and modern rhythms to give the night an air of organic experimentation.
How did this all come to pass? Founders Rod Cumming, Jason Savvy and Erica Duchinsky already were spinning Balkan music between sets with Killsonic, the roaming, 25-piece, punk-jazz outfit they were part of. But they soon decided Los Angeles could use a first-rate international dance party, so they kicked off Malabomba! in the spring of 2009.
The party's moniker comes partly from a pet name Savvy gave the Serbian girl to whom he lost his virginity. (“Mala” means little in Serbian, and she felt like a “little furnace” when he slept next to her, he explains.) The rest comes from the ill-defined concept of “bomba” — meaning, roughly, having both soul and balls.
Whatever you do, don't call it a Gypsy night. “We're not a Gypsy night,” Savvy says. “We feature Gypsy music in our playlists and in our aesthetic, as well as music from various cultures in the Roma continuum and diaspora, but we use that term in very reverent and respectful terms. If anything, we are a Gypsy-spiced dance party.”
But for all Savvy's political correctness, Malabomba! is at bottom a wild party, and on a recent night the cold winds from the outdoor patio were no match for the body heat on the dance floor.
Under the watchful eyes of painted matadors behind the stage, local band Zoom-B hit their stride playing forro, a type of northeastern Brazilian dance music. “What the fuck is this?” whispered one young punk in a ripped jean jacket to his friend. “It's forro,” his friend answered knowingly. “My parents love this.”
La Cita Bar hosts Malabomba! the fourth Wednesday of every month.