Since at least the Eastside backyard parties of the 1980s, Los Angeles has been a hotbed of uptempo dance music culture. Being the American epicenter of raves in the 1990s and beyond didn't necessarily bring us global respect, however.
Even when big electronic dance music acts started moving here to take on Hollywood film-score projects and work with talent agents, they treated L.A. as a bedroom community, not necessarily as the place to be.
But the latest wave of EDM fanaticism has put the city front and center. Some of the biggest festival promoters (Insomniac, Hard, Goldenvoice) are here, the Hollywood talent agencies (including William Morris' pioneering dance department) are here, and many of the biggest DJs (Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Steve Angello) are here.
There was a time you'd tune into BBC Radio 1's “Essential Selection” show to find out what music was happening in the London-centric world of dance music. Today you can tune into BBC Radio 1 to find out what's happening in the Los Angeles-centric world of EDM.
What's more, Pete Tong, arguably the most influential on-air dance DJ on the planet, will bring an “Essential Mix Live” party to his home base of Los Angeles next week.
The event will feature techno titan Richie Hawtin, Tong himself, and Lee K. at Exchange LA downtown on Jan. 22. A version of the night will air on a future edition of Tong's “Essential Mix” show on BBC Radio 1.
A private party on a West Hollywood rooftop will precede the nighttime festivities. It will feature conversation and music from Hawtin, Claude Von Stroke, Eric Prydz, MK and special guests. It will air live on BBC Radio 1's “Pete Tong Show” from 2 to 5 p.m. PST on Jan. 22.
“It's very exciting to be able to bring the station out and to broadcast from where I'm now based,” says Tong, who moved here from London in 2013, bringing his BBC Radio 1 duties with him. “I want this to reflect what's going on in the city and why it's so magical and why it's become this magnet in the electronic music space.”
Tong is decades deep in America's electronic dance music scene, and he is partly responsible for its elevation to the biggest game on the festival circuit. He co-founded William Morris Endeavor's electronic music division and started helping top DJs put extra zeroes on their paychecks.
But for Tong it's still about the basics — doing A&R for his label, FFRR, by discovering new tracks and new talent one promo at a time, even if promos now come to him via his email inbox instead of on vinyl.
“By coming over and rattling the cage by doing something like this [“Essential Mix Live”] I like to think it'll create a ripple,” Tong said. “I would like to be championing not just the biggest names, but what's next while maybe raising the station's profile to motivate people to send me music and approach me.
“As much as I spend my whole life in A&R,” he said, “there's still people you don't know about.”
Tong will also broadcast his eponymous show live from Miami Music Week on March 18.
We asked if he planned on doing similar events in Las Vegas, which has become the epicenter of live EDM largely as a result of Electric Daisy Carnival's relocation there from Los Angeles in 2011.
He said EDC's June dates usually clash with the Glastonbury Festival, a huge event for BBC Radio 1 in the U.K.
“It's a 100 percent my ambition to do something from Vegas,” he said. “There just has to be a good slot for it.”
For now, Tong's world revolves around Los Angeles.
Pete Tong presents “Essential Mix Live” with Richie Hawtin and Lee K. at Exchange LA downtown Friday, Jan. 22. Tickets and info.