For DJs in Los Angeles, time is an issue. With clubs typically running from 9 or 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and bills that boast multiple guests, DJs simply don't have much time to build a set. “One hour is typical,” says Vangelis Vargas, one half of the duo Raíz. “Two hours is almost a rarity.”
The situation is a little different in Europe, where Vangelis and his brother and production/DJ partner Vidal Vargas have played plenty of times. For those overseas gigs, they'll often land a four-hour set if they're headlining. Sometimes, they'll stay on the decks longer than that.
This Thursday, Raíz are bringing a European-style set to Glendale venue Complex. On the occasion of Vidal's 35th birthday, the duo will play for four hours. It's a chance for the Rosemead-based brothers to give their hometown crowd a taste of what they do outside of Los Angeles.
In Spanish, Raíz means “root.” For the Vargas brothers, adopting Raíz as their name — which they did about five years ago — was a tribute to their own roots.
Raised in the San Gabriel Valley, Vangelis and Vidal caught onto electronic music early in life, thanks to their Kraftwerk-fan dad. At 12, Vangelis, the elder brother by two years, started playing guitar. He got into punk and metal. When Vidal reached that same age, he hit up rock shows with his brother, but it wasn't his scene.
“You can't dance to that,” Vidal says. “Sometimes, you just stand there with your arms crossed and it's not what I'm about.”
In the 1990s, Vangelis and Vidal found their calling at raves. They danced inside rundown warehouses and at outdoor spaces. “We would go to shows and it felt so restricted,” says Vangelis. “Going to outdoor parties, especially, it felt so free and liberating.”
Trance and progressive house were big in Los Angeles at the time, but the Vargas brothers were more influenced by techno, the Kraftwerkian dance sound that developed in Detroit years earlier.
They got their fix through mixtapes, college radio and the occasional chance to see someone like Frankie Bones or Joey Beltram play a party. By the early 2000s, Vangelis and Vidal, then known as Acid Circus, had joined forces with their friend Drumcell (Moe Espinosa) to throw their own events. The joint effort, Droid Behavior, was a smash.
Vangelis and Vidal didn't start out as DJs. They were producers and performers, making their own tracks and playing them during live PA sets. In that first decade of their careers, the two were perhaps better known as promoters. When L.A. Weekly spoke with them in 2008, the emphasis was on the Droid Behavior crew, who had developed a reputation for bringing the best, cutting-edge international talent to Los Angeles.
The Vargas brothers still throw parties in Los Angeles and other cities — in fact, Thursday night's event is part of Droid Behavior's Prime series at Complex. But their focus now is on the work of the Droid Behavior artists.
“It took us a while to realize that you can't do it all and expect to do it all,” says Vidal. Their work as promoters helped get Vangelis and Vidal's names out into the world, but there was a drawback. “We were working on tons of tracks, they just didn't see the light of day,” says Vangelis. In the world of dance music, where even long-established genres like techno evolve with trends, they had to get those tunes out before the music sounded dated.
In four hours, Raíz can cover the breadth of music that inspires them, whether its acid or electro even a decades-old radio hit. They make their own edits and remixes that can only be heard during their sets. Vangelis mentions that they did a remix of Technotronic's 1989 hit “Pump up the Jam” that they save for “special gigs.” Whether or not that makes it into Thursday night's set remains to be heard.
“When you play something that really surprises the crowd, they go crazy,” says Vidal. “They remember it for a long time. Hopefully, forever.”
Raíz will play a special four-hour set at Complex on Thursday, Feb. 19. Tickets and more info here.