As you walked up the stairwell into Union on Saturday night, the smell of palo santo, a South American wood that is burned as incense, greeted you, followed by the unmistakable sound of house music pulsing through steamy air that was so viscous it felt as if you were swimming instead of walking. You had arrived at ABunDance, hosted by the Grateful Generation, an evening of extravagant fashion and futuristic beats for L.A.'s community of underground artists and dance music fans.
Promoted as a pre-party for Lucidity, a transformational festival taking place in Santa Barbara next month, the lineup and aesthetics echoed that larger three-day event, with many DJs and performers who have appeared at Lucidity in the past. “It’s super family vibes,” said David Starfire, one of the evening's DJs. “It’s not some corporation throwing the event; it’s a collective of people that have come together because they really love festivals and they want to throw their own.”
Plunging deeper into Union, past the first room (the Loft) where house DJs Worthy and Fritz Carlton entertained four-on-the-floor devotees, you passed under Union's signature “Disco” sign and into ABunDance's main room, which beckoned attendees with diverse sonic experiences ranging from The Librarian’s undulating dub beats to David Starfire’s tribal rhythms. The room’s perimeter was populated with vendors hawking their handcrafted wares and live painters working on psychedelic canvases. Elsewhere jugglers hypnotically tossed illuminated orbs for entranced onlookers while bendy attendees performed acro-yoga in a far corner.
If you continued to explore beyond Union’s Disco room, you could wander into the party's last space, the Circle Room, where artists such as Asteroids and Earthquakes were dishing out drippy, gushy sounds that were complemented by slow, unraveling beat patterns that tickled new regions of the sonic palette. Just as the dance floor would start to clear, a sudden burst of bass sucked attendees back in, as if lassoed back by Asteroids and Earthquakes himself.
The evening's main event was a late-night set by Australian producer Bill Day, who goes by Mr. Bill. “His setup is crazy — they have to provide a monitor for him because he has a full-on computer, he doesn’t have a laptop,” Starfire said admiringly. “When I saw his setup, I thought my brain was gonna explode.”
Known for teaching online production tutorials, Mr. Bill is not only celebrated for his music but also for his knowledge and passion of the craft. Still, he remains a self-deprecating character. “I have massive struggles dealing with my art,” he said after his set wrapped up around 3 a.m. “I feel OK being in front of people and being in my own zone doing things — I’m not nervous or anything — but I don’t think there’s that much value to what I do.”
Though he will not be performing at the upcoming Lucidity Festival, Mr. Bill played it last year and was only too happy to promote it via this pre-party appearance. “Lucidity’s sick, I love that festival,” he said. “I thought it was gonna be smaller but it’s actually super fucking well established.”
Taking place at Live Oak Campground in Santa Barbara, Lucidity has become a mainstay among so-called transformational festivals, offering not just music but sustainability courses, lectures, workshops, yoga, meditation and healthy cuisine. The Grateful Generation, for their part, have become the go-to partner for transformational and underground festivals looking to share their events with Los Angeles’ diverse crowd. They've also put together pre-party events in L.A. for Lightning in a Bottle, Enchanted Forest and Symbiosis.
“It was really small and it’s grown into this beautiful, really awesome thing,” Starfire observed of Lucidity. But he could be speaking of the entire underground community that events like this pre-party help draw together in growing numbers.