The excitement of illegal dance parties held in warehouses is being in the know, and getting drinks well past the city’s 2 am curfew.
An event called Risky Vision is trying to tap into that vibe, with one major difference: It's legal.
But it does still have cheap drinks and the same talent. On a recent Friday night, the Echo is packed with people dancing to Benedek, an electronic musician whose unkempt hair bobs rhythmically to the beat.
Blaring '80-style synths and slapping bass, the music is kind of cheesy, but in that way funky house should be – a throwback to the Chicago scene and Frankie Knuckles. People are boogieing hard.
The event is aimed at those who just want to groove, without worrying about dress codes or secret locations.
“Not everyone is savvy enough to find things like passwords, or go out so late for warehouse parties,” says Tahl Klainman, one of the event's founders.
He and his co-founder Marko Bacilio shout out scattered shows at Los Globos, and events thrown by local promoters Rhonda and Far Away at the Standard and Ace hotels. But beyond that, the niche between big Hollywood clubs and warehouse parties is largely undeveloped.
“On one hand, night clubs attract expensive talent – especially international DJ's – but that's not necessarily what we're after,” Bacilio explains. “We want to promote local talent.”
With house music’s international resurgence in recent years, it is not surprising that Los Angeles would develop its own crop of talented producers and DJs. Risky Vision's founders cite a number of local contributors, including Sage Caswell, Cromie, Jeniluv, and Mor Elian, who are helping put L.A. on the map with their own twists on the genre's characteristic, repetitive 4/4 dance beats.
This growing crop of L.A. talent features prominently on Risky Vision's lineups, which also includes residency sets by Klainman and Bacilio themselves, who go by the stage names Ford Prefect and Channel One, respectively.
Showcasing local talent puts Risky Vision at odds with underground warehouse parties, which have been a dominant force in the city’s extensive industrial zone east of downtown.
But the illicit parties are on the decline recently, due to crackdowns from LAPD's vice squad.
LAPD Detective Eric Moore has said that warehouse dance parties regularly pull in $20,000 a night, but promoters know they stand to lose a lot of money when the events are busted, which makes them hesitant to book shows. Not to mention there are serious liabilities associated with DIY locations: in 1990, a fire killed 87 people inside an illegal New York dance club.
In a way, the city’s squeeze on warehouse parties works in Risky Vision's favor – making promoters more willing to book shows with established venues. But Klainman and Bacilio admit that it's difficult to compete with the “cool factor” of warehouse parties.
“It's been a challenge to convince people that it’s okay to go to a house night at the Echo,” says Klainman.
The duo has thrown nine events under the Risky Vision name — about every month and half — and is looking to turn the brand into a monthly gig. In August, they packed the Echoplex’s patio at Echo Park Rising, and Risky Vision has been regularly promoted by KCRW DJ Mario Cotto.
Bacilio, who is 30, witnessed the tail end of house music's first wave, and the end of the '90s rave scene. Klainman, who is 24, is entering the scene just as the genre is coming back into style.
So, is house music here to stay this time?
“We’re betting this is just the beginning of house and techno's resurgence,” Klainman says. “It's soulful, funky, danceable, and thoughtful – and that's what gives music staying power.”