If you ask most Hollywood clubbers these days, they’ll likely tell you that L.A. is going through a clubbing renaissance. After all, Tinseltown is now practically awash in high-end venues catering to electronic music: the revamped Palladium, H Wood and even hoary old Avalon are just a few that immediately come to mind, hosting big-name headlining DJs that bring in equally big—but often disappointingly mainstream—Hollywood crowds. Crowds that have little or no personal experience with the rich history of dance music in this town, particularly the time period when the music was just getting established and off the ground. When the seeds were sown that would eventually germinate into the present-day scene that all too many of them are already taking for granted. Yes, back when the music was something that many of them have heard about but never actually seen—underground. So, for the benefit of those who think that modern dance entertainment began with AutoTune, this reviewer is going to tell you a little story. So fluff up your pillows, turn on the night light and pull up your blankies, boys and girls…
Once upon a time, when downtown L.A. was an urban wasteland populated mostly by empty warehouses and factories (and not the luxury lofts and condos many of those places would eventually become), there were certain enterprising folks who realized that those vacant structures could be ideal homes for secret parties featuring this weird, deviant music called “electronica.” This was partying at its bare minimum, with no $300 private tables with Grey Goose (*GASP!* Yes, it’s true dearies, don’t be frightened!), no Facebook pages to put yourself on the VIP list with, and no valet parking. What was there was dirt, grunge, and fantastic music that rocked those brave enough to make the journey. It was funky. It was fierce. In other words, it was old-school ACID HOUSE. And as it was back in the day, so it was once again on January 23rd at a gloriously dingy little place near Boyle Heights, at the Roam Music Gets Leveled party, a kick-ass gig that brought out cadres of house music veterans ready to resurrect the old vibe in this new decade.
In fact, the early ’90s era feeling got going even before the party started, thanks to a last-minute moving of the venue—perfect! Once the partygoers arrived by shuttlebus, they were treated to a genuinely wonderful night of delicious tunes, delivered by some of the original founding fathers of the Los Angeles acid house movement: Mark Lewis, Doc Martin, and the one and only Michael Cook, supported by Droog and John Wander. Lewis, a longtime favorite of the L.A. faithful, got things going early with his usual selection of top-notch house, including remixes of Aly-US’ “Follow Me,” Sharam’s “Don’t Say A Word” and Underworld’s “Downpipe.” Even before Cook came on to follow Lewis with his own brand of killer beats, the place was already filling up with old-school luminaries like KCRW’s Jason Bentley, URB’s very own Raymond Roker, the venerable DJ Taylor, the O.P. (Original Promoter) himself Tef Foo, RaveOlympia alumni George Bennitez, and many more. For his part, Cook did not disappoint, sending the packed house into higher frenzies of juicy rhythm as the after-hours alcohol kept flowing (shhhhhh don’t tell anyone!).
Normally, that would be enough to send just about any house fan home satisfied… but not when the Doctor’s in the house! Long after most Hollywood scenesters would normally be asleep in their beds, the venerable Doc Martin climbed behind the decks and took the party to yet another level that kept rising as surely as the sun did at the gig’s end. And while all electronic music is based on the concept of unity through beats, it was most especially demonstrated here tonight, as these seasoned warriors of the dance floor re-affirmed the bonds that first brought so many of them together all those years ago. More than just a history lesson, this party was a reminder of just where the polished, pre-fabricated music and clubs of today came from, and how much they owe their existence to events like this one.
More photos in our gallery.
Words by Michael Tullberg.