Last year, opposing articles by Mixmag and Thump argued for and against the existence of a true techno scene in Los Angeles. While the former started the debate asserting that 2am alcohol last-calls and LA’s love for upbeat pool party house music meant that the city was years behind from becoming a true techno hub, the latter pointed to Droid Behavior’s work as proof of a vibrant techno scene in the biggest city on the West Coast. Spearheaded by Drumcell and Raiz (Vangelis and Vidal Vargas), Droid has been at the forefront of techno in the city, the country and frankly, around the world. With a hugely successful record label churning out timeless techno pieces and the ever-popular Interface parties, the Droid team has continued to support and promote the techno movement for an audience ranging from domestic to global.
I recently moved to the LA area and set out to dip my feet in the city’s underground over the span of two weekends. Coming from the established and familiar grounds of Chicago, I was a little weary of what I would find, who I would meet and how much fun I would have. But I had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was in Hollywood on a Friday night for Fine Time‘s last party of the year featuring none other than Panorama Bar resident Ryan Elliott. I was immediately impressed. Plenty of people told me before moving here that people in Los Angeles were pretentious but there was none of that here. The space was simple, the crowd as respectful as any I’d ever seen and the music a given 10 out of 10 with Ryan on the decks.
The next night, Exchange was hosting Pan-Pot’s LA stop as part of their “The Other” album tour. Smack in the middle of Downtown LA, Exchange may be labeled as a club but truly reminds me of a small venue. Armed with large LED walls, intricate lighting and a mezzanine VIP area overlooking the large main dance floor, it’s quite a sight to behold. Insomniac has been running their Inception series on Saturday nights, bringing a mixture of house and techno names to the club with overall great reception. Earlier this year it hosted the likes of Maceo Plex, Loco Dice, Green Velvet, Claude vonStroke, Chus + Ceballos and Adam Beyer and it’s already scheduled to bring John Digweed, Coyu, Anthony Attalla, Alan Fitzpatrick and Richie Hawtin in the coming weeks.
While the names are definitely on the more popular scale of “underground,” it goes without saying that the huge success these nights are having are a true testament to the city’s love for the techno and house sounds. Pan-Pot weren’t the sole artists on the bill either, as they were joined by Luigi Madonna, Jay Lumen and Droid’s Raiz for what many would consider a pretty beefy line-up. While it is perhaps expected for the club to get emptier after 2am when alcohol sales end, the official closing time at Exchange is 6am and a large part of the crowd remained to see Luigi Madonna close it out.
The following weekend was no less busy. Droid Behavior and Prototype hosted no other than Ben Sims and Mike Parker at Lot 613, while on the same night 6AM Group teamed up with Incognito and Work to bring Ken Ishii from Japan to a warehouse setting that went deep into sunrise.
Although Lot 613 is a legit venue that can be rented out for a variety of events including weddings, it really is a repurposed industrial space and no one could be faulted for thinking had stepped into a legitimate warehouse party. With black curtains running all along the walls, minimal lighting and a strong sound system to boot, the place was nicely packed and the perfect setting for the music being played. LA’s Suerte and Template warmed up the room perfectly, showing skills that are hard to find in local talent these days, while Mike Parker and Ben Sims both delivered standout solid performances of their own. The crowd was loving it from beginning to end.
With Lot 613 closing at 4am, it seemed the perfect time to head to Ken Ishii’s warehouse party next. Expecting something a little more reserved I found myself catapulted in a huge space divided between a hang-out foyer that doubled as a smoking section and a larger room where the heavy techno was already in full swing. The Japanese producer and DJ was already on the decks and the room was comfortably packed, and I am told remained so for several hours past 5:30am when I left.
The promoters behind the event couldn’t have found a better space. With characteristic warehouse-style windows either side of the DJ set-up, brick walls throughout, a booming sound system and visual displays playing on a simple yet effective white sheet behind the booth, the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. There were separate bathrooms for men and women and even a hot dog vendor in the smoking-section, a welcome addition to the party in my books!
When all was said and done, I managed to experience four different sides of LA’s techno scene in the span of three nights and truthfully loved every single one of them. From the large club armed with over-zealous LED walls to the dark warehouse that housed Ken Ishii’s return to LA, and from the small loft-like space in Hollywood of my first night to the established yet underground feel of Lot 613. No matter the occasion and setting, the crowd was respectful and largely devoid of the creepy or annoying people that sometimes leech onto dance floors I have frequented in the past. It was a true pleasure to dive into good quality music, make new friends and feel like at home in a new city.
In the weeks to come, LA is playing host to a number of top-notch artists across a large number of venues. Some of my favorites include Soul Button at Couture as part of Underrated Presents’ Clinic Wednesdays and the massive four-room affair at the Belasco for Minimal Effort NYE, as well as Developer’s headlining slot for King King Club’s last techno night before they close doors and the likes of Solomun and Luciano both playing Hollywood venues deep into January. And if established clubs and venues aren’t your cup of tea, you can catch Tin Man and John Tajeda play an Acid Camp day party this Sunday or Inland headline a New Year’s Eve warehouse shindig alongside a flurry of other techno talent. The point is, no matter your taste in techno or house sub-genre and party setting, there is no shortage of options here.
And one last thing: if anyone ever tells you that LA is pretentious and doesn’t love techno, send them my way. I will be more than happy to take them out and show them just how this city gets down.