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I Like the Nightlife Baby

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I love living in the Cleveland area – I really do. We have a great house in a safe area, my kids love their schools, we have room, great friends, the city is only about 40 minutes away. I like the woods and streams and farms (not many of those left), and I even like the weather about eight months out of the year (December-March pretty much suck), BUT there are some things I miss about LA.

I miss the ocean of course, the weather, the lively culture, and I miss all the action. When I DJd in LA in the ’80s I worked at every manner of party all over the city in every kind of venue from homes to warehouses to formal dining halls and restaurants to the open desert. I miss working a balls out funk party one night and a new wave party the next, with maybe a hard rock/metal gig two nights later.

Truth be told, the nightlife of Cleveland has been dead for ten years now: stale, unexciting, nothing new, nothing to draw people together. Though LA is fragmented, it’s so big there’s always SOMETHING happening, and this story from the LA Times makes me nostalgic. I even know some of the people involved:

    Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get different answers about where L.A.’s current underground art-party scene, as far as you can put your finger on it, originated.

    The Coffee House Anthropologists, as usual, will trace it back to the 1950s and ’60s, to Beat happenings and the Radical Chic parties where society matrons entertained the Hell’s Angels and the whole free-jazz-with-magic-markers thing that Ornette Coleman’s circle used to do.

    The Desert People, however, will tell you that it all started with the legendary Moontribe parties in the Mojave (the annual Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nev., is now an institution), and even before that in the deserts of India. The Punks will scream that any original form of nightlife in L.A. crawled out of a dank bar from the 1980s like Third Eye or the Masque. The Beat Junkies and Hip-Hop Kids will insist the whole thing was imported directly from the turntables of Manchester or Detroit or the freestyle battles of Oakland to the decrepit warehouses of downtown L.A.

    And the Artists whose work lines the walls — well, the artists aren’t sure, really. All they know is they haven’t been to the stuffy La Cienega scene in years.

    But the one thing commonly agreed upon is that L.A.’s notoriously fragmented underground nightlife is coagulating more often lately, producing a new category, an über-category, if you will, of event where everyone — the Punks, the Desert People, the Anthropologists, the Beat Junkies and the Hip-Hop Kids and Artists — can find something.

    ….”None of these multiple forms are competing with each other,” said Kimmy McCann, a veteran of the downtown L.A. art scene. As a gallery owner, she’s been known to present homeless saxophonists alongside traditional Sikh singers — and once even a nature-inspired installation artist who planted grass in the stairwell of her gallery — at her openings. “They’re integrating. Maybe because things like MTV are so accepted now, we expect all of our media to come together.”

    “Everybody just wants more now, more sensory overload,” said Liz Garo, an independent music booker and veteran of L.A.’s punk scene.

    This has made for an underground party scene that is over-stimulating and all-inclusive but not so underground anymore. Go to one of Teo Castro’s parties, or to the Echo, where Garo books acts, and you will find Brit-punk Mohawks next to MCs in baggy pants. You will also find guys in ties — and not the thin leather Duran Duran ones. Real ties.

    ….Michelle Berc, who estimates she sells as many as 20 pieces of art at each of her Create:Fixate events, said her goal is to get music people interested in the visual arts and vice versa. “There are no venues for emerging artists. A lot of people are afraid of art because of the pretension of the gallery scene. I try to present it in a comfortable atmosphere. People come to hear the music and end up buying a piece.”

    The Culturati, the Desert People, the Punks, the Beat Junkies and Hip-Hop Kids, the Promoters and the Artists — they all can find something to look at or listen to in this new legitimate underground. What are their thoughts on where it’s going?

    Lynn Hasty, the producer behind Twine, an experimental electronic music show at the Knitting Factory on Wednesday nights that often features video art with the music, and a publicist for some of the people mentioned above, sees technology as the great equalizer. She’s witnessed the innovations of the recording studios and editing suites seep into the party scene, a development that in the future may allow any partygoer one weekend to become a sought-after DJ or video artist the next. “A lot of the DJs I like now don’t even use records — just Final Scratch,” she said, referring to the popular brand of sound-mixing software.

    Indeed, at Berc’s, for every DJ with a set of turntables, there is another with nothing but a laptop computer. Probably the best balance of old and new struck at the last party was Volsoc, a duet who combine a laptop with a pair of $10 Radio Shack microphones and Peter Frampton-style talkbox.

Lynn, baby, we really need to do an Elliptical show out there – give me a call.

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