Monday Social celebrates 15-year anniversary at Playhouse Hollywood
The word “institution” can get thrown around loosely in L.A.’s club culture, where the lifespan of a weekly event is often shorter than the hem of a skin-tight cocktail dress. But standing shoulders-deep in the pulsating, strobe-light carousel of Monday Social, that label is impossible to dispute. In fact, the only thing questionable about it is how a Monday night event manages to pack the punch of a weekend rager week in and week out.
Celebrating its 15th year, Monday Social is gearing up for an event tonight with internationally renowned DJ Sander Van Doorn -- rated No. 12 in the world by DJ Mag. Hosted at Playhouse Hollywood -- the event’s home for almost two years, Monday Social continues its legacy as a staple in the international DJ circuit.
Traipsing past the crowded entrance of Playhouse after 10 p.m. presents an undulating crush of bodies from the front door to the DJ booth. Go-go dancers take turns commanding lustful admiration, writhing in tight tops in a cage above the glowing bar. Howls and body heat reach to the club’s rafters.
Monday Social, which began in June 1996, is the longest-running weekly electro dance night in L.A. and, arguably, the U.S. Cultivating an environment of international music mayhem, the club’s hosted a roster of renowned DJs from all over the world. Over the years, it's become a central meeting ground for jet-set partiers, devout house heads and celebrities. However, it's a long way from the event's modest beginnings.
Freddy Be and Mick Cole, better known as DJ duo the Bud Brothers, founded the club in the midst of pioneering L.A.’s down-tempo beat scene. In the mid-'90s, they could be spotted sipping beers and spinning vinyl under the black lights of backrooms in L.A.’s underground clubs. At the time, Be was playing a weekly gig at a tiny French restaurant called Louis the XIV off Melrose and La Brea avenues. That spot would soon become the breeding ground for Monday Social.
“The whole reason we started on a Monday was because we wanted a place we could play regularly and not compete in the big DJ market on the weekends,” Be said.
As resident DJs at Louis XIV, the Bud Brothers started hosting the event, wrangling a rotation of guest DJs to play the small room, which held about 150 people. What would start as a relaxed, down-tempo DJ night would slowly devolve into a weeknight circus as guests finished their meals and soaked in the booze. Beats would get louder and faster until bacchanalia was in full swing, Be said.
Crate diggers would play night-long sets for little more than free food and a couple hundred bucks. Despite meager offerings, Cold Cut, Mix Master Morris and Fila Brazilia and others were among the first featured guests at the word-of-mouth weekly event during its five-year stint at the restaurant.
During one of their final Louis shows, Be -- who doubles as the event’s talent buyer -- remembers the triumph of acquiring Groove Armada for the night and watching 400 people cram into a dance party that spilled into the alley.
“We were always striving to be a proper club, even though it was at this tiny French restaurant with no sound system and a tiny DJ booth,” Be said.
After Louis XIV closed, Monday Social would eventually find other homes at Nacional and Las Palmas, for about four years each. Both clubs provided more room for the event to grow and cultivate its reputation among internationally known DJs and a growing clientele of beat-loving tourists and club-savvy locals. Though Be admits that as the DJ and dance scene got more competitive in L.A., keeping the club financially viable every week was a challenge.
The shuttering of Nacional in 2009 brought Playhouse Hollywood into the picture. With its high-class cachet and velvet rope decadence, it almost seemed too nice for a club that had always prided itself on presenting a nonexclusive setting, Be said. But melding underground house music and techno culture with a premier late night venue seems to be working for Monday Social since it migrated there in 2009. It continues to pull in anywhere from 500 to 800 people, depending on who’s DJing. The rise of the celebrity DJ in recent years has served the club well as it continues to pull the international names that make up about 85% to 90% of their weekly talent, Be said.
Given the anniversary party with Van Doorn behind the decks, it’s safe to say that Playhouse’s capacity will invariably be tested. Van Doorn is a dominating presence in the DJ world, including residencies at clubs in Ibiza, Spain, and London as well as his latest stint at the recently opened Marquee club in Las Vegas.
“[Monday Social] has a very familiar name in their international DJ circuit,” Van Doorn said. “It’s quite remarkable because Monday night can be quite a tough night to play out during the week, but to have this night be so successful says enough about the power of the L.A. club scene.”
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Playhouse Hollywood. Credit: Erik Voake