Category: Clubland

The pop burlesque of Dita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese
In a city where nearly every bar and club has some type of “burlesque” dancer or show, the excitement generated by Dita Von Teese’s “Strip Strip Hooray” tour –- which took over the House of Blues on Friday and Saturday  -– is rather significant. Saturday offered two shows; at the early one, the venue was packed to the rafters with the expected greaser guys and curvy gals in bright red lipstick, flowers in their hair and skin-tight vintage frocks.

Yet Von Teese represents the more mainstream side of burlesque, which was evident by a crowd that featured plenty of casually dressed couples in T-shirts and jeans, gussied up goths, blinged-out clubber types, old people, young people, straight people, gay people, black, white, Latin -- you name it. It seems the appeal of burlesque (and we’re not talking faux Pussycat Dolls burlesque, but the authentic bump and grind sans tattoos or contemporary punk references) is officially a universal phenom, and Von Teese is its high priestess.

She may not have been the first, but no one, expect maybe Bettie Page herself, has done more for the popularity of burlesque than Von Teese. Retro-inspired stripper culture is almost incidental to Von Teese’s star power, as she was once married to Marilyn Manson, has been featured in Vogue and Playboy magazine spreads and her name is branded on a bevy of merch. She doesn’t sing, but if she did, could she be a pop star? Indubitably. Like Madonna, who’s been influenced by burlesque culture herself, Von Teese has a mystical allure, a combination of shameless confidence and perfectionism.

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Monday Social celebrates 15-year anniversary at Playhouse Hollywood

Playhouse

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.

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Dinner House M is closing in June (the hipster apocalypse is nigh)

Dinner Whether or not the world ends this Saturday, for Echo Parkers with an ear for great music and a bad idea in their heads around 1:45 a.m., a far greater loss is looming next month.

According to a headline on its website, Dinner House M, the Japanese jazz lounge seemingly ripped from Michael Mann’s most vivid fantasies of a location for a shootout scene, is closing June 8.

Founded in 1987 by the jazz singer Miki Saito and her sister Maya, the Historic Filipinotown club had became a favorite prowling ground for nightlife vampires and the neighborhood’s musician-industrial-complex for its surreal '80s-noir mirror décor, off-the-grid location and, shall we say  unorthodox entry policies. Miki worked the door with a mix of neighborhood bonhomie and occasional cutting disapproval (which side you got generally depended on how late you were trying to get in).

And while it routinely presented jazz performances in the earlier hours, on late nights the club hosted some surprisingly ambitious DJs (we fondly remember a stint when Ashland Mines from the late, lamented Wildness spun deconstructed dance music on Wednesdays and booker Jennifer Tefft of the Satellite spun girl-group pop and old r&b jams).

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Trouble on the Strip? Key Club closes, hopes to reopen soon

President Keith Pressman says the venue, which plans to add a new partner, could reopen by February even as the live-music market in Hollywood and the Strip continues to struggle.

WALE_LAT_KEY_CLUB_6

Quietly on Sunday night, West Hollywood's Key Club locked its doors. The venue previously had cleared its December calendar, having told bookers and artists to take their shows elsewhere.

After the shuttering of Hollywood's Knitting Factory in October, the closure of the Key Club would seem to raise questions about the strength of the live-music market in Hollywood and on the Sunset Strip, but Key Club President Keith Pressman stresses that the move is for the short-term.

"As far as everyone is concerned we're dead and buried, but this is just a temporary thing," he said.

He said the club has closed to make way for a new partner and renovations. It could be operating at full capacity again as early as February.

Yet even if the Key Club, which opened in 1996 as Billboard Live, is able to bounce back, other venues continue to struggle -- most owners and promoters say the downturn is largely because of the economic climate, but increased competition on the nightlife scene is also a factor.

Nic Adler, who runs the Roxy, said business in 2009 has been "worse than you can imagine." Mario Maglieri, longtime owner of the Whisky a Go-Go and the hard rock restaurant the Rainbow Room, said the Whisky "is not making any money, but we're surviving." He added that business at the Rainbow is down 50% this year. 

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Damian Lazarus' freaky house fantasia

Damian Lazarus - "Neverending" from David Terranova on Vimeo.

If you're like most of the kids we run with here at P&H, right now you're probably asking yourself, "Self, where can I go on Saturday night where I can listen to a deranged smattering of live experimental techno in a jerry-rigged nightclub built up like an indoor jungle, whilst fighting back recurring nightmares of sexy evil nurses in animal masks?"

Lucky you stopped by then, because we'd like to introduce you to producer Damian Lazarus. The U.K. native and recent Echo Park transplant is hosting what looks to be one of the most intriguing parties in L.A. techno of 2009, with great minimal acts like Matthew Dear and M.A.N.D.Y. performing and a one-off live set of his own work rounding out this Saturday night at Avalon.

As the video above for single "Neverending," makes clear, the tracks on his new album "Smoke the Monster Out" have a sinister sense of humor that creeps along the edges of his productions and visual aesthetic.

"I wanted to do something like a Ministry of Sound video with greased up girls and a bizarre dance routine," Lazarus said. "It's kind of an ironic take on a pop song."

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Swedish DJs take SoCal: John Dahlbäck makes L.A. debut Saturday, other Swedes follow on the 21st

Sweden might be best known in America as the place where stylish and deceptively easy-to-assemble furniture is manufactured. But a handful of DJs from the Scandinavian country are attempting to change the perception -- among music fans, anyway -- about what their country has been producing better than anyone else. (Hint: It's house music.)

Last year, Swedish DJ and producer Axwell turned in one of the most energetic live sets I've seen in years at the Avalon as his countrymen (and women) swarmed the dance floor, where oversized Swedish flags waved  among the house-heads.

This month, the same club on Vine Street hosts no fewer than three spinners from Sweden, including the Swedish House Mafia's Steve Angello & Sebastian Ingrosso. And before the House Mafia hits Hollywood on the 21st, up-and-comer John Dahlbäck twists and tweaks beats at the Avalon this Saturday night in his Los Angeles debut.

Though Sweden's long had a history in the pop world of producing big hits with commanding synth-based hooks, over the last five years or so, a new generation of house-music DJs has left its mark all over Europe and South America (mainstream American music fans, naturally, are the last to get hip to the trend). Eric Prydz, a former member of the Swedish House Mafia, scored a massive club smash (and crossover pop hit, with the tune going to the top of the charts in countries such as England and Germany) in 2004 with "Call on Me." The track still receives play in clubs from Miami to Munich nightly and is based on, of all things, a sample of Steve Winwood's 1982 hit "Valerie." Call it perhaps the most unlikely house hit of the decade -- but it never fails to get bodies on the dance floor every time it's played. 

As we ease into a new decade, it looks as if ascendant DJ and house music producer John Dahlbäck might be the next breakout star out of Stockholm. Tracks such as "Blink" (seen in the video above) and, in particular, "Hustle Up" exemplify the producer's knack for locking down tight grooves and adding just enough unexpected twists to keep fans of intelligent electro-house on their toes. See how Swedish House Mafia members support one another in this clip, which features Ingrosso and Axwell dropping "Hustle Up" during a 2007 appearance.

We fired off a few questions to Dahlbäck by e-mail earlier this week in anticipation of his opening set for Sander Kleinenberg on Saturday at the Avalon. His answers after the jump.

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Live review: Little Boots at Spaceland

Boots250 Has there ever been more of a chip-shot obvious pick for a future pop star than Little Boots? When a pixieish British girl with an affection for Japanese light-up gadgets vamps over techno-pop as dark and fizzy as a Cherry Coke float, somewhere in heaven an A&R scout gets their wings.

But her Spaceland show last night revealed something a bit more serious at play: a seriously cracking live band dynamic that had "impenetrably packed Coachella tent in 2010" written all over it (probably in glitter pen).

All it takes is traction from one single to get her there and Boots can pick from a half-dozen of them. The first contender, the Italo-house banger "Stuck On Repeat," sashays like Kylie but feels a little colder and meaner, like she's not too happy that some suitor finally won her attention.

Imagine Glass Candy with a budget, or Goblin scoring a John Hughes movie. "Meddle," the other single off her digital-only "Arecibo" EP, kicks even harder before dissolving into a blippy chant and Dario Argento-flick synths, and "Mathematics" will evoke fond memories for anyone who's spilled a drink on themselves to Annie's "Two of Hearts."

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Echo Park and Silver Lake male showgoers: Be wary of muggings

Spaceland For all you single males planning on flying solo to shows in Silver Lake or Echo Park in the near future, you may want to consider taking a burly friend along with you. According to Councilman Eric Garcetti's blog, there's been a recent spate of 10 robberies targeting lone men around the intersections of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street in Echo Park and  Hyperion and Rowena Avenues in Silver Lake, each of which is close to several popular neighborhood music venues, including The Echo and Spaceland.

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Introducing: The Week That Will Be (In Shows) [UPDATED]

Everyone, say hello to our newest weekly feature: A Monday roundup of only the finest in local show-going worth your pittance of discretionary Amero scrip. We're calling it "The Week That Will Be (In Shows)," and it is magnificent and servicey. Behold:

Nightmares on Wax: The U.K.-born, Spain-based producer Nightmares on Wax was one of the progenitors of underground rap's recent trend toward skittish production styles run through a fractal of free jazz, soul, dub and electronica. His hypnotic, uplifting live sets will rumble your gut and spin your head in circles. Echoplex, 1152 Glendale Blvd.,  Echo Park.  8 tonight, $20. (213) 413-8200.

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Knitting Factory is just giving it away to anyone these days

The Locust at the Knitting Factory

Hey there, you perpetually broke L.A. ska, hardcore and backpack rap kids! If you get thee to the Knitting Factory in Hollywood on Monday at 6 p.m., you can get an early taste of what the Obama administration has for the rest of America: free stuff just for showing up! The plucky club is offering gratis pairs of tickets to a whole slurry of its forthcoming shows, and more than a few are worth a Red Line trip: the Adolescents, P.O.S., Tim Barry of Avail and a Mike Park/Kevin Seconds/Jesse Michaels triple bill among them (where you can plead with Michaels to think about an Operation Ivy reunion).

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