From the Front Lines: I AM A LASER

Last night I made my way downtown to the ridiculously over-the-top Staples Center to reach the Club Nokia Mezzanine Bar for I AM A LASER, a new monthly that seeks to unite a wide variety of urban gypsies in the quest for cultural expression on the edge: future sound, live art, and good times.

This area of Los Angeles is flat out stupid. There are so many lights you can probably see it from outer space, flashing TV screens eighty-five fucking feet high blare out mediated mania into the night and wild-eyed revelers run around everywhere yelling and laughing. It is LA’s answer to Times Square, but without all those claustrophobia-inducing high-rises trying to corral the energy; after all, this city has enough moxie to set the freaking desert on fire and burn it down. Last night was the Downtown LA Art Walk so the streets were thick with crawlers and the parking was $25. Are you fucking kidding me?

Luckily a few blocks away the parking was only $5; I am pretty sure I can walk two blocks for $20. Entering off the street into the metal-detector, the front door cats were searching hardcore although it is funny what you can get away with if you just straight up tell them: Oh well I have ____ in my bag. “Okay, go in.”

Riding the elevator up, I asked the button-pusher what it was like inside the venue. “I don’t know,” he said. “I have never been out of the elevator.” Ever?

Well, I will tell you what Club Nokia Mezzanine Bar is like: it’s swanky as all hell. Curving walls slide down into cushy round seating areas stacked with velvet cushions, and there is plenty of room to wander around or fall down. Reds, blues, pinks, purples and silvers skate around the venue, a bar shilling $6 MGDs (not bad) lines one side and deep into the space rests the DJ stand with tight little dance floor, albeit with a few columns in the way (hey something’s gotta raise the roof besides our hands). It was one of the nicest clubs I have ever been in, and everyone was kind of looking around like, “shit this is fancy,” and brushing our shoulders off like we were Jay-Z or something.

Right after leaving the elevator is a good-sized outdoor smoking section with a fat view of the surrounding downtown area; however this being Swankland there are security people and video cameras watching your every puff, and you can’t actually get to the side of the balcony as they have it roped off, in case anybody gets too drunk and rowdy and tries to fall off.

Super cushy VIP booths line either side of the bar in the lengthwise venue, and in the first sunken area as you enter were the live artists from Think Space Gallery, who were both creating some really eye-pulling art. On the right a guy was airbrushing a face onto a piece of natural wood, and on the left my new friend John was doing somewhat of a figure drawing reminiscent of Basquiat with scrawled text and plenty of textured details. Like the edge of the balcony, the artist area was roped off lest the crowd decide to mutiny and go apeshit with the oil paints. It must happen a lot.

Playing on the many flat screen TVs around the venue was one of the trippiest movies I have ever seen, Holy Mountain, and the crowd consensus was “Man I am glad I am not on mushrooms right now with that crazy shit on.” Neat visuals and indeed lasers swept the room, and a giant black and white “I AM A LASER” graphic welcomed you at the door. This ain’t no fucking dive bar.

To the music: on arrival I wondered for a second if I was in the right club; I was expecting some beat music and instead was hearing “Milkshake” and “Push It.” The dance floor was grinding, however more than a few of us recoiled to the smoking area until R/D went on. “What the fuck is this?” people were asking me. Just wait, I said. It is about to get good.

Sure enough R/D came on and gave Club Nokia Mezzanine Bar a taste of sticky sounds the likes of which much of the crowd had never heard before. Although many of us were there for the music and knew what we were in for, there was a contingent who had wandered in after the Downtown LA Art Walk, just in for some booze and some beats. Boy did they get it. I LOVE SEEING THE FACES of people who are experiencing my kind of music for the first time ever. Intially they are a little confused, as the music doesn’t fit into any preexisting category in their heads. Then the “huh?” look in their eyes changes to a spark of excitement, and they start twitching a bit as the new sounds flood into their limbs. Finally they give in and just start freaking out on the dance floor beside me. Oh I love it. R/D makes and plays amazing music and I hope to see him out more often in LA.

Souleye was in the house last night, jumping around the room rapping, weaving in and out of the dance floor, giving random people high-fives, popping behind the DJ booth and in general adding quite a bit of positive energy to the night. I was stoked to see so many people having a great time together on the dance floor, and an MC who can uplift you with his rhymes AND his lyrics is always welcome in my head. Sometimes we need to be reminded that indeed we are all living a dream.

My friend Take aka Sweatson Klank was on next; if you don’t know who that is then go to his Myspace page and listen to his “Sleeping Bear” remix for Architeq, it is one of my favorite tracks this year. He is a regular performer and part of the gang at Low End Theory, and neither of us were too sure how his brain-bending no-limits beats would go over as we smoked outside together listening to “Push It.” The crowd definitely seemed a bit more electrohouse than experimental.

But maybe that was the whole point: lure in the crowd with a milkshake (it does bring all the boys to the yard) and then when they are dancing and drinking and having a good time, slowly evolve their musical brains by gradually progressing to richer and more experimental beats. I am not saying there is no value in “Milkshake,” God knows I’ve shaken my milkshake to that song before, but there is just such a vast ocean of electronic music, and the normal populace is exposed to maybe 1% of it. Let’s change that.

One of the goals of I AM A LASER is to unite people from different scenes with the love of live art and new beats, and to try to create a community atmosphere, to bring a little of the festie-feel into the big city. And it worked. There was a very diverse range of people there last night: beat purists, burners, club kids, art walkers, local producers and dancing freaks. It was refreshing to see the music I love landing on new ears and infecting new minds. I will be back.

To check out what went down last night, click here for a free media pack of the artists R/D, Souleye and Take. Enjoy! And for photos check back bere, I will add the link to Curious Josh’s pics when he posts them!

Next I AM A LASER: December 10. Stay tuned!

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