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Large and in Charge

Giant brings electronic music into L.A.'s mainstream club scene.

May 18, 2000|LINA LECARO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

L.A. hasn't exactly been a trailblazer when it comes to electronic music clubs. Even New Yorkers were enjoying world-class wax wizards in hot spots like Twilo in the early '90s, while Angelenos were still searching out abandoned warehouses and hoping the rave didn't get busted before they got their $20 worth.

No such worries at Giant, L.A.'s weekly electronic danceteria.

Finally, L.A. promoters and clubgoers discovered the power of DJ-constructed rhythms and ushered them in to the sanctuary of established venues, in this case, Circus Disco. Since January, the huge, three-room club behind Arena on Santa Monica Boulevard has become a Saturday night boogie wonderland.

Respected turntablists--trance guru Christopher Lawrence, mix-meister Carl Cox, beat boy Dave Ralph and current radio faves Groove Armada, to name a few--jet in from around the globe. They perform for a colorful cross-section of L.A.'s club-goers. Buff guys with jeans slung low enough to reveal their Calvins try to make time with buxom sexpots in spandex snakeskin get-ups while B-boys in baggy-pants mingle and jingle alongside art tarts in feather boas and sequined cowboy hats. They all seem quite happy together on the dance floor.

Outside, the spacious patio has a backyard barbecue feel with a food table, plenty of chairs, strands of red lights and a big, inflated jester that seems to gyrate to the sounds spilling out. An animated assortment of trendy twentysomethings smoke, talk on cell phones or clump together to make (business, love and cosmic) connections.

"Everybody has their own favorite spot in the club," says Giant's creator Dave Dean, a night-life veteran responsible for opening London's Limelight in a West End Welsh chapel (the sister club to New York's converted church venue of the same name) and Sound Factory in San Francisco. Indeed, on a recent night headlined by trance king Kimball Collins, the club managed to maintain wildly varied energy levels. Outside, it was all about socializing. In the front room, the focus seemed to be drinking and moving rhythmically to the layered house grooves spun by residents Andrew Macari and David Alvarado. Upstairs in the black-lit Listening Lounge, guests kicked back, checked out and soaked in the glowing scenery. But in the vibrating main room, there was only dancing.

When Collins took to the turntables at 1 a.m., the big room became its most frenzied. A sea of bodies swayed as if hypnotized by his deft spinning techniques, and many dancers wildly swung multi-colored glow sticks to the music. The scene mirrored the excitement of early raves, the music intense and intoxicating. Notably, the beverage of choice at Giant isn't alcoholic; it's the energy drink Red Bull, which has its own little bar and a long line.

Speaking of lines, the length of the one outside can be quite disconcerting--often stretching blocks. But as Dean explains, everyone comes to see different DJ sets, allowing for "waves of people to get in" throughout the night. The capacity of the place is about 1,800 and Giant, which stays open till 4 a.m., easily gets a couple thousand coming and going through its doors every Saturday.

"There wasn't a market in L.A. for this kind of club five or even three years ago," says Dean, who has a booking agreement with San Francisco promoters Spundae Productions. Touring DJs who come to California are booked for both clubs. "But the time was right. We want to showcase big-name and local DJ talent in a proper club atmosphere."

Raising the standard for "proper clubbing" the electro-emporium just installed a suitably colossal new sound system. That should ensure that it continues to nab stellar DJ lineups. Pioneers like Sasha & John Digweed and Paul Oakenfold are slated to come out in the fall. And Giant goes to Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel every Sunday starting May 28, and all the way to Ibiza, Spain, in June.

As one club regular so succinctly put it as he waited to get in, "This Giant just keeps growing and growing."

BE THERE

Giant, Saturday nights at Circus Disco, 6655 Santa Monica Blvd., 9 p.m.-4 a.m. $15-$20. (323) 464-7373.

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