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The many faces of Eve revels

Dance music shows off its power at big-crowd celebrations and at clubs as 2007 arrives.

January 02, 2007|Kevin Bronson | Times Staff Writer

Tony Denison had it right. The actor, who plays Det. Andy Flynn on "The Closer," greeted photographers on the red carpet at the Gridlock LA New Year's Eve celebration on Sunday night with arms outstretched and palms skyward, as if he were giving a blessing. "This is the international sign for 'I hope it doesn't rain,' " he said.

It didn't, unless you count the showers of confetti that fell on Southland revelers who rang in 2007 at celebrations that affirmed the drawing power of dance music, if not the perseverance of event promoters.

Gridlock LA, called off last year after the rain-related collapse of one of its stages, debuted on the Paramount Pictures Studio Lot with a crowd of about 5,000 that included a smattering of celebrities, some logistical hitches and a powerful, 45-minute set by the Killers. And one year after the controversial cancellation of its downtown Los Angeles street festival, dance music heavyweight promoter Giant rebounded with Giant Maximus, a three-tent orgy of electronica pitched in a downtown parking lot. Giant director Dave Dean put the crowd at 10,000.

As at those events, the in-with-the-new spirit prevailed everywhere. The OCNYE event attracted more than 15,000 for its nostalgia-drenched "Orange Drop" celebration at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Meanwhile, costumed crazies welcomed the Flaming Lips -- part of the ill-fated bill last year at Giant -- to a concert with Gnarls Barkley at the USC Galen Center.

And the Together as One festival flexed its muscles as a dance music franchise, drawing an estimated 20,000 to its ninth annual installment at the L.A. Sports Arena as dancers shimmied into the wee hours. Headliner Paul Van Dyk didn't start his set until 2:30 a.m., but the crowd showed no signs of flagging. Many patrons came from great distances to party.

Gabe Nosseir, 30, of Albuquerque, said he came to the event with 16 friends from his snowbound city and almost didn't make the show because of flight delays. He was prepared to drive. "Anytime you have this many great DJs, you have to go," he said.

Dance music fans echoed that sentiment from the tents of Giant to the techno-laden clubs of Hollywood, including the Vanguard and Avalon. DJs Mark Farina and Marques Wyatt rocked a predominantly young crowd at the Vanguard with house music, and Donald Glaude, Richard Vission and Eddie Halliwell dispensed the beats for hard-core fans at Avalon, where stunning visuals and graphics turned up the heat.

At Giant Maximus, co-headliners Sasha & John Digweed rang in the new year with a seamy remix of Justice vs. Simian's "We Are Your Friends," and that could have been the theme for the evening. Even after last year's disappointment, Giant inspired return business from patrons and performers alike.

"There's definitely a loyalty involved," DJ Ferry Corsten said. "I had six incredible residency months [at Giant nightclubs], and this event here is arguably the biggest dance thing on New Year's Eve. So it's a bold thing to do, and the way it's set up, it's really cool."

Pat Blackburn, 38, of Sacramento, and his fiancee, Cheryl Kuzma, were among those enjoying Giant's carnival atmosphere and sets by Armin Van Buuren and Sander Kleinenberg. "I went my first year to Giant in 2000, and [after] my fiancee and I moved to Sacramento we decided this is the one thing every year we have to come down for," Blackburn said.

Psychedelic popsters the Flaming Lips stimulated the same kind of passion. Fans dressed up creatively -- as Santas, clowns, furry beasts and even as sushi -- for a show that featured the headliner disembarking from a giant UFO to perform. Nico Nieto, a 23-year-old Arizona State University student dressed as a banana, traveled from Phoenix for the show. "It's the Flaming Lips and Gnarls Barkley; that should pretty much say it all," he said.

Same went for fans of the Killers, who were shoulder-to-shoulder (and then some) on the streets of Paramount's lot. "If it wasn't the Killers, we'd be at home on the couch," said Colin Smyth, 33, of L.A., who attended with girlfriend Ada Nei. "She just loves the Killers."

Less colorful, but no less a draw, was OCNYE. If you didn't know it was New Year's Eve, the scene otherwise looked like a typical July night at the Orange County Fair, only without the carnival rides and midway games. Families roamed between the venue's six stages and vendors sold souvenir photos, festive headgear and food.

The lineup of veteran live bands inspired more memories than energy. Russell and Janice Kester of Huntington Beach, en route to catch the Violent Femmes' set, remembered seeing OCNYE headliner Blondie years ago at the Forum, opening for the Police. "Debbie Harry came out in a full-on leather teddy," said Russell, 45.

No teddies at OCNYE, though. Harry, with an orange wig, black purse, sunglasses and leopard-print coat, led her band through a hit-laden set that included a homage to the late James Brown, when Harry slipped a few lines from "Sex Machine" into "Rapture."

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