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Dance music grooves to the fore

A scene that started in illegal warehouse parties in the '90s is taking over airwaves, stadiums and public parks this summer.

May 30, 2010|By Randall Roberts | Los Angeles Times

On a recent afternoon, Gary Richards was standing in his Hollywood office in front of a detailed map of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, the 36-acre plot just east of Chinatown. Richards, who has promoted dozens of gatherings under the moniker Hard Events, is planning his first parties on public land, and, as he's learned by now, a new venue requires extra attention.

Summer dance music events: An article last Sunday about the summer's dance music events said that the Electric Daisy Carnival on June 25-26 and Love Festival on Aug. 21 would take place at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Electric Daisy Carnival will take place at Exposition Park as well as the Coliseum. The Love Festival will take place at Exposition Park and the Los Angeles Sports Arena. —

Where will the thousands enter? How much electricity will be needed? Through which hidden corners will the gate-crashers try to sneak?

He pointed to a rendering of the main stage grounds, where, on the first of two summer dates he has slated for the site, on July 17, superstar singer/rapper M.I.A. will perform as part of an event called Hard LA. "This holds about 20,000 people," he said, "and right here is the second stage, which holds about 7,000 people."

Since he started promoting dance music events after 15 years spent in the record business, Richards, 39, has booked shows at, among others, the Hollywood Palladium, the Orion Theatre and the Shrine. But as the masses flock to the dance floor in increasing numbers, he and other promoters are looking for bigger venues to contain the crowds, and are expanding beyond Southern California. Hard Events has done events in L.A., New York, Miami and San Francisco.

Last year, over two days, Insomniac Events' party Electric Daisy Carnival, now in its 14th year, drew a reported 135,000 people to the Los Angeles Coliseum for a rave that featured carnival rides, a sculpture park and dozens of the world's most popular DJs. This summer's installment, which takes place on June 25 and June 26 at the Coliseum, promises to be just as big, and will feature, among others, Moby, MSTRKRFT, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5 and Z-Trip. Another annual rave, the Love Festival, will take over the Coliseum on Aug. 21.

While Coachella, Bonnaroo and other massive rock and pop festivals have higher public profiles, the electronic dance music scene has been exploding. Fueled by a roster of parties and an inclusive philosophy that absorbs the sounds of rock, hip hop and pop music and transforms them via remixes into beat-heavy dance floor fodder, electronic dance music is virtually inescapable this summer.

The DJs who play the events follow a business model ideally designed for today's marketplace – little reliance on sales from recorded music, but huge payouts for live performances. The biggest names, like Tiesto, David Guetta and Deadmau5, can make as much money as pop stars, without nearly the public profile.

"I think it's always a little shocking to people when they realize how big the scene is, how big it's been and how long it's been around," said Jason Bentley, music director of KCRW-FM, host of the station's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" and longtime dance music DJ. "But it's the nature of that scene."

Unlike in the early days of rave culture, when secret parties occurred at untested – and often illegal -- locations, the music, which enjoyed a brief run at the pop charts in the late 1990s when Moby, the Chemical Bros. and the Prodigy had hits, has over the past two decades moved from dingy spaces and secret desert locations and into concert venues and stadiums. Recalled Richards of the first wave, in the early 1990s: "If I wanted to hear cool electronic music, I had to go to a warehouse at 3 a.m. in downtown LA, and risk my car getting broken into, and it was a crazy adventure."

Such successes have forced the event promoters to transform what was once a renegade business into a legitimate model, said Pasquale Rotella, founder of Insomniac, which has promoted the Electric Daisy Carnival since the first one, at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown L.A. in 1997.

"We're in a totally different business than we were then," Rotella, 35, said. "Those early years were fun, but these days we do the same things that AEG or Live Nation would do in regards to organizing events and dealing with the proper authorities."

In the last couple years, said Richards, the scene has evolved even further; guestlists at the major events are now teeming with pop star attendees. "Now is hanging out watching what we're doing. They're all coming. We've had Lil Jon, Perry Farrell, Noriega, Santigold. Tommy Lee was there. Everybody's into it."

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