Lt to Rt: Mikayel Israyelyan, Kobi Danan and Rob Vinokur, co-owners of soon… (Ricardo DeAratanha / LA…)
For all the emphasis on dance music at the forthcoming Hollywood club Sound, a better name for it might be “Lights. Lots and Lots of Lights.”
Even in the daytime the room, at the former Element space on Las Palmas Avenue, feels like a psychedelic robot sex warren. There’s a wall of tiered LED stacks and hallways demarcated with mesh blocks that, by night, will be covered in 3D-mapped imagery conceived by the renowned L.A. design firm V Squared. Burlesque dancers have platforms set up between the walls, so their gyrations are framed in silhouette between panels of trippy projections.
“We want people to come and say, ‘I had the time of my life, and oh, by the way, Richie Hawtin was DJing that night,” says Rob Vinokur, the co-founder of Sound’s parent, Muse Lifestyle Group, with Sound partners Kobi Danan and Mikayel Israyelyan.
Sound is the latest in what’s becoming a growing field in L.A. — midsize rooms with an emphasis on bringing the EDM wave in the U.S. back to its natural habitat of pupil-dilating industrial spaces.
Its planned New Year’s Eve launch will place it in a now-crowded field of peers such as Lure, AV, Greystone Manor, Exchange LA and Playhouse (the previous venture from Sound’s owners), all gunning for the growing but fickle audience of savvy young dance fans who can last until 4 a.m., and the high-rollers who keep them hydrated.
One could argue that we’ve hit peak DJ-in-L.A. night life, and that any dance fans nostalgic for Vegas EDM club culture should just hit the 15 freeway. Sound’s founders would agree. Here, the point isn’t to slavishly watch bored DJs pull six figures while enjoying the in-booth Jager shots more than their mixing. It’s following a path that the major dance-fest organizers at Electric Daisy and HARD seem to be taking: realizing that fans come for the total sensory immersion, not necessarily to see a rock star DJ phoning it in.
The group has a pedigree for this. Playhouse has already outlasted about four typical Hollywood clubland half-lives, and has done well with the $100-ticket-to-see-Afrojack model (even if fans of flintier dance acts tend to steer clear of it). Danan of Vigil Entertainment had previous posts overseeing Avalon and the Music Box, which each specialized in dance artists who have a fan base and edge, but not an arena crowd (or an arena-sized tour rider).
In their conversations about starting a new venue, the three Sound founders agreed that the model Playhouse pioneered was beginning to feel a little hedge-fundy: making huge bets on over-valued DJ assets that were bound to burst eventually.
“We had been through all the hoops with overpaid DJs who play every other week in Vegas,” Vinokur says. “At this point, I can put any local DJ onstage behind a blanket and tell you it’s Kaskade.”
Sound doubles-down on the other side of the equation. Yes, there is the requisite Funktion-One PA system and a DJ booth complex larger than some studio apartments. But the juice is clearly in the interior design — metal and wood salvaged from crates at Howard Hughes’ production company and one of Frank Sinatra’s old homes; the full V Squared 3D-mapping treatment (with visual schematics that will evolve to reflect the artist, season, or whatever strikes their fancy); a cast of comely bartenders that, as at Playhouse, is encouraged to ply other kinds of sensory appeal on the bartops.
It’s a strategy now championed by none other than the guy most responsible for the EDM bubble in America. “Pasquale Rotella [of Insomniac] was in here just the other day and said, ‘This is my favorite new place — you’re thinking the same way I am.’” Vinokur says. Rotella has been vocal about shifting his Electric Daisy Carnival away from a packed superstar lineup to a more production-intense emphasis.
Sound wants to do the same for clubland — a home for modern dance music, but with a design edifice to last amid the genre’s ephemeral styles and tastes. They suspect that, somewhere between the cool-kid Dionysian weekends of Voodoo and the furry-boot-and-bottle crowd of Vegas, there’s room for a place where you can drop a week’s paycheck or a five-hour set of deep house obscurities.
“From the beginning, the attitude was that we had to go smaller. We want to book the things Greystone Manor is afraid to, because their crowd wants to fist-pump,” Vinokur says. “This room will look awesome with 500 people. Even with 250 cool kids, it’ll feel like Sundays at Ibiza in here.”
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