27 Aralık 2007 Perşembe

Downtown L.A. is the heart of the city and the party

LOOKING forward to a cozy, serene New Year's Eve, with a bottle of bubbly and maybe quality time with someone special?

Downtown Los Angeles is definitely not the place for you.

The heart of L.A. on Monday night figures to be ground zero for the West Coast's continuing dance music explosion. Three festivals within a 5-mile radius will attract more than 50,000 revelers. Four of the world's top 10 DJs will perform. And companies that erect mammoth tents will turn a tidy profit.

These communal celebrations -- the 10th annual Together as One at the Sports Arena, Giant Maximus in downtown's financial district and the inaugural Hard NYE in the arts district -- reflect not only the strength of electronica as a franchise but the new energy that has been injected into the scene by the wave of rock-leaning "indie dance" artists like French duo Justice, DJing at Hard NYE. (The event planned for the Paramount Studios lot -- where the Killers headlined Gridlock LA in '07 -- was scotched last week for logistical reasons.)

"Dance music is a global force," says Reza Gerami of Go Ventures, a DJ and co-promoter of Together as One. "Because there's no language, it can reach every market, every genre, every demographic, every ethnicity."

It's also very big business. On a night when posh clubs and restaurants are rolling out their finery, rock venues are putting their best feet forward, special-event promoters are hosting dress-up galas and suburban party planners are throwing family-friendly bashes, dance festivals are luring the most adventurous partygoers.

Because New Year's Eve is one dance number you don't get to remix, here's a look at the major festivals -- as well as a few family-friendlier options:


The L.A. Sports Arena, tourist destination? On New Year's Eve it is. "People come from Spain, Mexico City, Rome, the U.K. -- all over the world," Gerami says. "The last thing we want to do is to turn people away."

So Together as One -- a sellout attraction for 20,000 last year -- is expanding its capacity to 35,000 for Monday night by opening up more of the arena's perimeter and using tented areas outside the structure. About three-quarters of the all-ages event will be indoors, including TAO's traditional laser-light show and fireworks display.

Most of the sizzle, though, is provided by the DJ lineup, including three of the top 10 in the world (as selected by DJ Magazine): Sasha, John Digweed and Ferry Corsten. Sasha and Digweed will be on the main stage together to ring in the new year, with Corsten's set to follow. The lineup of supporting acts could be headliners in their own right: among them are Lee Coombs, Deadmau5, and Junior Sanchez.


Gary Richards, who is co-promoting this event with Hollywood night life veteran Stephen Hauptfuhr, remembers when only a crazy person -- or somebody who really wanted to be underground -- would mount a festival downtown. "Fifteen years ago, it was dangerous," says Richards, a veteran of the warehouse parties that cropped up in the industrial areas of L.A. in the early '90s. "Now downtown is happening."

Indeed, the warehouse district has been re-christened the arts district, and Hard NYE -- with a capacity for 7,000 attendees 21 and older -- brings a lineup heavy on edgy indie dance acts and live rock to an indoor/outdoor festival laid out in a one-block square just west of the 6th Street bridge, near the Toy Factory Lofts.

Peaches will usher in 2008 on the main stage, but Justice (sure to bring the "D.A.N.C.E.") and 2 Live Crew will be big attractions, along with DJs Jason Bentley, A-Trak, Steve Aoki, Busy P (Pedro Winter, the Daft Punk manager and the man behind Ed Banger Records) and myriad rock bands. The eclectic lineup reflects the mashed-up party techno that has attracted so many rock fans, and figures to continue the momentum started by this fall's Neighborhood Festival at Exposition Park, which was backed by, among others, Aoki's record label, Dim Mak.

"Kids are gonna mix it all together," Richards says. "All of a sudden over the past couple years, there has been this explosion of what I call indietronic. Kids are embracing it."


Dance music stalwart Giant, reconvening its circus-like Giant Maximus for a second year, also is acknowledging the new strain of dance music, bringing in (along with sponsor KROQ-FM) the likes of MSTRKRFT, LA Riots and Franki Chan (Aoki's ex-partner in the club promotion Cinespace Tuesdays)."I call it danceable rock," Giant's Dave Dean says. "It just fits nicely. We had MSTRKRFT at Giant [the weekly club night at Vanguard] with John Digweed and we liked what he did there."

Those side-stage acts might be dwarfed by the main attraction, Tiësto, who graced the Southland with two thundering sets in 2007-- at Coachella and in August at the Sports Arena. "He works hard, and he's very active in the creative process of his gigs," Dean says.

Last year's sellout under the three massive tents seems to have erased any sour taste from the rain-induced cancellation of a Giant street festival two year ago. This year, Dean again expects to reach the capacity of 10,500.

Robbie Rivera precedes Tiësto on the main stage, and Roger Sanchez spins a four-hour set on another. Of course, there will be the requisite midway attractions, including carnival rides and circus performers, stationed in the center of the 7-acre parking lot near 8th and Figueroa streets.


This Orange County event announced itself with a bang two years ago with a celebration capped by an "Orange Drop" -- a giant, pyrotechnic-juiced ball that dropped at midnight. After two years at the Orange County Fairgrounds, OCNYE looked for greener pastures.

After plans for holding the event at the Oaks Blenheim Event Center ran into opposition from the city of San Juan Capistrano ("I was really excited about doing it there -- it would have been a mini-Coachella setting," promoter Rich Goodwin says), organizers moved it to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, where up to 16,000 will get their Orange Drop and music from a nostalgia-heavy lineup that includes Third Eye Blind, the Psychedelic Furs, Berlin and the English Beat (along with notable up-and-comers the Shys and Dusty Rhodes and the River Band).

"We nailed the lineup this year, and it's cohesive with what's going on on our side stages," Goodwin says. "It will be better visually for the festival-goer." Perhaps only the promoter will feel the difference: at Verizon, the venue owns the concession rights.

Another event, the Mardi Gras-themed Carnivale 2008, has slipped in behind OCNYE at the fairgrounds. Carnivale's fare was seeming heavy on the costumes, light on the entertainment, but last week promoters announced the main stage headliners: the Donnas, Louis XIV and Smile Empty Soul.


Downtown Fullerton will be alive with music, fireworks and children's activities at the 17th annual First Night Fullerton. James Intveld heads up the lineup at the alcohol-free event. UniversalCityWalk expects a full plaza for its bash, with the countdown on the big screen and music provided by Fast Times. And Christian musicians Aaron Shust and Hawk Nelson (among others) will be at Knott's Berry Farm for Praise 2008.