Lost in the Night: Pre-New Year's Eve Calisthenics at Sweater-Funk-Mosphere and Direct Current

Kahley Avalon Emerson

Sweater-Funk-Mosphere & Direct Current
Elbo Room and SUB/Mission
Saturday, Dec. 30 2012

Better than: Staying in one place all night. Or staying at home for that matter.

The Mission was alive by the time we made it to the corner of 18th and Valencia. Though usually crowded on a Saturday night, New Year's Eve's proximity seemed to add an extra charge to the bustle of people crowding the sidewalks. Our destination was Elbo Room, a venue temporarily taken over by the twin force of Sweaterfunk and Funkmosphere. The first name ought to be familiar to any person who's ever felt the urge to go out on a Sunday evening: It's the long-running '80s funk party that was once synonymous with Chinatown's LiPo Lounge. The second name might not be as recognizable, and that makes sense considering it's actually a Monday night affair in Los Angeles that counts Dâm Funk as one of its residents. I can't say much about Funkmosphere because I've never been, but judging by the number of people, Sweaterfunk has certainly come a long way from where it began.

Kahley Avalon Emerson

"Excuse me folks, can you stands as close to the wall as possible?" said a bouncer between drags on a neon-yellow electronic cigarette. We were stuck in line, waiting to get inside of a club that was so busy it was using two separate entrances for each of its levels. The scene on the street was a mix-up of Mission hipsters, somewhat hardcore-looking funk fans, and a handful of yuppies looking for a thrill. Far off up the stairs I could hear the syncopated beat of an '80s drum machine working its way beneath smooth R&B vocals. We handed our IDs to the doorman and soon were hearing the same music up close and on the dance floor.

Kahley Avalon Emerson

On deck was a rotating cast of DJs, some in custom-made suits and some in hoodies, who all shared a taste for obscure vinyl records. Holding a repurposed telephone up to their ears, they cued up tracks and let them loose on the waiting dance floor, which had become a near-impenetrable mass. The Chinese lanterns above almost swayed in time with the music as the smooth ride of The Rah Band's "Messages From the Stars" momentarily filled the room. Some graceful dancers popped their bodies like assembly line robots beneath the gaze of the club's huge dragon statues. The music cut out for a second and the bouncing bassline of Jimmy Ross' "First True Love Affair" caused a screech of recognition from somewhere near the bar.

Kahley Avalon Emerson

It felt a lot like the Sweaterfunk event I profiled almost a year ago, minus the unique Chinatown location. It's really too bad that the Li Po Lounge's basement is closed these days, because it was one of the most unique venues this city had. The Elbo Room does hearken back to that spirit with its kitschy orientalist decor, but it's not quite the same. Hopefully the Li Po returns as a venue someday, but I'm not holding my breath. 

We decided to skip over to Sub/Mission to catch the last hour of Direct Current, a techno party put on by local promoter Body/Current and the Oakland-based Direct to Earth.

Kahley Avalon Emerson

Whereas the steam in the air at Elbo Room was real, at Sub/Mission the haze was entirely artificial. Plumes of atomized glycol spilled out the door as we made our way inside. Every light source in the room was reflected off these artificial clouds, creating weird textures that clung to the thick air. Through it all you could catch small vignettes of people: a man in a black trench coat reclining against a banister, three girls in almost-matching black-and-white vertical-striped blouses, and even a dancer in a Haceteria tank top. Much like the way LiPo used to impart a specific feeling to Sweaterfunk, Sub/Mission is an almost perfect venue for Body/Current. Mostly known for its punk shows, it has an edge that matches the sometimes campy heaviness the event seems to strive for.

Kahley Avalon Emerson

Behind me was a hanging full-sized '80s A-team van, to my left was a string of jackets strung along the wall like an art installation, and in front of me was a DJ wearing a t-shirt that read "Zorg Techno." This was Brian Knarfield, one of the people behind Direct to Earth. His set was straight ahead and driving, with a style of mixing that was more about subtly replacing rhythmic patterns than making any noticeable or dramatic changes. The music itself was big and boomy, with hissing white noise occasionally rising up from the rhythm to blast out of the club's modest soundsystem. Off the top of my head, I can't name any of the songs he played, though I wish I could.

Kahley Avalon Emerson

While it lasted, the feeling was very much like an underground. Unfortunately, there was never any warning of the approaching end. Instead, the music became conspicuously soft and the harsh fluorescent lights switched on to replace the fog with the unfun realities of 2 a.m. Avalon and I got in a cab and tried to figure out where we'll be for the New Year's Eve countdown.

-- @DerekOpperman @Avalon_Emerson

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