Steve Aoki in Sacramento
Embrace electro. Everyone will be better off.
Dance is in. The rest of the scene is dust—or so they say—so if you’re in a rock, hip-hop, jazz or blues group, you might hate a guy like Steve Aoki for co-opting all your gig nights.
Aoki’s one of the most popular deejays in Southern California, from Malibu to Mission Viejo. Both wealthy (Tentation Ultra Lounge in Orange County) and dive (Detroit Bar, ditto) crowds show up for Aoki sets. Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan spin with him (or at least she’s been photographed behind tables doing something wearing headphones). And celebrity bloggers like Carles of Hipster Runoff repeatedly bag on him with hipster platitudes.
So it sounds like Aoki meets all the requirements for being famous: loved, hated, admired, dissed. It’s fitting, then, that he’s headlining The Park Ultra Lounge: Many old-school Sacramentans hate the venue for its perceived exclusivity, but they’ll probably be at the club this Thursday night for Aoki’s set. Jealousy will get you nowhere, right?
Yes. People complain that no big acts come through town, but Aoki, DJ AM and DiscoTech all have played The Park in the last month. More bangers for your buck, son.
Aoki would be impressed. He has an ear for new talent, who typically sign to his Dim Mak label, and a strong concept of what ingredients make hot beats, though articulating it isn’t always easy. “That’s kind of the weird amoeba thing of music: You never fucking know if you’re going to hit it or if you’re going to stumble,” explains Aoki, on his cell while cruising the L.A. streets. “It doesn’t matter if you’re from Sacramento or Moscow, so long as people can figure it out and relate to it.”
If you’re one of those who’ve figured it out or can relate to it, then you know Aoki. You’ve seen his mug on The CobraSnake, a quintessential Los Angeles party-pic blog. There he is, pouring Grey Goose vodka down anonymous UCLA students’ throats—the kind of braless, post-Lolita electro-dance alt-girl nymphets most 50-year-old fathers have nightmares about. Or fantasies.
“I actually hate alcohol. And I don’t do any drugs. I’m really like the most square deejay you’ll talk to,” Aoki says of his gimmick.
No matter. While the kids suckle his Goose juice, Aoki says they’re the ones who own the scene. “The truth spoke: Kids want what they want to hear, they demanded it and now it’s here—and it’s a force to be reckoned with,” he argues of the burgeoning L.A. dance community.
Of course, Aoki played an instrumental role in starting the party. Back in the day, circa 2003, when it was just Aoki and crew at the Beauty Bar, the likes of Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, the Shins, Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs would all guest-deejay at his club. Needless to say, it was popular.
And it was contagious.
The major players came to town: the Ed Banger crew, Boys Noize, Soulwax. “The movers and shakers of what electro is now have pretty much all played at our party,” Aoki brags.
Sacramento has a strong dance scene, too. We’ve got Nick Avey’s Monday night Take Flight party at The Press Club or Friday’s at The Park—and a whole Records-basement-load of nights in between. But, of course, Sac’s no L.A.—though both cities share common elements. Dance reigns supreme in both cities, which 20 years ago were HQs for buttrock. And, like Sacramento’s men in blue, LAPD was known to crack down on Aoki’s din in the early days.
“You just keep on fighting,” he says.
Best of all, Aoki explains, dance going into 2009 is a culture from within. Sure, business is doing its best to co-opt the scene, but they can’t keep up. “At the end of the day the kids kind of started this; it came out of nowhere, and at the end of the day people still don’t know what to expect.
“It’s a humbling place for me. It’s still the same place,” he confides.