With all the inherent challenges in maintaining underground club music, perhaps there’s some safety in numbers.
And not in terms of crowd size. As the sun came up on the Boyle Heights warehouse housing last weekend’s showcase from the German label Giegling, the dozen-strong crew of DJs, producers and visual artists made it clear that spreading its wealth of music — and the physical labor to make it real — makes for a stronger, more invigorating scene.
The task heading into its Planet Giegling showcase was considerable.
Fly in a full label’s worth of tough but witty house and techno acts from Europe, find a place to set them up for three days, install a gorgeously minimal art exhibit to set the visual sensibility, play a live-synced set with a half-dozen acts all at once, and close it out with a raucous 16-hour club night that lasted until the other pop musicians in downtown L.A. were climbing into limos to head to the Grammys.
And yet, just as the conversation about L.A.’s after-hours club scene is entering uncharted terrain after increased public scrutiny due to the Oakland fire that killed dozens of music fans at the DIY venue known as Ghost Ship, Giegling (along with its L.A. collaborators Everything But Ecstasy and Acid Camp) took the current moment as a challenge to do a show even more ambitious than usual.
The Weimar-based label has produced a few scene stars — co-founder Konstantin among them — but the showcase was impressively anonymous. Set times were an afterthought and the pieces in the art exhibition went essentially uncredited.
For a relatively niche label, the brashness of asking for a full weekend from fans worked. Guests would dip out for snacks and day jobs, but the center of gravity was always that warehouse, where the crew changed out the decor in shifts to take the daytime curiosity into nighttime abandon.
There was a lot for L.A. to absorb in terms of rediscovering the old-rave ideas about shunning individual recognition in favor of a broader aesthetic and total, days-long immersion.
The music was muscular but jubilant, sometimes bleak but sometimes funny, in typically wry German fashion. Even when Vril’s closing techno set hit hardest, the little laser-spraying hearts hung from the ceiling tempered it with good humor. The couple of raver-dogs (presumably with human accompaniment nearby) nudging for bits of people’s food were the best crowd you could ask for.
Most of all, it was fresh and ambitious in how it charted a full weekend’s worth of accompaniment.
Day and night each had roles to play, and the longer you stayed, the more impact it all had. That’s a very Berlin attitude, one that L.A.’s closing times rarely permit outside of people’s private houses. But the little taste of it that Giegling offered should be proof that if you find a group of artists to trust, stay close and make a world you believe in.
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