It's Grammy weekend, and the City of Angels is full of the sounds of the Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys of the world. It is also shaking to the oh-so-constant-sound of "ka-ching! ka-ching!" as millions of dollars are being spent at pre-Grammy parties in luxurious venues like the Beverly Hilton.
But LA is more than meets the eye.
Beneath the glitz, the glamour and the predictable industry scene, lies an edgier world where all cultures collide and new music genres are vibrating.
So while JT surprises fans at The Conga Room, I go down under, bien abajo, into a spot called Bootleg Bar in Historic Filipinotown and immerse myself in Subsuelo, LA's most happening, eclectic, underground party.
Welcome to Bootleg!
Subsuelo usually takes place every 3rd Wednesday of the month. This past Friday, however, Subsuelo hosted a special celebration in honor of Wesley Pentz (known to the world as Diplo) for his Producer of the Year nomination at the 2013 Grammy Awards. This nomination also represents a great accomplishment for Diplo's record label, Mad Decent, home to a culturally diverse roster of DJs and artists such as Dillon Francis, Maluca and Major Lazer.
Paul Devro in the greenroom, where he assures me that "Music should not be serious." Then why is he? Ja!
Before hitting the turn tables, 30-year-old Canadian DJ and Mad Decent's A&R rep Paul Devro describes Subsuelo as "LA's most diverse, fun party. Subsuelo is pretty much its own culture." This is his third time DJing at Subsuelo and his third year working with Diplo, who he describes as "a super busy man, but he always get things done. For us as DJs and producers, the most important thing is putting out good music. We all share the same love for finding good, weird music. We always want to be ahead," he says.
Dancing and more dancing at Subsuelo.
When asked about the Grammys he says: "Awards are good for promoting yourself, but there's always politics behind it. Of course I feel proud of Diplo for his nomination and I feel he deserves it, but you know there should be some indie awards and there aren't. Wait...I should do that!" And with that brilliant thought in mind, off he goes to play some cumbia.
One of the souls of Subsuelo, Canyon Cody.
After Devro's set warms up the crowd, it's mix master guru Toy Selectah's turn. As soon as his fingers touch the tables, Toy's decades of experience are evident. No wonder everyone from Vampire Weekend to 3ballMTY want to work with him (and they have). His music selection is all high intensity, I-have-no-choice-but-to-move-my-body rhythms that quickly set the entire crowd into a dance spell. He is that good.
Shaking off Toy's spell, I meet him in the greenroom for a quick chat. "In the 20 years that I've been coming to LA I have seen a very positive change in the Hispanic community. Mexican Americans are finally more Mexican than ever. And I am seeing how most Latinos are really embracing their cultures," he says with a proud smile.
Subsuelo pre-Grammy party host Gazoo.
Toy believes that this, mixed in with biculturalism and bilingualism from both Mexicans in the US and Mexicans in Mexico, has given birth to a new generation were everything is legit: "Take the boys from 3ball for example, it's a generation composed of mash-ups. They bring in emo with say, nationalist ideals and dembow. Plus they have two realities: the cyber one composed of social media and then the real reality. All of this is in their brain. They are wired like that," he says.
When I ask him if he has abandoned the underground music scene and gone mainstream he smirks and says: "I am not afraid to go out there and find new sounds, discover interesting rhythms. Just like Diplo, him and I are a representation of contemporary music. We didn't go mainstream. Mainstream came to us."
James Eysenbach from Boston attempts -and fails- to play his mini harmonica after the party. When asked what he thought about Subsuelo he replies, "It's a different scene than what I'm used to..." He probably belongs more in an Abercrombie ad.