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Diversion to turn downtown's Arts District into a big dance party

Diversion to turn downtown's Arts District into a big dance party
Dave Dean, left, and Nik Wilson are the principals of Prototype, a Los Angeles-based company that organizes and promotes dance events. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It's noon on a Wednesday in downtown's Arts District, and tucked among industrial buildings on the east end of Imperial Street sits the quiet and empty Lot 613. Sunlight streams through the venue's skylights and hits the drab cement floor.

Except for the ATM and a pair of party fliers taped to the wall, nothing — no Hollywood-worthy club accouterments, no fancy chandelier and no glossy bar  — indicates that this stark warehouse is host to some of the city's most forward-thinking dance events.

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For the last two years, Lot 613 has been home to Prototype, a bimonthly club that has filled the gap between L.A.'s underground — and often illegal — warehouse scene and the confetti and bottle service experience of many local nightclubs.

Now, the principals behind Prototype are throwing the company's first outdoor block party, dubbed Diversion. Set to start Sunday afternoon and run into the evening, Diversion is arriving at a time when there's increased scrutiny on electronic dance music events.

Recent tragedies, including the deaths of three Hard Summer attendees in August in Fontana, have put the microscope on anything that loosely fits the definition of a rave, with medical and government officials demanding stricter rules to improve safety at raves and large-scale music events.

Prototype's Diversion, however, has flown below the radar. Credit the event's homespun feel and a comparatively tiny 2,500-person capacity.

"With the size of this event being so small, it's very manageable," says Prototype co-founder Dave Dean. "We also have a tremendous amount of experience doing [these types of events.] We were able to put up our track record of doing [local] street closures shows, which all went fine. It's also a 21 and over event, as all of our events have been. That's a little easier to present."

Diversion's lineup features more than a dozen international and local artists including Dixon, Kink and Cooper Saver, and the event will be spread out over three stages in Lot 613 and along the block on Imperial Street. For the hard-core party people, an after-party inside Lot 613 will run until 3 a.m.

Nearby vegan café the Springs is slated to be open, and food trucks selected by the popular Instagram account Eat Bearded will line the street. Residents of several nearby loft buildings were offered free tickets and assured the outdoor music would stop at a reasonable hour. (Diversion is set to run until 10 p.m.). Such community integration is key to Prototype's long-term goals.

"Dave did good community outreach," says Yuval Bar-Zemer, the vice president of Arts District neighborhood betterment organization Los Angeles River Artists and Business Assn. "He's a relatively new operator in the Arts District. We always like to give somebody a chance."

Launched on New Year's Eve 2015 with a set by German techno pioneer Chris Liebing, Prototype is the creation of 34-year-old London-native Nik Wilson and the 52-year-old Dean, the creator of the longstanding L.A. event series Giant and a veteran L.A. promoter at Hollywood mainstay Avalon.

Prototype has been host to sets by underground electronic all-stars including DJ Harvey and Honey Soundsystem, Hot Chip, Nina Kraviz and Eric Prydz's alter ego, Cirez D. Last December, a six-hour set by U.K. producer Four Tet found the crowd singing along to Marvin Gaye at 4 a.m.

"We've had everyone, in terms of the who's who of house and techno play," Wilson says. "It's been quite easy."

That's partly because Prototype falls decidedly on the side of aural sophisticates. That's not to say Dean and Wilson don't dabble in more mainstream endeavors. The two also work together at Avalon, which focuses heavily on commercialized genres.

It's Wilson and Dean's hope that Prototype becomes a go-to dance outpost for the booming Arts District crowd.

"By being in this neighborhood, we not only tap into people that are very much into the music, but Prototype really represents what the Arts District is about as well," says Dean, who notes there are plans to expand the adjacent warehouse into a gallery and craft cocktails lounge.

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Wilson moved to L.A. to work with Dean at Avalon in 2013. Having frequented revered London clubs such as Ministry of Sound, Wilson believed that L.A. lacked the no-frills, music-first club environments he fancied.

"I came here and there wasn't really anywhere to go out,"  Wilson says, reclining on a couch in the spare office above Lot 613's dance floor

After years at Avalon and other local clubs, which all dealt largely in trance, big room house and bass music, Dean also perceived a missing link in the scene. Experienced clubbers, he thought, needed a stripped down venue in which to hear underground house and techno.

Together, Dean and Wilson concocted Prototype. There would be no scantily clad bottle service employees  or in-your-face party photographers — only a dark room, a bar, a great sound system and the music. Tickets for the warehouse events would never cost more than $25. In turn, it would be a place for DJs who may not feel at home in the city's more commercialized venues,

In Lot 613, they were lucky to find a building that suited their vision. Built in 1934 and renovated into an events space in 2008, Dean and Wilson lease the space for shows and share Lot 613 with weddings, conferences and other one-off events.

Unlike many of the warehouse district's pop-up parties, the roughly 1,100-person capacity venue is fully permitted. A large outdoor patio serves as a place for conversation — often impossible in loud nightclubs.

"The events we do are very calm. These are experienced clubbers, and this is a destination venue," Dean says, sitting behind his office desk. "If you're coming for the lineups we have, you know who's playing and you know you want to be here."

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