DJs give out ear candy
On a recent Saturday night at the Central City Cafe, a homey bar in downtown’s warehouse district, the swirling hip-hop soundtrack abruptly cuts out. It’s only 11:30 p.m., and Soundlessons, a night of progressive hip-hop, soul, rock and electronic music, has just started heating up. This special night marks the return to its original location after years of drifting from venue to venue. Plus, it’s cofounder and resident DJ J-Logic’s birthday bash.
Maybe it’s the overload of good vibes and undulating hips, or maybe an inadvertently pulled plug silenced the bumping mix of boom-bap beats. Whatever the reason, Alfred Hawkins, the selector currently in control, begins to rhythmically clap his hands. Everyone soon joins in, and a few minutes later, all systems are go as a Talib Kweli joint bursts from the speakers. Smiles break out and dancing resumes, the moment having left the room filled with communal warmth.
Soundlessons can be like that. With its wonderfully diverse mix of musical genres and people, the 8-year-old promotion is a far cry from your run-of-the-mill Hollywood hip-hop club filled with sorority girls and “Entourage” wannabes.
“I love the music they play,” first-timer Caroline Ordonez says. “It’s so original. It feels more intimate. I’m not a big clubber, but I love this.” Her friend Natasha Vangura adds: “They’re mixing ‘80s pop with soft rock and hip-hop. No gangster music.” As if on cue, the mix in the next few minutes ranges from Slum Village to Simple Minds to Daft Punk, and the packed dance floor moves as one grooving organism.
This alternative, manifold musical landscape has ensured Soundlessons a loyal following as it has moved around the city. “It’s a good, eclectic mix of music,” clubgoer Vince Fortunato says. “We’ve been coming for a long time -- here, El Cid, the Echo, Larchmont. We’ve followed it around.”
According to J-Logic, this is part of the Soundlessons master plan. “We wanted the environment to be diverse . . . and be more of a conversation, with music playing, than a club night,” he explains via e-mail. “Laid back, very sexy, and unpretentious, yet still on the cutting edge.”
The veteran DJ and his crew, including Jun, Kutmah Fresh and Hawkins, dig deep into their record crates to create a soundscape that appeals to both hip-hop heads and those seeking a relaxed club away from the night life vortex in Hollywood.
The crowd swells to its peak about 1 a.m. People mill about outside on the spacious smoking patio, where an artist is painting, brush strokes seemingly timed to the throbbing bass emanating from the bar area inside. “Branded to Kill,” an old Japanese gangster film, plays on a large-screen TV near the DJ booth as folks drink, mingle and move.
“It feels more relaxed and organic than a lot of other places I’ve been to,” says another first-timer, Sandra Mathis. “People are actually randomly talking to each other, which is nice.”
Even with the occasional power failure, the buoyant energy generated by Soundlessons’ music and crowd keeps the vibe electric.
Where: Central City Cafe, 601 S. Central Ave., downtown L.A.
When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and the fourth Saturday of every month
Price: $5 cover