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Review: Cityfox brings high standards (and high prices) to downtown L.A.'s techno scene

Cityfox

Dixon performs at the Cityfox event in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. 

(Skyler Greene / Cityfox)

At one end of downtown L.A. on Saturday night, well-wishers said goodbye to the 6th Street bridge, whose fetching metal arches and dystopic views are beloved by music video directors and after-hours partygoers alike.

At the other end, a different kind of party introduced itself to Los Angeles. Cityfox -- a large-scale underground club music event imported from New York -- debuted Saturday with headliners that included Dixon, L.A. vets Doc Martin and Droog, and a smattering  of producers from the Desert Hearts crew, among many others.  It might have signaled a new era in the bustling late-night scrim of dance music in downtown: one that’s permitted and accessible but at a high cost.

Cityfox’s New York events have centered around the Brooklyn waterfront, which lend it a pleasingly rough-yet-sylvan edge. Its location in L.A.'s Chinatown, however, was all noir all the time. The sprawling layout moved a crowd of well over 2,000 fans around an outdoor lot within sight of the 5 Freeway, and into a hangar-sized indoor space for harder sounds. But the high-end production made it seem more intimate: stage-spanning projections turned swaths of concrete into waves of hazy blues and purples.

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Making a warehouse look otherworldly at a dance music event is relatively easy. It’s much harder to achieve that look outdoors, and Cityfox raised the bar considerably for visuals in this scene.

On the outdoor stage, dozens of fans and friends-of-artists mingled and danced behind the DJs, which made it almost impossible to tell who was playing at any given time. It also didn’t really matter -- the sea of people and ambient light fixtures were more the attraction than whatever was happening up top. The jovial chaos onstage mirrored the mood off of it.

Inside, it was a more traditional setup -- industrial rawness with the occasional disorienting strobe. Musically, it was all on point -- Droog’s smart-set downtown techno, Dixon’s steely Berliner moods and Desert Hearts’ loopy tribal rave.

But more than its satisfying music, Cityfox was a bet that underground club music can be delivered in a setting befitting its origins, but without the lurid appeal of skulking down alleys and bribing bouncers to get in more illicit shows. Fans had to pay for that on-the-grid openness: Tickets for Cityfox ran to $60 the day of the show, a much-griped-about figure among the very downtown techno fans who might have been a core audience for future events (early pre-sales started at $35, which was better but still eye-popping).

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Even if Cityfox delivered on every other aspect of its production, this was not a concert you would go to on a whim. Showing up on short notice with a late-night wind at your back is the entire point of downtown clubbing, and that’s something Cityfox will have to figure out if it wants to establish a beachhead in L.A. -- how to meet exacting production standards while keeping tickets at a less-imposing price point.  

As downtown nightlife is again turning itself inside out in an era of increased scrutiny and gentrification, an event’s credibility is everything. No one could walk into Cityfox and not feel impressed by the scale and care on display. It was just a matter of getting people there in the first place -- and back again next time.

Follow @AugustBrown on Twitter for breaking music news.  

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