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A collage of photos from dance clubs in L.A.
(Los Angeles Times illustration; photos by Jessica Benda; Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times; Gimme Gimme Disco)

Tired of club music? Dance at these 9 spots instead

I love dancing, but I’d love it more without the same overplayed club music.

Music is the backbone of any party. When you don’t love it, the night falls flat (and if you’re the designated driver, you’re left praying that your friends are ready to bounce sooner rather than later). Many clubs blast EDM, trap or modern house music, and while those genres can amp up the energy, some people may be seeking a change of pace in Los Angeles and Orange counties. This summer, I devoted my Friday nights to testing out those alternative spots.

Partiers looking to dance to ’60s to ’00s, country to salsa and feral club to laid-back music will find options below. I like to know how much energy a night out is going to require, so I gave each a ranking. One means you’re in for a laid-back night, and five means you need to carb-load and prime that eyeliner.

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Partners dance on an uncrowded dance floor under colored lights.
(Jessica Benda / Los Angeles Times)

The Granada L.A.

Alhambra Club
Three dancing spots in one space are devoted to a single music genre, and admission earns you entry to all of them. The Granada’s salsa and bachata rooms are inside for partner dances, but if the steps look too complicated, you can freestyle to hip-hop and reggaeton on the patio. Or, join a group salsa or bachata class beforehand, usually at 7:30, 8:30 or 9:30 p.m.

In the enormous main room, people passing outside peek through the arched windows to glimpse this three-story dance party. There’s not much on the second floor — it overlooks the dancers and appears a bit closed off — but climb the second staircase to the third. Inside, plenty of people dance in a darkened, smaller space with its own bar. It’s a bit more intimate for those who don’t feel comfortable dancing in front of everyone downstairs. Seating is fairly easy to find, especially by the main room — though the blasting music makes talking a challenge. The crowd is friendly, so don’t be afraid to dance with a stranger.

Cover fees are cash only and range from $5 to $20 depending on the day. Bonus: This is the easiest parking situation on this list, with availability in a free structure across from the Granada and on the street. Don’t forget to check the dress code: The club requires smart casual to dressy clothes and bans men’s shorts, flip-flops and athletic attire.

Energy level needed: 3
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People inside a dark nightclub
(Jessica Benda / Los Angeles Times)

Boardner's

Hollywood Club
Founded in 1947 off Sunset Boulevard, Boardner’s parties daily, but you’ll want to arrive on Friday nights for Club Decades. Each event is themed — ’80s Night Prom Edition, Y2K Night, Club ABBA — and you’ll find whatever decade you yearn to dance to on its Eventbrite schedule.

The spacious venue boasts a smoky dance floor with a second floor up above with a view of it all. Floating books hang over the bar. On the candlelit patio, bands take the small stage for those craving live music. It gets busy by 11:30 p.m., but it’s not too hot and there are lots of couches to take a break. I dropped in on Taylor Swift Night, jamming inside to Prince, Britney Spears and, of course, Taylor Swift. DJs here work with their partiers, as shown by “Blank Space” blasting within 15 seconds after the crowd called for Taylor.

Admission is $17.50 with the online fee, and I easily found $10 parking in a lot down the street. It’s one of many lots, so don’t stress about finding a spot.

Energy level needed: 3. The dance floor is high-energy, but the abundance of comfy couches and quieter spaces means it’s perfect for those feeling a bit more low-key too.
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People dancing in a dark club under blue and green lights on a checkerboard floor.
(Jessica Benda / Los Angeles Times)

Totally ’80s Bar and Grille

Fullerton Bar
If you glanced at this plain, unassuming building while driving by, you’d never suspect the neon jungle inside. Totally ’80s Bar and Grille is nestled in a quiet part of Fullerton, but its lively atmosphere beckons ’80s fans from L.A. and South Orange County.

Bar-goers jam to Poison or Guns N’ Roses on the black-and-white checkered dance floor, while others sip $12 Purple Rain or Valley Girl cocktails. Split a colorful $25 fishbowl with friends, though based on how some people were walking, it seems they were ambitious enough to down it solo. Take a break from dancing with five different types of fries ($7 to $15) or $11 nachos, among classic bar foods. And there’s good odds of scoring seating.

Ages are all over the place, and unlike clubs with hyper-sexual imagery, it’s a much friendlier vibe here. On Thursdays, the ’80s and ’90s dance party is free. On some Fridays and Saturdays, tribute bands paying homage to Mötley Crüe, Bruno Mars and Metallica jam on the small stage. In a nice change of pace, the crowd usually is more prone to wild dancing than the typical club grinding, and the venue keeps a laid-back atmosphere even with a busy dance floor. It’s loud but not to the point of ringing ears afterward. Hours are 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Energy level needed: 3
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A large crowd of people raising their arms as confetti falls from the ceiling at the Gimme Gimme Disco
(Gimme Gimme Disco)

Gimme Gimme Disco

Santa Ana Disco
ABBA lovers, the night of your dreams is at whichever venue the Gimme Gimme Disco plays at tonight. This event runs simultaneous parties nationwide, usually playing in Los Angeles and Orange counties every month or two. The energy is electric as the crowd arrives in their best ’70s attire, the occasional person clambering up on a railing to dance.

The music is all ABBA and ’70s songs like “September” and “Rasputin” — and almost every person is screaming the lyrics. You can send in your own requests through the disco’s Instagram. I danced at Santa Ana’s Observatory, a roomy venue where you can groove in the thick of the crowd or hang along the outskirts. Catch your breath on the outdoor patio, which offers a nice break from four hours of dancing. Drinks are around $12 and there’s food for stamina, though prices vary by venue. Crowd-wise, it works backward: It’s thickest in the beginning and ebbs as it gets later, but the die-hards soak up every song until the DJ leaves.

The next L.A. disco runs on Sept. 2 at the Regent Theatre, or catch it on Sept. 9 at the Observatory. General admission is $19, including online fees.

Energy level needed: 4
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A '60s dance party with people dancing on a small dance floor under colorful lights
(Jessica Benda / Los Angeles Times)

Club 96 Tears

Chinatown Club
On a Thursday night, Chinatown’s lanterns dangle over a nearly empty plaza — so it’s a pleasant twist when you step into its bustling Grand Star Jazz Club. Wiggle into your go-go boots for Club 96 Tears, a retro dance party that grooves on the second Thursday of the month from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. You’ll be dancing primarily to ’60s music — the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons and the Monkees — with a dash of ’50s and ’70s tunes. The 1967 film “The Graduate” runs on a TV as the bartender whips up $13 vodka gimlets. Though it’s a cozy venue, it doesn’t feel cramped.

All the tables will be occupied, so come early if you want to claim one. Though many dance floors get congested, this lively area manages to maintain personal space. DJ perksandkisses knows the right volume level — loud enough to dance to but soft enough that it’s easy to converse at the bar. A few people donned ’60s dresses, so don’t be afraid to arrive in vintage attire. With a friendly, laid-back crowd, it’s easy to spark conversations with strangers.

Metered street parking around Chinatown is easy to find when the area is quiet. Admission is $12.30 on Eventbrite, including online fees. If it’s your birthday week, email club96tears@gmail.com for free admission (and free champagne!)

Energy level needed: 2
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The crowd line dances at Cowboy Country Saloon in July 2022.
(Jessica Benda / Los Angeles Times)

Cowboy Country Saloon

Long Beach Saloon
This place exudes Texas (and you may spot an NRA shirt or two in the crowd). Trade your back-and-forth shuffle for a choreographed line dance — lessons are at 7 and 8 p.m. before the crowd comes in. If you still fumble the steps or miss a class, most other dancers are friendly enough to teach you themselves. A DJ plays country hits as people two-step, but there’s a fair share of 2010s pop songs tossed in. Later in the evening, a live band plays country tunes on the stage.

The main dance floor, games like giant Jenga and a mechanical bull occupy the first floor, while people shoot pool and throw back shots at the shooter bar in the loft above. It’s a balcony, so grab a seat to look down on the line dancers. This crowd’s age range is broad but skews more middle-aged than others on this list.

I recommend getting on the bull at least once. If you’re nervous, you can usually ride tandem with a friend — though your odds of hanging on will dwindle. While dancing is lively, seating is the bulk of the venue, so it’s perfect for a laid-back night. Two bars means you don’t wait long to get a drink, which are relatively cheap ($9 for a strong jack and Coke).

Admission is cash only, and food and drinks require a $20 minimum to use a credit card. It’s open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and there’s no cover from 6 to 7 p.m. It’s $5 after 7 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays, it bumps up to $10 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The parking lot fills quickly, so you might have to circle for a spot.

Energy level needed: 2
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Dancers on the floor at In Cahoots, ringed with lighted logo signs
(Jessica Benda / Los Angeles Times)

In Cahoots

Fullerton Bar
If Cowboy Country is the laid-back line-dancing spot, In Cahoots amps up the energy a few notches. This crowd skews younger (18+ admission means local high school alumni use this as their first club experience) and the dance floor is bustling. People cluster around to watch the two-stepping while partiers rest in large red booths along the wall, though you have to arrive early to claim one. Early in the night, pop music plays and they offer two group dance lessons until the country music kicks in at 9:30 p.m. Try the “cowboy cha-cha” and enjoy the country tunes. (The DJ takes song requests.)

If you want to look like a regular, know that almost all girls here wear some variation of a crop top, denim shorts and cowboy boots, while guys sport jeans and the occasional cowboy hat. Don’t dress in layers — the patio space is enclosed so it’s just as warm as inside.

In Cahoots used to operate several days a week, but it’s now open only on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. That means its regular crowd crams into one night. By 10 p.m., there’s a line at the door, but it’s usually walk-in before 9 p.m. Admission is cash only at $7. Parking is a shopping center lot, so you’ll find a spot somewhere.

Energy level needed: 4
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People standing along a long bar in a small club
A view of Akbar.
(Akbar)

Akbar

Silver Lake Bar
This spot is half relaxed bar and half wild dance floor. A hallway separates the rooms, so it’s easy to choose what you’re in the mood for. This gay bar’s music depends on the day, but odds are high it’s not typical club songs. Rock hits like Joan Jett are especially common on the dance floor, or check out the special events like Madonna night and movie soundtrack Sundays. It’s busy on the dance floor, but the bar area offers a nice break when you get tired.

Akbar is open daily. There’s no cover most nights, but check its calendar for special events that may charge. Don’t forget your vaccine card — they check — and have a mask for entry just in case. Parking will likely be street or back lot.

Energy level needed: 3
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People line up to enter Los Globos at night, with a bouncer waving outside.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Los Globos

Silver Lake Club
Music here depends on when you go, as Los Globos is home to various themed events. Check its calendar for live performers, bachata nights and even an “International Dance Party” with everything from salsa to Afrobeat. Club ’90s, a club night organizer, ran a summer 2000s Night weekly at Los Globos, selling a Y2K frenzy that blasted Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and the Killers. (Though 2000s Night was seasonal, Club ’90s also has hosted Nicki Minaj Night at 1720 and Taylor Night at the Vermont in Hollywood.)

Los Globos drinks cost around $12 to $14 — a rum and Coke is heavy on the rum and light on the Coke. By 11:30 p.m., the dance floor is shoulder-to-shoulder. By 12:30 a.m., it’s an Easy Bake Oven of people too drunk to care. Dancing in the swarm will have you jostled from all sides — navigating through it is human bumper cars — and your ears will be ringing when you stumble out at night’s end.

Whichever event you choose, buy your tickets in advance. Admission ranges from free to $25 depending on the calendar, but your real obstacle is parking; I recommend Uber or Lyft. It gets hot inside, so dress accordingly. Oh, and be sure to double-knot your laces — you have no chance of tying them on the dance floor.

Energy level needed: 5
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