Look at Lucent Dossier and at the Edison first!
I’ve written elsewhere about the Los Angeles club scene. I think it’s a tyrannical dictatorship system with Style and Connections holding top office. There’s no grace for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money, for people who just love to dance or want to have honest, exuberant interactions with strangers. There’s classism, ageism, sexism, and nearly ever other discriminatory practice occurring at the front of the velvet ropes. Nearly every worthwhile time I’ve had “going out” in LA has been as a performer, an employee, not as a customer. Now that I'm part of an artist crew it's a brand new day! We go out in costume and derail all the old social tropes--and one of my favorite episodes recently was seeing Lucent Dossier.
For Louis’s birthday and our six-months demi-versary I found an event in an L.A. venue that seemed too good to be true. The place is called The Edison, it’s in downtown, and the show was a group called Lucent Dossier. The aesthetic was 1930s circus side-show/fantastical zoo.
We dressed in costume—Louis in a top hat, cropped-sleeve jacket and hand-painted shoes, me in a black corset, hip fringe, boots and a short, Louis-tailored black trench coat. People stopped us for pictures and mistook us for Lucent performers all night, which I found particularly gratifying not just because it indicated that the outfits “worked” but because it also indicated that our energetic engagement with everyone we met matched the performers. We were part of the experience, as we received it.
The Edison is a transformed warehouse with a style I found both cozy and formidable. Someone perfectly blended the stark heavy beauty of a master welder and the plush luxury of Daisy Buchannon’s lounging parlour—slouching leather armchairs under exposed plumbing, brick walls and thick Persian rugs, curio cabinets through which you could peer at the bar from your mahogany table. One enters the Edison on the top floor, then descends a metal staircase into the vast chaotic dance of light and shadow, textures both soft and unyeilding. 19th-century style light bulb sculptures illuminate the bar, silhouettes of esoteric animation keep the walls moving, television screens encased in thick gilded frames tell us that here we find a crashing together of some perfect historical visual tropes (frame your art) and totally modern beauty (backlight your art, let it move).
The music continued our ahistorical disorientation, turning “Basin Street Blues” into a trance-like dance beat, Sarah Vaugn’s “Fever” into a rave-scene.
And then there was Lucent Dossier. What I loved most about the show was the mingling—each performer stayed in character and costume all night, periodically dancing in a spotlight for more traditional performance numbers (although their aerialist did a bondage show that trumped all other girls I’ve seen in silks), but more often playing with customers and each other everywhere in the venue. They had a foot washer, a screen-painter, an air-brush body artist. They crept and crawled and behaved like birds, like children, like cats. Once they danced in unison from all corners: up in some rigging, on the bar, next to tables, and we were swept into their playful, sexy refrains.
So it came as no surprise to me that Lucent Dossier goes to Burning Man every year. The feeling inside the Edison that night was particularly friendly, participatory, collaborative, playful, and experimental. These are all feelings that most L.A. clubs can’t foster unless they have a base of regular customers who don’t clique up when new people show. I occasionally saw the Lucent Performers as the cool kids who knew they were having more fun than the insecure, collar-wearing normals, but it was easy to forgive them because of how often they engaged everyone in their games. They clearly have a great deal of performing intimacy with each other, which heightened the beautiful sexuality of the show even more.
And this was the small revolution that I witnessed: a very hip place, a very good show, and a crowd interested in art and joy. A sensual frolic as opposed to a meat-market catwalk. Loving attention to detail in costumes as opposed to frantic attempts to signal a familiar Hollywood-sexualization in the same old tight jeans and heels. Loud, real laughter instead of ingratiating snickering. With the addition of the odd beauty of the Edison itself, I felt that thrill of originality—this is an animal I haven’t seen before—from the first descent of the staircase to the knot of people outside at 2AM who didn’t want it to end.