I love it when I don’t know the music at a club. Maybe that’s a DJ thing or a music snob thing. It could just be a Liz O. quirk, IDK. Still, I’m the last person who will run up to the booth and say, “play something I can dance to.” I will, however, run up to the booth and compliment the DJ for playing something that’s unfamiliar to me, but sounds like funky Cocteau Twins, which is what happened on Wednesday during my friend Elvin Estela’s set at Silverlake Lounge for Joe Joe’s Bizarre City Pop Night.
I’ve had a passing interest in city pop— a catch-all term that includes disco, funk and jazz-leaning tunes made by Japanese artists in the late 1970s and early 1980s— for good while. I never got deep into it, though, because, frankly, I can’t tumble down yet another record collecting rabbit hole. It’s better for me to exhibit restraint and appreciate other DJs playing from their collections. Fortunately, there is a good amount of city pop-related events in Los Angeles, so there are plenty of opportunities to hear these songs offline.
Joe Joe’s Bizarre City Pop Night caught my attention because it’s one of the best party names I’ve heard in a long time. (If you don’t get the reference, refer to this Wikipedia link.) On top of that, Elvin, who has introduced me to countless jams since our days as KXLU DJs, was playing an early set, which made this a doable Wednesday night excursion.
It ended up being a later night than I anticipated. The main event at Joe Joe’s Bizarre City Pop Night, was a performance by bassist Joe Joe Faught and his band. They played an instrumental set on the jazzier side of city pop, cover songs from what I heard. I didn’t know any of the pieces they played, but that didn’t matter. The music was infectious from the start of the set, so groovy and so smooth that it was hard not to move to it.
I have this theory that, if you grew up with sample-based music, which virtually everyone under the age of 50 has, you’ll eventually find your way to the smooth grooves. This can happen in steps. Like, the moment that I declared “The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)” my jam was also the moment that I had to admit that my dad was right and Chicago’s a pretty killer band. Then, when “Hypnotize” was inescapable, I started bumpin’ Herb Alpert. Soon enough, I stopped rolling my eyes when my mom tuned into The Wave. Samples are sneaky like that. First they get you into your parents’ music, then they turn you on to whole vibes that you never thought would be your thing. All this is to say that’s how I ended up dancing near the front of the stage for nearly all of the band’s set.
I got to stick around for a bit of DJ tsUgU Itagaki’s set too, which was so much fun. It became one of those nights where I more or less lost track of time, which really is the sign of a good party. But, the bigger sign of a good party was that I woke up the next morning feeling like put in two hours at the gym.
See my recommendations for upcoming concerts and club nights in L.A.
Check out Los Angeles-based DJ Liz O. at one of her upcoming gigs.