Dimwits and Luminaries
Photos by Homer
The Westside of LA is riddled with posh destinations and designer storefronts. Everyone you meet is a character with an elaborate back story and clearly defined networking goals. The venues in Santa Monica are always anyone’s guess on what sort of crowd they will attract from the depths of their overpriced beachfront homes. Caught between the precocious nightclubs of Beverly Hills and the polluted venues of Hermosa, places like Central SAPC, Wokano, and Zanzibar are like a piñata of activity; you never know what you’ll get until you’re already inside.
Zanzibar stands on a lonely corner with a short length of velvet rope in front of the snazzy dressed door man. The sunken pub boats high ceilings suitable for video projection at either end of the venue as well as cozy seats lining all of the walls leading up to the bar. The décor perfectly sets the mood for a worldly romantic ambiance and the low lighting boosts Zanzibar’s sexy factor; not just because it hides all of the imperfections of your random hook-up, but the sleazy dimness also dulls the senses, giving your overworked mind the go ahead to relax and enjoy what the other senses might have to offer.
Speaking of, the sound at Zanzibar is not aptly suited for musical performances. As people trickle in, the performers are still fiddling with the speakers, trying their best to minimalize the amount of feedback from the sound system. They fail, and instead compensate by turning the volume way up. “We had a poetry slam just a few hours ago.” J Brave explains. “That’s why we had a little trouble getting going.”
J Brave is the producer of Luminous Wednesdays at Zanzibar, a weekly event embracing the “conscious community” on the Westside. He is also the warm-up DJ who plays a variety of dance tunes while trying to find a fitting vibe for the audience. From 808 rap beats to heavy hitting dubstep, the dance tunes J Brave played were mostly brand new cuts from homegrown, Westside producers such as Freq Nasty, The Glitch Mob, and more.
The loud music twangs off for a moment and all dancers pause as J Brave announces the next performer, Gina Rene. A hypnotic flute melody guides three women in gypsy garb to the stage as each stands before a microphone. “It is national women’s day” They announce. “Tonight we celebrate all of the goddesses.”
Dissimilar from the rest of the Luminous acts, Gina Rene and her two sisters (no relation) show off their lyrical flow cued to prerecorded beats. The music is simple 808 R&B loops while Gina’s raping is complex. At one point she drops a very well rehearsed monotone prose, and then she invites the audience to join her in a chant. For a moment, I see a prominent future in the hip-hip/new age hybrid scene, and then I finish my spliff and buy another drink. The lyrics are unquestionably inspired, however, her delivery is not. Her rapping does not come easy, seems a little forced, and is not very well received by the audience. That’s not to say her voice isn’t harmoniously angelic, however, it’ll be quite some time of determined practice before we hear Gina Rene on the radio.
Last up is Shakti Bliss on the turn tables. Again, the loud, red lined speakers do not make up for an impressive sound system, but lately I’ve been spoiled to death with Funktion1. Shakti’s set, however, more than makes up for this with original dance tracks and deft mixing with a 30’s and 40’s speakeasy vibe to it. By using samples from old, old audio recordings, Shakti creates a DJ set in her own personalized style; something you don’t get to see very often with DJs.
The potential of Luminous Wednesdays is existent, if not existential. Where else are you going to find a dance party with vegan friendly chocolate on a Wednesday? For those seeking some mid-week R&R, keep Zanzibar on hand as an option.