Generation n: Monthly Party Automatico Cultivates a Spanglish Underground
DJ/promoter Ané didn't have high expectations for the night. It was the Saturday following Christmas, typically a dead weekend for nightclubs in a place where everyone seems to be from some other city, and the aftermath of a storm caused the temperature to drop below 40 degrees, something that could keep many Angelenos housebound. In fact, Ané admitted that he and his team didn't do much to promote this installment of the monthly party Automático. They simply posted a few MySpace bulletins and let word-of-mouth take its course. By midnight though, the tally at the door stood at 575 people and all the marks of a good party were there -- kids stumbling across the patio in search of lights for their cigarettes, couples making out while pressed up against the wall of a narrow corridor, a line for the facilities a dozen girls deep and a dance floor that remained full for hours on end.
"When we started to do [Automático], people thought that no one was going to show up, it wasn't going to last," says Ané. But the one-named DJ, who previously worked in Spanish-language entertainment, tapped into a scene that few people in L.A. noticed. He calls it Generation ñ. As children, they were as familiar with the Spanish radio hits of the late-1980s and early-1990s as they are with U.S. alternative music of the same era. Now in their mid-20s, they are the hipsters frequenting hot spots like La Cita and The Echo. Also included in this movement are those whose grasp of the language might be too shaky to understand much of the lyrics, but whose desire to dance to something new runs deep.
"The key is bringing people together and creating a good vibe," says Frank Venadas, vocalist and guitarist for local band The Nightbirds and a regular at Automático. "It doesn't matter what kind of music it is or what language you're speaking."
While there are plenty of club nights across the city offering Spanish-language dance mixes, Automático was the first to create an event that catered specifically to the crowd found at indie rock and electro parties. Along with resident DJ Maurice de la Falaise, who made his mark earlier this decade spinning at now-defunct global pop club Par Avion, and a host of guest selectors and performers, Ané has cultivated a Spanglish underground that crosses genres from '60s garage rock and '80s new wave to '90s technopop and present day electro as the lyrics fluctuate between English and Spanish. Alaska, a breakout star of Spain's post-Franco cultural movement La Movida Madrileña, is, according to de la Falaise, "like David Bowie" in her popularity at the club. Meanwhile, "No Controles," a 1985 hit for Mexican pop trio Flans, is akin to Stacey Q's "Two of Hearts," a blast-from-the-past that prompts the crowd to run to the dance floor and groove like they are ten years old and hearing it for the first time.
"It's mostly stuff that you grew up listening to through your mom when she was cleaning the house or taking to you school and listening to the radio, or stuff that you saw on Spanish TV," says de la Falaise of the heavy dose of '80s and '90s pop songs represented in the club.
But it isn't just nostalgia at Automático. Ané and de la Falaise have a reputation for tracking down the best in underground rock and electronic music from Spain, Latin America and the U.S., making new hits and often booking the performers to play at the club. Earlier this month, an Automático-sponsored event featuring dance music artist La Prohibida (the inspiration for Chilean YouTube star La Pequeña Prohibida) packed the house. Her onstage companion, San Diego-based producer Da Perv, headlined the December 27 party. Coming soon to the club will be the post-punk-influenced Mexican band Los Dynamite.
"We play all the indie bands from Mexico that you don't really hear," adds de la Falaise. "If you go to any club in Mexico, even Mexico City, you won't hear that."
Below are a few of the new artists represented on the decks at Automático.
Los Dynamite: "TV"
Mexico City-based group Los Dynamite rose to popularity with English-language songs in the vein of bands like Interpol, for whom they opened, and Franz Ferdinand. This clip is of the band's 2005 breakout single "TV."
Quiero Club: "Showtime"
Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, Quiero Club's dance floor-friendly indie rock and goofy, colorful videos make the band a favorite of Generation ñ. Their 2008 single "Showtime" serves as a precursor to the group's anticipated sophomore album.
Medio Mutante: "Inestable"
Formed in Texas and now based in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Medio Mutante ("Average Mutant") became a local favorite after their stellar performance opening for Belgian electronic outfit Absolute Body Control. "Inestable" is the title track from the band's debut EP.
Da Perv: "Mia Wallace"
Da Perv, who played live at the December 27 installment of Automático, recently completed a brief tour opening for and performing alongside dance diva La Prohibida. The San Diego based artist, also known as Pablo Stanley, is also the vocalist for electro-rock band. He records in English and Spanish.