City of Industrial: Exploring the Dark World of Das Bunker
Industrial kids are a committed bunch, and we're not just talking about the fashion: painful colored contacts, scalp-stretching cyber-dreads or 8 inch high stacks that make some of 'em tread like Herman Munster on the dance floor (though these looks are ominous and impressive).
Lina Lecaro Bunker bodacious.
A trek to otherwise desolate outskirts of town is required for Das Bunker, arguably the biggest and best Industrial night in LA (some say all of the U.S.) When you get there, if you want the full experience, expect to do a lot of walking around once inside. Jewel's Catch One, where Bunker has been pummeling neo-goth types since 2003, is one of the most cavernous clubs in town and, though it was once best known for gay and transgendered happenings, its clear that Bunker has become its banner event. A well-earned title too:
The club started in 1996 at the Que Sera in Long Beach, then moved to Hully Gully in Downey briefly before finding its perfect home at the Catch. Thrown by Franck "H-Bomb" Huyghe and John "Rev.John" Giovanazzi, it's has gone through some changes over the years, but one thing has never changed: its intent on playing sounds not heard too often at other similar LA happenings. In the early days the thrust was heavy industrial from Europe, then it expanded into "powernoise"- clamorous techno-based industrial.
"We got an international reputation as being the first place in the US to really push what became a pretty popular style in the late 90's early 2000s," says Giovanazzi. "Going from a 300 person space to a 1000 person space forced us to change format and with the Hollywood scene going more -for lack of a better word- mainstream, we moved the upstairs into a more modern EBM/industrial dance format."
The Rev says live performances are a big part of Bunker's appeal as well, and in fact, it's a rare occurrence when they don't have bands. Friday was one such eve, but we actually appreciated the opportunity to absorb the scene without everyone's focus on the stage, from the DJs sets and to the elaborate, mostly black get-ups sashaying or stomping across the club's three different rooms and dance floors. While the big upstairs area was the most crowded (and fun to watch: the club's elevated stripper poles seem irresistible to drunk girls in bondage gear), we preferred the better lit old school room music-wise (KMFDM, Front 242, Revolting Cocks). Another hidden room which apparently usually features ear-bleeding hardcore industrial most of the time, offered an out of left field dance hit experience; we're talking Debbie Deb's "Lookout Weekend" bootie-bumpers. Kinda surreal seeing gothy types grooving to that at 2 o'clock in the morning.
We were reminded about Bunker after covering the closure of 18+ club venue The Ruby (which dabbled in industrial music via Thursday's Perversion). Perversion, which just debuted at +21The Dragonfly is sure to offer a convenient switch for that club's regulars, but young noise-heads who aren't quite legal yet would do well to venture out to Bunker the following night. Really, all ages should explore DB. The patrons here are not only some of the most dramatic (demonic?) looking around, they're also one of the most diverse backround and age-wise. Despite the obvious shared dark aesthetics, Bunker babes don't discriminate, either. It's a pretty friendly crowd.
Look for a new Bunker compilation recording, updated iPhone app, and live shows at alternative venues including 'Legends of Synthpop" at the Echoplex on April 21 and Front Line Assembly at the El Rey in June. More info on all of these on the club's website.
More amazing club looks in this week's Nightranger slideshow.
Follow Lina Lecaro on Twitter at @L_in_A.