Is Downtown LA the New New York?

On a recent Friday afternoon I cleared out and headed south on
the 101 looking for my latest fix of urban energy. First stop was
the indispensable Downtown Standard, Andre Balazs’ oasis of cool on 6th
and Flower. Everything about this place works, from the lobby,
which now includes a branch of Rudy’s
barbershop
, to the jusitifiably famous rooftop bar and swimming
pool. It’s a rare venue that can sustain this level of hip comfort
and satisfaction for years on end, but the Standard Downtown,
despite the crowds on weekends and the occasional presence of
industrial strength dorks, continues to make guests feel like they
have nowhere (else) to go and nothing (else) to do–in a very good
way. Thanks to musical director Diallo
Riddle
, the common areas of the Standard are continually awash
in uncanny mixes that cull the best of the newest music and
contextualize it in a way that makes it all go down smooth. While
the nighttime activity on the roof gets most of the ink, the really
fun party is during the day, when the boys and girls in bathing
suits mingle in the pool to Riddle’s daytime soundtrack.

Friday night I went to a show sponsored by the Echo but held at
the Cooper Design Space, a loft in the vicinity of South
Los Angeles and 8th. The triple bill put a DJ, Diplo, on last, and gave the coveted midnight hour over
to the spirited Brazilians known as Cansei de
Ser Sexy
(translation: “I’m too tired to be sexy.”) These girls
tore it up, with a sound that lands them somewhere between early
Beastie
Boys
and Miami Bass. Singer Lovefoxxx climbed the sound
system, dove off the stage, and encouraged the hyper-trendy crowd
to “act a fool” when security tried to calm her down. It was a
great set, showing just how accessible brand new whole genres can
be when they are presented in the right way to the right crowd. The
emaciated kids who populate Mark Hunter’s Cobra Snake photoblog were out in
force, and even my jaded LA friends were impressed by the energy.
“It’s like a rave!” marveled Natalia, a dancer with one foot in the
desert and another in the stars.

Saturday night offered two more specifically downtown, decidedly
trendy events that were, paradoxically, not initially intended for
or marketed to the hipsters. The Los Angeles Tofu Festival, held outdoors in
Little Tokyo, is a community event that has been colonized by the
people in the tight pants, but which retains its ethnic flavor
quite nicely, thanks. While waiting around for headliners Blackalicious to
take the stage one could feast on a truly mind-bending assortment
of tofu treats, including okonmayaki (Japanese pancakes), tofu
burritos from East LA, and tofu pad thai. Gorgeous young people
mingled with Japanese and Korean families while the downtown cops
looked on and the smell of fried tofu ascended to high-rise
heaven.

Over at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rauschenberg exhibit anchored the Night Visions
event, which keeps the place open on Saturdays until midnight. The
crowd at MOCA was better dressed and slightly older than the
average at Cooper Design Space on Friday, but the energy there was
also terrific. Slam poet Saul Williams was booked on the main stage, but
other engaging activities were stratetgically situated throughout
the space. While the Rauschenberg show deserved to garner the most
attention, as it is big, beautiful and incredibly rich, the
Eva Hesse drawings exhibition is also of great
interest and subtle, steadily increasing appeal. Art museums all
over the country are moving in this nightclub-ward direction, but
MOCA’s event, one of the first, remains among the best.

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