Weekly updates:


Weekly updates

It’s 9:30pm on the 4th of July and the Broadway North bus I’m on is suddenly in uproar. The LA locals were unfazed by the fireworks going off in the street, the cop sirens, the freeway traffic, but the sight of a queue stretching around the block out the front of a non-descript looking club on a Wednesday night has people staring out the window. The bus driver pulls over, turns around to me and looks me up and down. “Damn, girl, where you going?” “It’s like, uh, a hip-hop club…” I say and stumble across the busy street to join the back of the winding queue.

Low End Theory. Its name conjures the thudding baseline of LA’s underground music scene. The home of some of the worlds most recognisable instrumental hip-hop makers: Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, Nosja Thing, Daedelus and as it draws international artists, the likes of Odd Future, Thom Yorke and James Blake, beat-lovers across the globe who might never have been to Los Angeles could probably tell you the weekly line-up.

The club itself is surrounded in a smoky haze of folklore – apparently the sound is designed to be heard two metres from the middle of the stage. With links to Brainfeeder, Leaving Records and Alpha Pup Records among many others it’s an institution to all forward-thinking music… and from the outside it looks kinda shady. In Lincoln Heights, part of Low End’s charm is that it isn’t a swanky nightclub, it’s basically four walls, bass bins and some watery beer. Crowds don’t come for the venue; the $10 entry affords them incredible music and a vibe unlike anywhere else.

“When people think of LA it’s all about the beaches and Hollywood,” says a regular in the line-up. “No one thinks of underground music and that’s why Low End is so great, we’ve really had to earn being here.”  The crowd itself is a diverse mix of people; from 18-year-olds with black crosses on their hands to a guy I met who told me he was 37 (though I later saw him asleep on a couch downstairs) and all sorts of people – the hip-hop heads, the girls in heels, sneaker-fanciers, a particularly attractive gay couple that were tearing up the dance floor and general indiscriminate music admirers – as well as the resident DJs Gaslamp Killer and Daddy Kev holding down the smokers section.

First on the line-up is LA homeboy AshTreJenkins, who at 19 exploded on the scene. The son of an MC and who had apparently been holding out to go to Low End since he was 15, played a killer set of his instrumental hip-hop with a strong party vibe.

Next up was LA’s newest talented duo Virtual Boy whose first EP Symphony Number None EP sparked the interest of music lovers Internet-wide. Playing most of the tracks from that EP and their new self-titled album alongside haunting vocals through either a vocoder or having smoked a lot of cigarettes, they finished off a stunning set with an insane and glitchy re-work of SBTRKT’s anthem Wildfire (to which I heard someone yell ‘someone’s gotta be bootlegging this shit!’) despite playing against a tough line-up they effortlessly and easily stole the first part of the night.

Before the crowd swelled for the headliner, Tobacco, Gaslamp Killer took the stage for his hair-shaking punk-driven set whose highlight included melting a James Blake hook into some impossible old soul record without even a pause. On the 4th of July spirit he yelled to the audience: ‘you could have all been passed out around a barbecue and fireworks right now, but instead you’re here!’ which managed to sum up the state of the woozy crowd.

The psychedelia-inspired Tobacco, one half of Black Moth Super Rainbow, the only non-LA act on the line-up, is from Pittsburgh, though not much else is known about the musician whose most renown album Fucked Up Friends features vocals from Aesop Rock. The thrash drum sounds, 8-bit inspired and analogue synth sounds warped the crowd with a sinister and driving bass that at the same time somehow managed to be contagiously fun. Unsure how he pulled this off in the middle of a dancing, unrelenting crowd, I think Tobacco is one of the most unique electronic acts on the scene today. Which suits the incredible energy of Low End Theory, a place that musically anything does and can happen.

Virtual Boy