Longevity is hard to come by in the club world. Musical fads come and go, tastes change and demographics shift. Sometimes it seems the key to keeping things going is to actually avoid being part of any trend. That and of course, to have a deeply engrained passion for what it is you’re doing. At least that’s what DJs David Orlando aka Boss Harmony, and Tom Chasteen, of Dub Club, LA’s longstanding weekly eastside reggae night, seem to think.
“I don’t wanna use the word hipster because that’s overused,” explains Chasteen, who was turned on to reggae as a kid when he got into his dad’s Burning Spear and Toots and the Maytals records. “But if you can tap into that regular eastside working people and show them a good time, your club is gonna last. Whereas people that are maybe into different fads of music that are gonna come and go, they’re gonna be into it for a year and then they’re gonna move onto the next thing.”
“The motivating factor for everyone involved is, it’s a night run by fanatics of this music for fanatics of this music,” explains Orlando, who is also a primary force behind Punky Reggae Party, another hit club that takes place every Friday night at La Cita in Downtown LA.
Since getting its start at storied Silver Lake rock venue, Spaceland, Dub Club has been going off every Wednesday night on the eastside of LA for more than a decade now. Over the years the club continually moved up to progressively larger venues, before finally settling in at the cavernous Echoplex, beneath Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.
Dub Club was founded by Chasteen, DJ Roy Corderoy and DJ Dungeonmaster. Every week the three along with Boss Harmony pack the house, playing the very best in vintage reggae sounds from across the spectrum of genres.
“Roots, dub, dancehall, rock steady,” explains Orlando. “It goes across the board as far as Jamaican music. I even play the occasional ska tune.”
“There’s a big range,” adds Chasteen. “I’ll play like U-Roy and Sugar Minott; classic reggae up to modern stuff like Beenie Man.”
The crowd at Dub Club is eclectic and seems to consist of people who have turned out to shed their inhibitions and lose themselves on the dance floor. The place is generally packed by 11pm and by midnight the DJs, MCs and dance floor are in full effect and will remain so until the lights come on at 2am. While the crowd is mixed, the vibe at Dub Club remains friendly and the sound system at the Echoplex is among the best in Los Angeles. Outside on the smoking terrace, the sweetly pungent smell of ganja generally permeates the air.
“Dub Club’s like a big mix,” explains Chasteen. “Black, white, Asian, and Latino, like the city itself, and it really reflects that. I think it’s a microcosm of the eastside and I think that reflects reggae.”
In the tradition of classic 1970s Jamaican sound systems, Dub Club’s DJs are joined each week onstage by a regular cast of MCs and toasters; people like Jah Faith, Chico Don and Ras Benji, along with occasional heavyweight special guests such as Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley.
The DJs at Dub Club also maintain their connection to the classic Jamaican sound systems of old by strictly adhering to a vinyl records only policy, and even sticking to original pressings whenever possible. They also dip deeply into the bag of tricks pioneered by legendary Jamaican dub DJs like King Tubby; drenching their musical selections in reverb and echo, while dropping in occasional samples. Another of Dub Club’s trademarks is the classic Shaw Brothers era Kung Fu films that flicker onscreen as the DJs and MCs do their thing onstage.
“There’s three things that have been a constant at Dub Club,” explains Orlando. “Kung Fu films, external effects units, meaning dubbing the music, and also the MCs. You’ll find MCs at every club but there’s always a special vibe that happens onstage with Dub Club.”
Dub Club takes place every Wednesday night at the Echoplex, is free before 10pm and costs $5.00 after. The club also occasionally books live reggae bands and may charge a steeper cover, depending on the act.