There are certain specific challenges to throwing a night in a bar as opposed to a club. The equipment is often not well maintained, you’re generally your own soundperson, and many of the patrons regard you as little more than a human jukebox and may not so secretly wish they could replace you with their iPod. The fact is that in Los Angeles, lots of DJ nights are started in bars and very few last. However one that has is Ghettoblaster, which takes place on Thursday nights at Bar 107 in downtown.
Ghettoblaster was started three years ago by Anthony De La Rosa, a veteran LA DJ/promoter with more than a decade of experience in the local club scene.
“Ghettoblaster is mix of music that I grew up with,” explains De La Rosa. “Some I found on my own and some was introduced to me by parents, sister, cousins. The music we play reflects on how I grew up in Los Angeles.”
De La Rosa is joined each week by a rotating cast of residents that includes DJs Jpoe, Mark Issue and Teen Jesus. The Ghettoblaster DJs spin strictly vinyl. However throwing a night in a place like Bar 107 means having to be somewhat flexible in terms of the music they play. But for the most part De La Rosa and his crew center their mixes on a handful of genres; namely funk, soul, reggae, old school hip-hop, and boogie.
“We have genres that we focus on but we don’t allow ourselves to be confined,” says De La Rosa. “A good song is a good song. We drop songs that range the gambit from known to just under the surface and all the way to the obscure. It’s how it’s mixed that keeps the party going.”
Bar 107 is a former Latino trannie hangout that was one of the first downtown spots to be overtaken by hipsters. If you’ve ever been there, you are no doubt familiar with its kitschy décor, cheap drinks and crowds that have generally come to party. On any given Thursday night at Ghettoblaster you’ll find a mixed dance floor consisting of local downtowners, indie rockers, hip-hop types, USC students, and people who’ve driven into the city to get a head start on the weekend.
“There’s locals and people that come from different parts of Los Angeles all the way from Inglewood, Temple City and Whittier,” says De La Rosa. “It’s a good mix and I like that. We have people from where I grew up to where I live now.”
De La Rosa and his fellow DJs are kindred spirits when it comes to the records they spin at Ghettoblaster. However each provides their own unique slant which helps feed the energy that has set the night apart from many of the other disposable DJ nights that take place at bars downtown.
One genre in particular that seems to go down particularly well with the Bar 107 crowd is boogie; a kind of post-disco genre of dance music that was heavily influenced by funk.
“Boogie is like later era funk/soul, what they also call sweater funk,” explains De La Rosa. “There was a time when hip-hop first arose it was very urban, very gruff and kind of a counter to that within record labels they wanted to promote all other black artists in an adult contemporary fashion. So you’ll see a lot of covers where everyone looks like the Osmonds, with sweaters on and really nice big smiles. And what it is, it’s kind of like disco, but not quite as corny. It’s where funk and disco meet.”
Some of the key boogie artists you’re likely to hear at Ghettoblaster include Cameo, D. Train, the SOS Band, and Timex Social Club. Other artists De La Rosa name-checks as standard Ghettoblaster fair include Chaka Demus and Pliers, Sister Nancy, Erik B and Rakim, Debbie Deb and Biggie Smalls. The Ghettoblaster DJs are also inclined to drop in some occasional punk or new wave as well as more contemporary tracks from indie groups like the Rapture and Peter, Bjorn and John.
“I love that we have the freedom to spin a mix of soulful music, whether it’s rock, old school, hip hop, funk, reggae, boogie or Motown. Seeing a dance floor respond to a song they haven’t heard before, or dropping a classic that they haven’t heard in over a decade and then watching the nostalgia wash over the dance floor is what makes it fun for us.”
Ghettoblaster, which will be celebrating its three-year anniversary in May, takes place on Thursday nights at Bar 107. Admission is always free, the drinks are always cheap, and the crowd is generally up for it.