Written By: Serena Romero
As if to reflect the mystery of LA’s underground, the sky was dark and shadowy as the inaugural Secret Project Festival got underway. Upon arriving to the festival you’re greeted by a rare but welcome site at LA events, lack of a line and a quick entry. By keeping the decorations minimal, attendees are immersed in the “underground” environment with graffiti covered walls amongst a maze of downtown warehouses. The Naud St. Stage was built with stacked shipping containers and the Spring St. Stage was outfitted with visible scaffolding to continue the industrial aesthetic. Unlike their parent company Insomniac’s usual dizzying display of lights and pyrotechnics, Factory 93 kept the visuals straightforward with LED’s and strobes. With many bookings outside of the mainstream, the crowd filled with dedicated fans of house and techno.
Arriving on Saturday we heard the boisterous and lively thumping of Roman Flugel’s unique blend of acid house and german electro at the Naud St. Stage. Tale of Us played a mesmerizing closing set at this stage as well. Next at the Spring St. Stage was the ensemble of one, Danilo Plessow, also known as Motor City Drum Ensemble. His eclectic mix of jazzy and soulful house, funk, and disco made for a perfect set to take us from day to night. The crowd was on their toes, with a deep knowledge of music and acute technical abilities, you never know what his next move will be. Closing out the Spring St. Stage on Saturday was a DJ set from Bonobo, who opened with the Best Dance Recording nominated hit "Bambro Koyo Ganda" off his Migration album. The crowd was inevitably pleased and agreed to take the ride which brought us from disco to house to classics like Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better with You.”
Sunday had a lineup that rivaled some of the biggest clubs in the world. Walking in toward the Naud St. Stage I knew who was playing, it’s Peggy Gou. I see shoes waving in the air before catching a glimpse of the booth. She has such an ease and swag about her you almost forget she’s throwing down one of the hardest sets of the weekend so far, with a section of acid house that had everyone jackin. Then the crowd began to really pack in for Stephen Bodzin who played a live set. No one can entrance a crowd quite like Mr. Bodzin, with his hypnotic and spacey yet hard hitting beats...you end up truly losing yourself in the journey.
Over at the Spring St. Stage, Berghain resident Marcell Dettmann brought Berlin techno to LA followed by a closing Back-2-Back set from Ame and Dixon who cemented LA’s love for their dark and minimal techno. Closing out the Naud St. Stage was electronic music royalty, oh yes oh yes oh yes, Mr. Carl Cox. With a career spanning 30 years and the entire world, it’s no surprise that Carl Cox’s set was planned and mixed perfectly to close out this event. The crowd was so excited to have him playing such an event, the positivity was palpable.
What set Secret Project festival apart wasn’t just it’s impeccably curated lineup or the elevated experience of VIP, it was the sense of community. From the strictly warehouse crowd, to the club crowd, to the we-just-wanna-have-fun crowd, everyone seemed to realize we were all the same on that dance floor. A strong sense of community amongst the promoters, attendees, and artists in the neighborhood can change the scenery of LA events. The first Secret Project Festival was a unique event that we can only hope will come around again soon.