Un­der­ground mu­sic scru­ti­nized af­ter deadly fire

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY MICHAEL R. BLOOD

LOS AN­GE­LES | The party is over at Pur­ple 33.

About a week af­ter 36 peo­ple died in a fire at an un­der­ground mu­sic party in Oak­land, in­spec­tors act­ing on a com­plaint dis­cov­ered a makeshift night­club and un­per­mit­ted liv­ing quar­ters con­cealed in a ware­house near Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Au­thor­i­ties search­ing the drab, twos­tory build­ing found an il­le­gally con­structed dance floor, paired with a bar and DJ booth. Hap­haz­ard wiring snaked through walls, and an out­door stair­case capped by a bam­boo canopy was flagged as a fire threat.

The un­li­censed club was shut down, and op­er­a­tor Don­ald Cas­sel, who also lives there, was or­dered to clear out.

The clos­ing of the space dubbed Pur­ple 33 highlights grow­ing fric­tion between un­der­ground mu­sic venues that can be the only op­tion for ex­per­i­men­tal or emerg­ing per­form­ers and their fans, and au­thor­i­ties who see dis­as­ters-in-wait­ing.

Find­ing them is an­other mat­ter, when clan­des­tine events can be an­nounced with a fleet­ing Face­book post or text mes­sage and, in many cases, van­ish af­ter the mu­sic stops.

“You have a sit­u­a­tion where folks are com­ing to­gether and they are not ap­ply­ing for spe­cial per­mits. They’re just post­ing fliers 24 hours in ad­vance, and they’re bring­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple in for dif­fer­ent func­tions,” Oak­land Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said at a news con­fer­ence days af­ter the Dec. 2 fire dur­ing an elec­tronic mu­sic party at an il­le­gally con­verted ware­house nick­named “Ghost Ship.”

“We do not have the re­sources to track those types of func­tions,” she con­ceded.

Af­ter the blaze, of­fi­cials in Los An­ge­les, Bal­ti­more and other cities an­nounced plans to ag­gres­sively pur­sue il­le­gally con­verted ware­houses and other jerry-rigged liv­ing spa­ces. The threat of a crack­down is un­nerv­ing mu­si­cians and artists who live in them, and rou­tinely ac­cept risks that can come with per­form­ing on un­li­censed stages.

The Los An­ge­les case has sim­i­lar­i­ties to Oak­land, where a leased ware­house was con­verted into liv­ing space and an en­ter­tain­ment stage without proper per­mits or in­spec­tions.

“Lesser-known artists are happy to play nearly any­where that will host them, be­cause there are very few op­tions,” said Amanda Brown, co-owner of the Los An­ge­les record la­bel 100% Silk, which lost two of its artists in the Oak­land fire.

“These events are way more about com­mu­nity and shared ex­pe­ri­ence than they are mak­ing money,” she said in an email. “Most artists are very flex­i­ble and will­ing to deal with strange venues as long as there is a sound sys­tem and some en­thu­si­asm for the mu­sic.”

It’s dif­fi­cult to gen­er­al­ize about un­der­ground mu­sic and the places it’s played, which some­times hide in plain sight. Pur­ple 33 has a web page.

It’s like a juke­box, en­com­pass­ing ev­ery­thing from punk to metal to elec­tronic, a branch that it­self is di­vided into dozens of splin­ters. Sim­i­larly, the events can range widely: a cou­ple of dozen peo­ple in a gar­ment fac­tory, an af­ter-hours gath­er­ing in a cof­fee shop, 150 elec­tronic mu­sic fans in a clear­ing in a for­est.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

About a week af­ter 36 peo­ple died in a fire at an un­der­ground mu­sic party in Oak­land, in­spec­tors act­ing on a com­plaint dis­cov­ered a makeshift night­club and un­per­mit­ted liv­ing quar­ters con­cealed in a ware­house in Los An­ge­les.

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