After a full trip around the sun following its magnificent 2018 debut, the second edition of Insomniac's two-day underground event, Secret Project, has left Los Angeles' extensive dance music community elated. A gorgeous gathering of minds, sounds and expressive personalities, it's safe to say that The City of Angels has found its new flagship electronic music festival.
Taking place on October 12 and 13, the two-stage event arranged for some of clubland's most venerable names to head up this rousing exhibition of electronic excellence. The event's main organizer is Factory 93, Insomniac's brand/answer to the swelling appetite for top tier house and techno in the US. Locking in a total of 26 acts whose names hold significant sway in clubland, the selectors successfully transformed the spacious and industrial Chinatown lot into a hedonistic biome of underground satisfaction.
Day one kicks things off with up-and-coming Canadian star, Peach. Despite being early in the day, her growing stature as an unmissable selector is the perfect motivation for early arrival. Both she and local linchpin Cooper Saver's sunny set-time vibes soon give way to more happy-go-lucky sounds from Jayda G and Running Back's head honcho, Gerd Janson. The venue’s industrial backdrop is full of elation, with raw power lines that tower overhead and Amtrak trains rolling by every hour. They blow their whistles at the busy expanse of concrete that grows in volume, zinging with each track and transition.
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As the sun begins its descent, an unmistakable mishmash of over 12,000 electronically inspired characters reaches its pinnacle on the grounds. Sparkling rave bunnies, leather-clad lunatics, bare bodies and techno fashionistas alike quickly begin to navigate the venue with confidence in their step and commitment in their eyes. We spot a man donning a DEVO helmet, whipping it up next to a stoic individual dressed as Neo from The Matrix with full Keanu-like presence. With a line-up that boasts such an all-embracing musical footprint, colorful casts such as this have quickly become the norm at major electronic events in LA. Secret Project is no different. It's a place to let your freak flag fly.
Ben UFO's maddening nighttime performance brings a critical revelation to light - Los Angeles craves UK bassline. Track after track, his wonky and high-octane selections has the floor exchanging looks of disbelief with one another as they groan and stir with delight. Ending with Pariah and Blawan's collaborative single 'Crush The Mushroom' - released under their modular guise Karren - the crowd roars with dizzying approval and has a hard time letting him leave the stage. DJ Tennis follows with a proper cooldown of dancefloor classics such as Charlie's 'Spacer Woman' and Duke's 'So In Love With You' before wrapping up day-one with a surprise b2b with Gerd Janson. Dixon, on the other hand, tucked the crowd into bed a bit to early during his headlining set at the Naud Street Stage. An uninspired performance to put it lightly.
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It's day two, and things kick into gear bigger and faster than the day previous thanks to the Scottish ball of fire that is Denis Sulta. Swaggering around the stage dressed in red from head to toe, he brings big daytime energy to the forefront before ending his set with the Kaskade and deadmau5 classic 'I Remember'.
Almost every performance that follows throws enthralling curveballs at the crowd that they eye and analyze with a keen fascination. With many in attendance expecting a presentation of his crumbly lo-fi 4/4 beats, Mall Grab blasts into a ravey and headbanging set with tracks like Carbine's 'House Your Booty' and Skin on Skin's 'Got Me Fucked Up'. All the while, Leon Vynehall challenges the party with some blipped-out house and Honey Dijon veers away from her soulful side to juice up the BPM and hit us where it hurts. The two live sets of the night - Modeselektor and KiNK b2b Âme - decimate the separate stages in their distinctly devilish and heavenly fashions and Peggy Gou wraps up her blissed-out dancefloor incursion with Skee Mask's 'Dial 274'.
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With a full moon now hanging high in the sky, the final night's headliners spark strategic rifts and debate amongst Secret Project's revelers. Where do we spend the last two hours of the festival: Four Tet or Helena Hauff b2b Nina Kraviz? The latter is, obviously, the more high-octane choice. Their all-vinyl set that sees Nina's knack for acid and Helena's potent electro combine into a ferocious, gabber-like bliss. Four Tet, on the other hand, astounded the crowd with the most talked about song of the weekend - a phenomenal remix of Ne-Yo's 2006 classic, 'So Sick'. Perhaps we have a new 'Only Human'-esque remix on our hands? Only time will tell. Ending the set with his remix of Bicep's 'Opal' and his tune 'Teenage Birdsong' is universally felt as a delightful and classy way to end the festivities. The danced out bodies pour out of the festival ground and deliriously pack it in.
Secret Project has shown the city of Los Angeles that its current underground music renaissance has not gone unnoticed. After a second prosperous year, it is safe to say that the city's new flagship electronic music festival will be around for many years to come.
Check out our 25 favorite tracks from the festival as well as photos from Secret Project 2019 below.
[Photo credit: Juliana Bernstein, Ivan Meneses, Banfy]
Cameron is a Freelance Writer for Mixmag based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter
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