Many years ago, in Manhattan, the Soul Kitchen at the Supper Club was one of the most exclusive and coveted events to attend. It was home to electric live jazz and the most in demand DJ’s in New York at the time. It promised nothing short of an ecstatic night.
On the second and fourth Friday of each month, Los Angeles’ Chinatown is home to a similar exhilarating nightlife. People gather here to experience artists, musicians and DJ’s from across the globe.
Located near Broadway in downtown L.A., just off the 110 freeway at 6th and 9th Streets, you will encounter the official entrance to Chinatown. The American-Shanghai styled metal arch decorated in red and silver extend high above the street, with two brilliant gold snake statues slithering toward each other in attack formation. This glorious structure cannot be missed.
Begin your evening early by heading down Hill Street and exploring Chung King Court, the appropriately titled Chung King Road, a row of art galleries with a variety of cutting edge work which interestingly contrasts with the rich, classic Chinese architecture. Visit my two favorites, the Mary Goldman Gallery and the China Art Objects Galleries, which showcase a variety of exhibitions.
Later, in the evening the court shines beautifully with lit lanterns which lead you back to Hill Street where you will find an array of dinner options. You’ll often find a line at the popular ‘Full House’, which is in no way related to the 80’s TV show and is open from 11 a.m. to 2:45 a.m. They don’t boast fascinating décor, but the food will make you forget there is anywhere else to eat. My menu favorite is the dumplings, and you’ll understand why once you taste them.
Across from Hill Street, the sign ‘China Town’ hangs from the entrance gate- a majestic red and gold Jing’an Temple style archway leading into the center court. Here you will find majestic door frames, peaceful fountains, and architecture reminiscent of China’s Three Kings era. For a moment you may feel as though you are in ancient Shanghai.
Once in the center, head to the Grand Star Jazz Club, where twice a month you can experience ‘Soul Sessions’, a popular underground nightclub. Produced by Jay and Chad, the expressed goal of ‘Soul Sessions’ is to unite the elements of a variety of artistic forms, such as; music, art, and spoken word poetry. The show brings in a diverse crowd and has created a loyal following of regulars.
It might be crowded and you may have to wait in a line, but once inside you will find live Jazz-Funk-Soul-Hip Hop music belting out positive, poetic, true to life sounds in the best Mos Def style.
Downstairs the band jams upbeat funky rhythms as everyone smiles at each other and gyrates to the music in an ecstatic swirl and a joyful intermingling.
Head to the second floor where you find the pulsating rhythms of residents The reMitch , DJ Neight and guest DJ’s Infamous Fox Knox 5, DJ Jon H, and DJ Quantic (who has been specially flown in from England for ‘Soul Sessions’) spin their latest beats. They create an environment that is electric and make the dance floor irresistible.
‘Soul Sessions’ is referred to as “good music, good people, good vibes” by promoter Chad and his wife Michelle, and it certainly lives up to its moniker, delivering a night of social, cultural and artistic dynamism.
On either side of the room are huge screens streaming a variety of images including art pieces and scenes from past ‘Soul Sessions’. To the far left of the room, past the art screen, several TV’s alternate various art pieces and images. The pictures dance and flow across the screens in time to the urban soul sound of Lucy Pearl.
If you step out to get some air you will find artists creating work in a sectioned off alley behind the Grand Star Jazz Club. It is captivating and exhilarating to see the work being produced. One art piece, created on cardboard, gives the effect of looking at the city through a telescope. Another piece made of spray paint, blown glass, and acrylic paint makes the colors and texture seem so alive you want to touch them.
Off to the left, Michelle, owner of The Flock Shop, a store specializing in artistic clothing and accessories, organizes local artists and independent merchants to sell T-shirts and small accessories designed with eclectic art.
A cultural, artistic and musical experience- Chinatown just might be the best kept nightlife secret in the city.
What & Where:
Mary Goldman Gallery (932 Chung King Road; 213-617-8217)
China Art Objects Galleries (933 Chung King Road; 213-613-0384)
Full House (963 N Hill St; 213- 617-8382)
Grand Star (943. N. Broadway; 213-626-2285)
Flock Shop (943 N Broadway, suite 103, 213-229-9090)
Directions: Take the 101 freeway south to the 110 south and exit 6th or 9th streets.
Take a left onto Broadway and go north.