I think I stumbled onto something big. Except I’m two years late. And it’s so esoteric there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it. It starts off with a flyer. Once you’re committed, you get an e-mail with a street address. Once at the address, a shuttle picks you up and takes you to a warehouse space in downtown LA. For the rest of the night, you’re exposed to a wild event full of freaks, hippies, goths, and everything in between dancing, socializing, and engaging in a number of cabaret/dance/aerial performances. There’s a lot of make-up and costumes, wigs and props. It’s a twisted experience with a nod to the Victorian era and Burning Man. It’s Marie Antoinette gone wrong, Cirque Du Soleil on acid, but also the best thing that ever happened to L.A. nightlife. As producer/perform Dayna Riesgo likes to call it: "It’s a fully immersive experience where vaudeville meets the future dressed as a Victorian Mad Max warrior." Enter: Lucent Dossier.
Lucent Dossier has been around for almost ten years, producing stage performances of the cabaret variety, traveling around the world, and even entertaining the thousands at Burning Man every year with trippy stylings and, sure, a pinch of crazy. They put together their first large-scale Experience event as an underground party two years ago. It was so successful that they threw another one only two months later, which was busted by the cops. With a proper license, they unfurled their world once again this past weekend. Pre-sale tickets to the show sold out within hours with a maximum occupancy of 470, so they tacked on an extra night, which also sold out. So it only begged the question: what the hell happens at Lucent Dossier?
I arrived around 10 PM, when show time started, with my friend Cat. The warehouse space was as expected—industrial with concrete walls, exposed pipes and beams—but tricked out with laser stage lights and design touches that revisited the mid-1800s. A laundry line of lingerie hung along the beams, a twiggy iron chandelier piece racked high above the dance floor, glittery curtains draped, a loft-style second floor with surprises to come. It was unabashedly theatrical.
But it’s not the first thing you notice. Cat and I were completely underdressed for the occasion. It was a costume party, or felt like it. There was a lot of fish netting with bare asses, corsets and ballerina slippers, bejeweled and painted faces (thanks to the "Transformation Station" in the corner), top hats and furry vests, feather head dresses, velvet, silver, leather, stilettos, 1920s-style suits, teddies, capes magicians wear, and cloaks that vampires wear. The place was full of theater geeks, neo-ravers, goths, hippies, and what I would like to think was combination of all. Often, we didn’t know the difference between the patrons and the performers, who were also decked out in similar, outrageous period pieces that one would otherwise never wear to, like, The Abbey. Even still, there were "normal" dressers, like skinny-jeaned hipsters, a handful of Asians in J. Crew, a bunch of gays in flannel, sorority girls in high-heels, jocks on MDMA, and real estate brokers with business cards. And somehow it worked. It was a melting pot of scenesters who just let go and be themselves, whoever they might be.
The performances were top-notch with almost a dozen choreographed dance numbers, cabaret, aerialists on rings, and performance art—some comical, some intense. Every ten minutes or so, the dance floor would break apart for these vignettes; then the patrons would gather again when the short show was over. Music ranged from swing to dub step and, again, it just worked. It’s the type of act bars and lounges are trying to deliver in Los Angeles, like the speak-easy style of Pour Vous, a fancy lounge that offers aerialist shows a few times a night. Or even the new Emerson Theatre by SBH, with the cabaret theme weaved into the entire set-up. Lucent Dossier has managed to take all these elements and do it better. A lot better. There was something interesting here, something that felt future-forward and not relying on the past in a gimmicky sort or way. Lucent Dossier was an idea, a statement, a movement. At one point, the host said, "Ladies and gentlemen, everything is a fantasy." And if fantasy is the future, then they’re on the right track.
Cat and I left just after midnight, when more shuttle vans were arriving with late-night revelers dressed to the goth nines, and we knew we were going to miss the best part. Turns out they concocted a human sundae: a claw-foot tub full of people. "Lucent Dossier would never work in New York," she told me when we were dropped off at my car. And she’s right. Only in L.A., but the L.A. of the future, which is, thanks to Lucent Dossier, now.