Where to See the Best DJs in America

DJing is a funny thing. Advances in technology have made it so that anyone with a laptop and iTunes can play their favorite tracks at a party and call themselves a DJ. But for party purists all over the world, a true DJ someone who lives and dies by the beat, and who can control a dance floor of hundreds, sometimes thousands, with the flick of a switch. On any given night in clubs all over the country, these masters of the mix are getting the party started (and keeping it going) so you don’t have to. Here’s a list of where to catch the most scorching sets around.

NYC Pacha: Ibiza by way of Hell’s Kitchen. This is NYC’s best go at a Euro megaclub mock-up, and likewise, it’s where the world’s biggest DJs come to spin. Unless you’re a hardcore techno-head, you’ve probably never heard of names like Mark Knight, Benny Benassi, and Jonathan Peters. But you can bet the sea of sweaty, ecstatic revelers, well, have. Santos’ Party House: DJs flock to sound systems like flies do to, well, you get the picture. Boasting one of the best speaker sets in town, mixers from all genres of music flock to this bi-level downtown boite. The best place in Manhattan to discover noise from the underground. Cielo: World-class DJ Nicolas Matar opened Cielo after a nine year residency in Ibiza during the golden era of House, so you know that this ultra-futuristic club attracts only the best talent behind the decks. Legends like Danny Tenaglia, Richie Hawtin and Frankie Knuckles are frequent guests.

MIAMI Space: In a town notorious for its after-hours clubs, this is the crown jewel. Some of the biggest DJs in the world have residencies here, and there’s a never-ending lineup of superstar guests delivering high octane well after the sun rises. World’s away from the SoBe bling parade, this is the mecca for dance and trance freaks. LIV: Tiesto—the world’s best known DJ—has gone on record saying this Vegas-style megaclub at the Fontainebleau is his favorite in the world. His reasons: “high ceilings, good sound system, beautiful people.” Works for us. Mynt Ultra Lounge: Not quite a lounge, not when international DJs like Cedric Gervais celebrate their birthdays here with pulverizing sets. Uber exclusivity on the South Beach strip. Celebs constantly linger around the elevated, see-and-be-seen DJ bootbh.

LOS ANGELES Avalon: The readers of URB.com, a hub for lovers of all things electronica, named this club their venue of the year for 2009 in a year end readers poll. The legendary building, once known as The Palace, has been operational for over 80 years. Dance is with the ghosts of Dean Martin and Groucho Marx at Avaland, the weekly Saturday parties that draw top talent in the DJ world. V Lounge: Most danceclubs in LA are caught up in the Hollywood nightlife machine, but not V Lounge. Here, it’s all about the music. Fridays with DJs Stardom and Nightlife remain popular, and on Saturdays, DJ Ammo, who has spun at L.A.’s biggest and best clubs, mans the decks. Playhouse: Parties rage almost every night of the week at multi-level club. Occasional live music, but you can expect DJs most nights. Their Friday night jam Dirty Sexy House speaks for itself. Two DJs spinning simultaneously, one up top, another bellow. New York mainstay Jesse Marco has been known to show up from time to time to blow the roof of, just because he can.

Industry Insiders: DJ Ivy, Blonde Ambition

DJ Ivy, aka Homewrecker, makes noise at LA hotspots Les Deux, One Sunset, Kress, Social Hollywood, S Bar, Viper Room, Key Club, Cinespace, V-Lounge, and The Garter. A 7 Jeans designer by day and Hollywood selector by night, she’s known for her rocking sets and smashing blonde locks. Here the hottie goes off on hustling 24 hours a day, shots with Dr. Dre, her homies, and fashion in LA.

Where do you hang out? I go to a lot of different spots for different reasons, but you can almost always find me at Les Deux at least twice a week. Fortunately, I’ve become close to the owners, staff, and promoters. We’re like one big, happy Hollywood family. I also love going to LAX, especially on Sunday nights for Banana Split. You can usually spot me singing along with the silly hipster kids on the dance floor or posted up in the DJ booth with the homies. I’ll always find at least one person I know there so I can roll solo and don’t have to worry about being bored. The music is hip-hop mixed with electro and dance — a guaranteed good time. Another favorite is Villa, generally to see my local favorite, DJ Edski. It’s an intimate setting, fairly small, but there’s something about the atmosphere that always makes me enjoy myself. They’re very selective at the door, so it allows some celebs to remain low-key. Oh, and the drinks are strong too.

What do you do? I’m a DJ by night, clothing designer by day. Some would call me a “hustler,” as it’s referred to on the streets. I am truly a self-made, hard-working woman, driven by success and motivated to be the best. I work as a designer Monday through Friday, 9-6, while DJing for Lisa D’Amato during the week, Les Deux Fridays, and various local Hollywood clubs Saturday nights. It gets a little hectic, but I love constantly being busy and having a schedule to follow. Without chaos, my life would be dull.

What do you like about nightlife in LA? I love how you never know who or what you are going to see-slash-do. It’s unpredictable — even if you originally had a game plan. One minute you could be having a casual drink at a neighborhood bar on Sunset, and the next you could be pounding champagne shots with Dr. Dre.

Anything you can’t stand about nightlife in LA? My number one pet peeve is waiting in lines to get into a club. I won’t do it. I might wait about five minutes maximum to talk to someone or approach the guest list, but after that, forget it. I’d rather go someplace I know I can get in with no problem.

Who’s in your crew? My favorite and most influential mentor is DJ Edski, a native to Los Angeles and a local favorite in the Hollywood night scene. He put me on the map in LA and gave me my first weekly residency. Since I came from the east coast scene originally, Edski also helped teach me to cater to bougie Hollywood crowds. Other industry associates include: DJ MisterE, DJ Bizzy, DJ Ammo, Mr. Best, DJ Higher, Steve 1der, The Rad Girls, The Dolce Group, Lisa D’Amato and her super smokin’ hot bikini dancers, and of course all my hot homegirls who come to most of my events.

What’s with all those pesky Hollywood celebrities? The good thing about pesky celebrities is they aren’t that pesky at all. Aside from all their quirky habits and outlandish requests, they actually bring a positive energy to most parties and events. They usually enter with an entourage, which in turn means more people for the club, and if they like you, they’ll most likely request for you to be playing future events, which equals more money and credibility. A few months ago, I was DJing at Beso and one of the owners from Les Deux came in to see me and brought Too Short with him. He was hyping me up on the ride over, so when we were officially introduced, Too Short had a lot of nice things to say. That was a very rewarding moment, so as soon as he stepped back, I started playing him a set of all his most popular hits and the crowd went crazy. The set lasted for about 45 minutes, and he loved it.

What’s something that people don’t know about you? I have a love for female pop stars. Along with my passion for music, I have a love for beautiful art. As a result, the walls of my Hollywood home are plastered with giant framed posters of inspiring female icons such as Britney, Christina, Jessica, and Gwen. Mostly Britney though.

What are three records you couldn’t live life without? Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt; Lil’ Wayne, Tha Carter II; and 2 Live Crew, As Nasty as They Wanna Be.

What’s up with LA fashion? Even though trends are consistent everywhere in the US, New York fashion is a lot different from LA. New York fashion is nothing like Sex and the City, even though television makes it seem that way. Very few women put on a Prada dress and a pair of Manolo pumps to go grocery shopping. It’s hard to dress up and walk the streets of New York because a pair of heels are destroyed in one day, whereas in LA you can hop in your car and strut down Rodeo ‘til the sun goes down. New York girls are easygoing, natural looking, and less fussy, while LA girls tend to be more artificial and high maintenance, even during the day. When I lived in New York, I had to dress based on weather and where I had to travel that day by subway, taxi, or walking. Here, I feel like I have more fun with fashion because I don’t have to consider those factors.

What are you doing tonight? I have my first night off in weeks, so I plan on going to some Grammy after-parties with friends. Maybe I’ll have another fun celebrity story to tell tomorrow.

Industry Insiders: Farouk Gandhi, Rasta Rebel

Farouk Gandhi, owner of Santa Monica dance club V-Lounge and comrade to every Rastamon in Los Angeles, lets us know the real on the city’s best strip clubs, his favorite selectors, and the second coming of Tiger Woods.

Where does a man of your caliber hang out? My favorite place by far is Sam’s Hofbrau in Downtown. $2 Coors Light on Mondays and Tuesdays. You can’t go wrong. I also like to hit Carbon on Tuesdays and check out my boy Phers1 on the decks. Jamaican Gold on Sundays. Happy hour at On the Waterfront in Venice for Erdingers in the sun. Other than that I’m usually at my club.

What do you do? I wear a few different hats, but mainly, I run a nightclub and throw great parties. I started going to big festivals when I was 13, from Lollapalooza to the Smoking Groove Tours in the early 90s. From then on, I was always interested in events, concerts, and clubs. At UCLA, I was fortunate to start working on the UCLA JazzReggae Festival and eventually directed and produced the show for three years. Reggae artists, like most artists, are very eccentric. With most of them being Jamaican, I think they look at things very differently than artists from the US, making them a little tricky to deal with. I developed a surplus of patience through dealing with lots of people who look at things differently than you might.

The Westside doesn’t have a lot of good dance clubs. What is V-Lounge all about? At V-Lounge, we make sure everyone has a blast. From great music to personal attention, we really focus on everyone having a great time. Whether there are 100 people or 500 people, we try and keep the energy the same. We focus on the 25-to-35-year-old young professional who enjoys going out to have a good time, versus going out to say they were out just to impress others. We’ve been lucky to keep a pretty consistent crowd because we never tried to be that “exclusive” nightclub.

What makes a great party different from a good party? No one leaves a great party. You know a party is truly great when the majority of the crowd does not leave until they are forced out. There is an energy that everyone has and feels that defines when a party has been great.

What’s the best part of running a nightclub? I love watching people have a great time. Everyone works hard, has a lot stress, and needs to have a good time. We throw parties and get into it while we work. Let the suckas who stress keep the stress.

Who are your people? Do you pay attention to other nightlife players? I try and be cool with only cool people, not the phony LA implants out here trying to fake the funk and ruin the name of our great city. I try and check out what’s happening at other places, but mainly focus on what friends are doing in the business — other promoters, DJs, and people I’ve worked with and who have helped in my success. I always try and support.

Any secret spots in LA? LA’s got some great places if you search. The meditation center and Swami Temple on Sunset by PCH is a great place to get away. Cafe Brazil in Culver City has the best mango juice. Taco Chabelita on Western’s got a killer burrito. And if you’re in need of a stiff drink, Liquid Kitty is a great place to get your swerve on.

What about time off? I love to golf. I’m almost obsessed with it. I am Tiger Woods.

What are you doing tonight? Killing Patron and Jack shots, checking out how things are running at V-Lounge, and then hitting 4Play. In an ideal world, I’d be there every night. But it tends to hurt the pocket, so I usually got to take that out of the equation.