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A boisterous birthday party involving many Samoans is going down in the Continental Room on a recent rainy Thursday night, the time that's been dominated for the past year by Bizarre Love Triangle Soundsystem at this storied institution in Fullerton's SoCo district. The celebration's an annoying distraction, but the BLT DJs—Beef, Dijon and AM180—power through it with their usual panache. Eventually, the party disperses, a tribute to Beef's selections and, later, Satisfaction's smart, punchy rock, which are geared to attract the discerning and repel the obtuse.
Since February 2007, there has been much celebrating of another kind of happening on Thursdays, thanks to BLT's judicious and hedonistic track selections. The night has become an oasis of epicurean sonic delights amid a desert of what Beef calls "bro-bar bands."
The BLT crew—which also includes satellite members Thomas Van Do and Khoa Pham—and Continental talent buyer Bobby Soul (a.k.a. Robert McLachlan, a skilled DJ who hosts the venue's Tuesday-night shindig, Behind the Red Curtain) bonded in Las Vegas in 2006 at one of those clothing trade shows. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but suffice it to say the night of debauchery, rock-hurling cab drivers, "Yah Mo Be There" references, and tons of lost money and brain cells brought the crew together and led to the concept of Bizarre Love Triangle (an homage to the New Order song). "We were derelicts that night, barbarians," recalls Dijon (a.k.a. Brandon Crawford).
"BLT is definitely our best night, our hippest night," Soul opines. "These guys have really keen ears for music, and their records run deep."
Beef (a.k.a. Mark Menconi) played in rock bands throughout the '90s and got his start deejaying at LA's now-defunct Lava Lounge, where he met Dijon. "We wanted to do something with all of our friends," he says, "and bring in other people and make it a house-party atmosphere, where you could hear a wide range of music from the beginning to the end of the night."
AM180 (a.k.a. Darren Crandell, who co-hosted Definitely Maybe for five years at Memphis Café) summarizes BLT's ethos as "Variety, but with integrity. You can hear anything from Creation Records all the way up to new disco edits to Italo disco, and at the end of the night, you can hear the hits.
"The idea is, we have an opener to build it up," he continues. "The whole night is supposed to be a climax to the dance floor. We want to have a dance night, a fun party night where all of our friends would come and have a good time."
"We wanted a place we would go to," Beef emphasizes. "A night that could start with some crazy psych or Brit-pop, and then, as the night progressed, it would move through other styles."
"But with cohesiveness to it, so it made sense, so everything flowed together to build the dance floor," AM180 adds.
"It's like all your inspirations—you want to play them all in one night," Dijon says.
"We've got a love vibe," Beef asserts. "We take a lot of our inspiration from old DJ venues like the Loft or the Paradise Garage. We're students of music. Those scenes were special places."
While the BLTers have diverse tastes, each has his loosely defined niche.
"The idea was, I open," says AM180, "playing Definitely Maybe-type '80s/'90s shoegaze stuff. Beef gets the crowd warmed up by playing his deep records, kind of get everyone motivated, and then Dijon comes on . . ."
"And I mix obscurities with the hits," Dijon says.
"Brandon is definitely a party-rocker, and he takes the night to its climax," Soul states. But they all know how to rock a dance floor.
"When the Continental Room first started, it wasn't on a DJ format at all," Soul continues. "So when I started here, I told my boss we needed to buy some turntables and start having some dance nights and DJs. But we all love live music, too, so that's why we plug the live music. There aren't many places in Orange County that showcase both at the same time."
"What I like about [the Continental Room] is that we get to showcase really different bands, like Brother Reade and Papillon," AM180 says. "Brother Reade's a hip-hop group from North Carolina [now based in LA] and Papillon's a French-sounding pop band. But they work on a dance night. It introduces bands and music to people who typically wouldn't hear that kind of music. That's the idea of it all."
At a recent BLT, Beef ranged from MGMT's "Time to Pretend" to Gary Numan's "Me I Disconnect From You" to LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" to Classic IV's "Spooky" to the Three O'Clock's "Jet Fighter" to Ian Dury & the Blockheads' "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll." Dijon started his set with the Associates' "Party Fears 2" and finished with a new edit of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer." If you like unpredictable segues with killer cuts, then these jocks will satisfy all night.
To its catalysts, BLT has bloomed into a dream enterprise. "It felt right from the beginning," Beef observes. "Everybody was super-receptive. [T]wo days after New Year's, we were expecting it to be a slow night, but it was packed. Everybody was having a good time. We all kind of nudged one another, like, proud, you know? We built this consistent following that comes every week. This is the place in north Orange County to come on Thursday nights. There's no other place in Fullerton doing what we're doing."