Showing up on the dark dance floor of Fight Club guarantees one thing—you're going to get hit. Luckily, at Fight Club LBC at Que Sera, they're the kind of hits that typically land on the downbeat as the club's house band goes off on another thumping jam that leaves you feeling sweaty, sore, and satisfied. Since September 2014, an impromptu gathering of seasoned Long Beach musicians has evolved into a monthly event that—unlike Brad Pitt's fictional slugfest—has plenty of locals talking about it. But even though it's not an actual brawl, it's not really the kind of place you can stand around and be a spectator.
"My vision when we first started doing this was to have this be something reminiscent of what New York was in the '80s," says bass player and vocalist Kelsey Gonzalez. "Everybody on the dancefloor was dancing and the music was good. You can't get that in LA as much because people are scared to dance. But people aren't scared to dance in Long Beach."
Together with percussionist and lead vocalist Nick Pimentel (aka Nonchalant Savant) and DJ Terrence Marquis (aka Terrence Anderson), Gonzalez started the night as a way for some of his friends and fellow touring sidemen to come together on one of their off nights to contribute to a well-curated dance party that bounces between funk, soul, reggae and hip-hop.
The night generally starts out with a free jam session. "We make it up on the spot but no one seems to know because it's pretty seamless," Gonzalez says. After the first half hour, the band falls into structured songs which they've put together as a more organized outfit called Via Leaves, followed by a DJ set from Terrence Marquise.
As a touring musical director for the likes of Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Miguel, Jhené Aiko and Nas (who he recently toured with in London), Gonzales says that Fight Club is a great outlet to work with Pimental. Like Gonzalez, the Inglewood-based percussionist also stays busy in the music world doing production work with Miguel (who happens to be his older brother), and other venerated LA acts like alternative R&B twosome J*Davey.
In addition to the founders, Fight Club's roster is full of local talent, including Jasmine Canales on vocals, Roger "Joose" Benford on drums, Colin Devane on keys and bass and Jason Keam, who designs all the artwork for the fliers. And then of course there's the committed tribe of faithful late night revelers who come to fill up the dance floor and shake their asses.
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It's also become a place where well known artists (including Miguel and J*Davey) have come through to sit in on stage, man the DJ booth or blend in and dance with the crowd. It might seem weird to find those kind of harmonious vibes at a place called Fight Club. But for the regulars who come, the event is actually more of a Friday night battle against boredom than anything else.
"We're not trying to play too much off the Fight Club thing because we don't wanna get too corny," Gonzalez says. "But the name just sounds like something you either want to know about or go to."
Fight Club is the First Friday of every month at Que Sera (next one is this Friday, Jan. 2). 1923 E. 7th St. Long Beach. 9 p.m. $5. 21+. For more info, click here.