Da Dank Is Reviving Whittier's Live Music Scene One Wild Show at a Time

If you're plugged into Whittier's music scene then you know there's a humble warehouse in West Whittier called Da Dank that throws some of the craziest shows in town.

An ordinary evening at this DIY space typically includes dancing, moshing, skanking, and plenty of head bobbing and foot tapping—if the epic dance sequence from Peanuts was real and set in 2016, it'd likely be held here.

Since opening its doors to the public this year Da Dank has garnered a steady following of young music junkies thanks to its well-curated shows and social media buzz. ViceVersa, the Whittier-based band that operates the venue, personally welcome a plethora of talented musicians from surrounding cities every weekend. “We realized that we were sitting on this untapped vortex that was right in the middle of OC and Downtown LA,” says Zeke Zeldon, lead singer and guitarist of ViceVersa. “The longer we played gigs, the more we found awesome bands that were right here in our hood—we knew the scene needed a spot like this.”

Ever since Penny Lane Records and Fenix 5-4 folded years ago, the city has lacked a pulsating live music scene beyond the well-behaved lounge acts that play the restaurant and bar circuit in Uptown Whittier. A city that was once sprawling with hardcore gigs at local Christian churches, backyard rockabilly shows and jam-packed hip-hop beat showcases has been musically dormant lately. Thankfully, Da Dank now offers Whittier's young music-lovers a welcoming venue to build a scene of their own.

Located in a low-key industrial plaza off of Washington Boulevard, Da Dank hosts an artist's paradise. Upon passing through a metal door, you step into a hallway with lime-green walls and a beautiful cherry-red velvet couch. A ticket window with either a member of ViceVersa or one of their homies charges folks around 5 bucks a pop for entry—which isn't bad considering you're likely to see at least five talented bands on any given night. And they're the type of acts that will have you asking everyone around you where to find more of their music—trust me.

After you get your hand stamped, an adjacent loft-like room with couches, a merch/art table, a projector, a sound board and a makeshift stage with a green spotlight greets you. Groups of teenagers and twenty-somethings from Whittier and neighboring towns such as La Habra, La Mirada and Brea—make up the crowd. The founders of Brea's Crystal Gallery, another popular DIY space that was shut down last year, frequent Da Dank as well to show their support.

Even bands from as far away as Ohio and Seattle have passed through Da Dank to play in the millennial enclave. Genres ranging from punk, reggae, ska, cumbia, jazz, soul, hip-hop and everything in between are well-received and frequently met with chants of “Otra!” (“another one” in Spanish)  from the multi-racial though mostly Latinx crowd.  Scenes are so surreal and filled with musical desmadre that many Dank-goers pull out their phones in an effort to capture all the chaos on their Snapchat and Instagram accounts. Just last weekend, the venue hosted its biggest night yet, which saw about 300 youthful souls dancing, moshing and singing in unison.

While ViceVersa relish that Da Dank has become such a popular venue in Whittier, they also want to make sure they're providing patrons with a safe space, and not just in societal terms. In light of a fatal fire that occurred at a similar creative space in Oakland earlier this month, the members of ViceVersa say general safety is their top priority. “I feel bad for everyone that got hurt, but at the same time, you can do things to prevent things like that,” Zeldon says as he points to the venue's three neon emergency exit signs and a plaque displaying a city permit. “Ever since we opened this spot we've been all about safety being up to code and following the rules . . . As much as this is a DIY spot, we almost don't want that label because a lot of spots like that don't give a fuck about [safety].” 

ViceVersa plan to further legitimatize Da Dank in the coming weeks. “We've developed a good relationship,” Zeldon says of Whittier's city officials who, according to him, are fully aware of Da Dank's existence. If all goes well, ViceVersa hope Da Dank will generate money for the city while attracting non-locals in a similar way the town's food scene does.

For now, the current magic happening at Da Dank is as Zeldon describes, “an actual musician's sanctuary where kids can come and rock the fuck out, be safe and learn how to grow as artists. That's pretty much our main goal . . . to have something that everyone feels they belong to and can be themselves.”

To stay updated on upcoming shows at Da Dank follow ViceVersa on Facebook and Instagram.

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