Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

I Got “Taken” By Hot Since 82: An Untimely Concert Review

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Note: I wrote this review earlier this year for Insomniac. An edited version got published on the Insomniac website, but then it got taken down because it was posted up a few days late and was deemed “no longer timely.” Reposting my original here for posterity.

By Peter Holslin

If you ask me, dance music and hostage taking don’t mix. Think about it: Moving your body is a liberating experience. Being turned onto new music opens up pathways in the mind. That same sense of physical and mental freedom might not so easily take hold if you’ve been blindfolded and taken away to an unknown environment by a group of strangers in jumpsuits and ski masks. But that’s still how they did things at TAKEN, a party put on by the British DJ/producer Hot Since 82 that went down in L.A. on Saturday night.

The concept behind TAKEN is a simple one: Gather up a bunch of clubgoers, put blindfolds on them, and bring them to an undisclosed location where they can spend the night getting trashed at an open bar while dancing to house music. It’s a gimmick that’s proven successful for Hot Since 82 in the past (previous TAKEN parties have happened in London and at the Snowbombing festival in Austria), but it’s one with a very strong creep factor. The party planners advertised the event with a promo video designed to look like a trailer for a low-budget psychological thriller, replete with a dramatic soundtrack, images of guys wearing gas masks, and a message rolling across the screen that promises: “YOU WILL BE RELEASED.” Oh, OK, you mean we won’t all be murdered at the end of the night? Reassuring!

Saturday’s party began at 7 p.m., when I arrived at what the publicist explained to me was a special “extraction point.” The address was a side street in Hollywood, right next to the Sound Nightclub, and as I walked up, a long line of kidnappees-to-be snaked down the sidewalk. Several big yellow school buses were parked on the street, their windows blacked out with plastic tarp. As I filed into one of the school buses with the publicist—a friendly fellow named Chris—and dozens of others, masked event staff handed each of us Fifty Shades of Grey-style eye masks, which we all promptly strapped to our faces to blind ourselves once the bus rumbled into gear.

In a real kidnapping situation, this would be the part where you freak the fuck out. The ride could last hours. The mystery and anticipation would be unbearable. Where are they taking me? What tortures await? I am not ashamed to admit that I’d likely piss my pants in such a situation. Thankfully, in our case, the big yellow school bus didn’t go far. The ride was only about 15 minutes, and as soon as the bus came to a stop I cheated and glanced at Google Maps, which revealed that we were at Mack Sennett Studios, a cavernous stage rental space in the Los Feliz neighborhood.

Our masked guards escorted us off the bus and immediately we were hustled through a door into one of the expansive stage rooms. Inside we were greeted by a woman in a surgeon’s mask and lab coat. “Hey guys, take your medicine!” she announced, handing out small, clear plastic cups filled with shots of liquor. I accepted a shot, tossed it into the trash (I don’t drink), and took a look around. The high ceilings were draped with netting, and above us circled a disco ball shaped like a great white shark. Off to the side there was an open bar outfitted with cans of Red Bull and bottles of Belvedere vodka. Over at the other end of the room, colored strobe lights flickered while a DJ in a mask pumped out medium-intensity house music.

For the next 45 minutes or so I entertained myself by drinking Sprite and bopping to the boots-and-pants beat. When I asked Chris who the opening DJ was, he shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said between sips of a vodka Red Bull. Evidently it didn’t really matter because at around 9 p.m., Hot Since 82 was already beginning his headlining set. He appeared at the DJ booth in a black vest and white shirt. He’s a slender and somewhat flashy guy, his hair cut short on the sides and long on top, and he was flanked by two masked “guards.” The crowd let out a cheer as he stepped up the intensity of the music by simply cranking up the volume knob on the mixer. Then, out of nowhere, two pressurized jets positioned on the speakers blasted the audience with some kind of icy cold smoke-like vapor: WHOOOOOOOOSH!

In the 1980s and ’90s glory days of rave music, DJs were known to stretch out into extended sets, taking audiences on hours-long journeys with peaks and valleys and transitions through various electronic music subgenres. Hot Since 82, however, was content to simply play the same boots-and-pants beat at the same 120-something BPM for hours on end. Of course, he mixed things up a bit with syncopated drum accents, satisfying buildups and bass-heavy synth riffs. And the music got better later into the night as he dipped into highlights like Steve Lawler’s late-’80s throwback “House Record” and Maceo Plex’s super-sleek “Under the Sheets.” But as any true prisoner will attest, monotony can be maddening, and as the hours dragged on, I was ready to bang my head against a wall for a little musical variety.

It didn’t help much that there wasn’t much to explore in the club. There was only one room to dance in, and you couldn’t even go outside without having to wait in a massive line—a large masked guy was manning the door, making sure that only a small number of people at a time could go out and smoke or get fresh air. Incidentally, the lines to the bathroom were also extremely long. Well, actually, the line to the men’s bathroom was extremely long. There weren’t nearly as many ladies waiting to get into the women’s room, which seems to me like a pretty strong indication that this party was a total sausage fest. Hmm. I guess maybe women generally don’t find the idea of being “taken” by masked strangers fun.

To be fair, a solid 400 people showed up, and every person I talked to was having a great time. And the idea of being whisked away isn’t always a necessarily threatening one. For some, a kidnapping fantasy can offer a psychological freedom all its own. By relinquishing control, you’re freed to partake in taboo desires that would otherwise be considered shameful and wrong.

Unfortunately, this party-prison wasn’t so stimulating. The organizers might’ve been aiming for a thrilling experience. But my biggest fear that night was dying of boredom.


Written by Peter Holslin

December 29, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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