When you want to do some serious business on the dance floor, it's best to eschew behemoth, glam-tastic Hollywood clubs in favor of smaller, no-frills spots and classic live music venues where the grooves are infectuous and busting a move is the main event. Our picks for the best dance clubs Los Angeles has to offer will play dance party hits and feed your need for everything from hip hop and salsa to reggae and soul.
Dance clubs, Los Angeles style
Part Time Punks does something few other local nights have ever accomplished: They’ve taken what is, to most, a time-capsule micro genre and turned it a current major-cottage industry. "They" is actually just one man, Michael Stock, the DJ, promoter, flyer-maker as well as a radio show host for a KXLU show of the same name. Through the expertise of Mr. Stock, the regular Sunday night event focuses on DIY and indie music present and past and has played host to a ridiculously prolific list of guest genre bands. Oh, and it’s been running since 2005, which is unheard of for almost anywhere. Funky Sole is almost as good: A raw soul party that will transport you straight to Funkytown every Saturday night. The DJs dig deep in their crates to bring you unique, obscure grooves from the late 1960s and early '70s (many so rare that your phone app won't even recognize them). But even if the tunes are vintage, the moves on the floor are up-to-the-minute. A critical mass of b-boys and b-girls show up to break on the funk beats, making the music seem as fresh as ever. The mood is buoyant, the dancers are gawk-worthy and the journey's sure to funk you up.
Before you even reach the top of the stairs at this gritty, bi-level dive bar, you can feel the bass booming in your belly. And every Wednesday, Low End Theory is a beat-head's dream, with a massive sound system spitting out a wide range of experimental hip hop and beat-driven electronic music (IDM, dubstep, glitch, etc.). The packed-to-the-gills crowd (it's 18 and up here, so the throng skews young... and male) doesn't so much dance as surrender to the vibration. Keep your eyes peeled for live performances—everyone from Erykah Badu to Odd Future has graced the unassuming stage.
Couture's two major dance nights, Outspoken and Clinic, are robably the most underground-leaning of all the house and techno parties in LA, with some of the best bookings in town. Of the two, Friday’s Outspoken is the heavier hitter, hosting the likes of Francois K, Joakim, Martyn, DJ Dan, Ivan Smagghe, Roy Davis Jr. and Pittsburgh Track Authority. Clinic is no slouch either, with bookings like Terry Francis, the Drifter, Edu Imbernon, Patrice Baumel, Adam Shelton and Correspondant’s Jennifer Cardini. Quite a resumé for both, if we’re honest.
Funkmosphere claims to be "LA’s longest-running party for 80's-inspired funk, boogie, electro and modern funk," and we won't argue with them. Especially when the team behind the night includes such respected high-priests of the funk such as Laroj, Billy Goods, Randy Watson, Matt Respect, Eddy Funkster as residents, as well its founding funkadelic father Dam-Funk. Be sure you bring your non-funky smelling dancin' shoes and maybe even check out some of Funkmosphere's many online DJ mixes to get yourself hyped.
Monday is probably the hardest night of the week to draw a crowd out to party, but don’t tell that to the team behind Mustache Mondays, the long-running Downtown LA gay-themed (but very-straight-friendly) party calling the Lash for the last three years. It's a fashion-forward jam sesh with hosts Grace Towers and Nacho and always-varied DJ sets from its residents and guests like Sporting Life, Lafawndah and Nightsweats, plus live sets from the likes of Maluca and local-boy-done-good Sam Sparro.
Downtown LA’s indoor/outdoor Mexi-megalopolis La Cita has been supporting weekly nights of all stripes for more years than Downtown has been re-christened "cool." Resident DJs Michael Stock and Boss Harmz have combined the aesthetics of their other parties—Part Time Punks and Dub Club, respectively, and also on this list—to start Punky Reggae, the only party on this list whose name pays tribute to both Bob Marley and The Slits’ Ari Up (RIP). It promises not only punk and reggae, but also mutant disco and post-punk, and even ska (!). Guest sets come from varied DJs, some of which include the likes of Roger Cretin and Alex Transistor and live performances from genre acts such as Jah Faith & the Royal Lineage, Extra Classic and San Francisco’s Andy Human & the Reptoids. La Cita also plays host to what must be the only rockabilly-themed happy hour in town on Thursdays. So come for the rockabilly, stay for the punk reggae (or the other way around, just show up).
One of the newest games in town, Framework just entered the game in 2015, but on a rather large scale. Thrown at yet another massive-yet-slightly-more-intimate nightclub, the party has already played host to big dawgs like Danny Tenaglia, Soul Clap, Marques Wyatt, Stacey Pullen, Seth Troxler, Kenny Glasgow and Felix da Housecat. Framework also throws private weekly events, warehouse parties as well as some epic one-off shows around town.
This Saturday night "no frills dance party" started in Seattle before expanding to Portland, NYC and LA, and even heading out on an 18-city North American tour in 2016. Dance Yrself Clean has an all-inclusive musical vibe playing the dance indie-pop hits of yesteryear as well as today. The party is a welcome throwback to late-'90s/mid-'00s parties like NYC’s Misshapes (or basically any party at this venue when it was still called Spaceland). The kind of party that lovingly lists the bands who play on its flyers and Facebook page. To give you an idea of what to listen for, expect international artists like Cut Copy, Grimes, St. Lucia, Blood Orange, Chromeo, Is Tropical and, obviously, LCD Soundsystem.
Every Wednesday night, the cavernous Echoplex sets sail to Jamaica when this roots reggae party kicks off. The biggest names out of Kingston have played Dub Club, from Sister Nancy and Eek-A-Mouse to Wailing Soul, but the club also welcomes locally-grown talent as well as acts from equally salt-of-the-earth genres like cumbia and Afrobeat. So expect to do more than just sway to the steel drum; most nights, there's bona fide ass shaking underway. You'll be elbow-to-elbow with cool kids and old timers, including a critical mass of dreadlocked rastas and the girls who love them, all feeling irie.
You’d think Los Angeles would be overrun with ridiculously good soul music nights, but alas, they are fewer and further between than one might like. That being said, Super Soul Monday is up there with the best of 'em. Having recently relocated to Hollywood’s Dirty Laundry Bar, resident DJs Adam 12, Prophet and Jedi create a lovely laid-back funk and soul vibe with assistance from JJ and The Spectacular doing not one but two live shows a night (10:30 & midnight), and guests including Black Thought of the Roots.
If you are indeed looking for the "mega-club experience," the historic building that houses the massive Avalon has got you covered for the weekend. The one-two punch of Control (Friday) and Avalon Presents (Saturday) is filled with ravers, rollers, bottle servers and more friggin’ lasers than you can shake a glowstick at. But they’ve played host to some of the biggest names in progressive house, big-room bass and EDM such as Major Lazer, Hot Chip, Erick Morillo, Skrillex, Waka Flocka Flame and Wolfgang Gartner. Ticket prices vary, but expect to spend significantly more than most other entries on this list.