Circuit Chat - Garrett Kimball

garrett1 Garrett Kimball

An Interview with Garrett Kimball
by John McHugh-Dennis

In a short year and a half Garrett Kimball has brought us Tiki bar, Tonic, Red Eye, Tribe, and Independance (my personal favorite), Morning Party, and Ski daze.

Garrett talks to us about the evolution (not death) of DRIVE, lessons learned, new plans for Tribe, and his philosophy on how to throw a good party!

John:

The first question that I wanted to ask you is a question that I think is on a lot of people's minds; it's about DRIVE. What happened?

Garrett:

The concept of a Saturday night club, as you know, is a great idea. Each city has a really big, huge venue that they use which they consider their Saturday night club, and The Factory is a wonderful, wonderful place that we have here in L.A. However, there always comes a time when a new Saturday night starts and evolves with a younger crowd, and a younger team of promoters and managers. When I created DRIVE, I felt that it was time for L.A. to finally have a place that was comparable to walking into the old Palladium in New York, or Salvation, or The Roxy, where it's a huge, spacious place where you can bring your friends from out of town, and they walk in the building and say "WOW!" It's the music, it's the lights, and it's the setting. That was my goal, but the one thing that I overlooked in the whole deal was that the only way that one of these venues is going to work on a Saturday night is if you do after-hours.

Unfortunately, there was not a Saturday night venue where we could do that, so people were forced to leave at 3 and then go to Red Eye or one of the other after-hours parties. It was a real tough marketing and advertising chore for us, and to be quite honest, most people didn't even want to go to a pre-club - they just wanted to get up late and go to one of the after-hours clubs. It was tough. People were faced with the question "Do we go to DRIVE, pay a cover, and then drive our car and go to The Red Eye, and pay a cover, or do we just sleep until Red Eye, or do we go to The Factory and stay all night?" There's just so many choices, and there's not a real trend going right now in L.A., so everything is little patches of people here and there, and it just doesn't pay the rent, and it makes marketing and advertising very challenging. But you know live and learn. Having said that, let me just make this one comment: DRIVE is not exactly over yet; we are re-vamping things and looking at other opportunities down the road.

John:

Do you think that going weekly had anything to do with DRIVE's problems?

Garrett:

It started bi-weekly at The Hollywood Athletic Club, which, as you know, is a huge space, so unless you have a thousand people in there, it is hard to make that money and keep it going. So we decided that since the current club-goers weren't embracing it every other week, we would go to a smaller venue and do it weekly. I think that the economy and people being a little scared to spend money and go out definitely had somewhat of an effect on the way that the clubbing business was going over the last few months. A lot of people are saying that "No, people are going out now more than ever!", and that's true, but they're going to the established clubs. Newer stuff is having a really tough time taking off; it's a combination of things.

John:

How do you think the monthly Factory event affects clubs like DRIVE (formerly) and Red Eye? Isn't it easier for venues like Factory to survive since they own the building?

Garrett:

No matter what club you're at, you've always got to make money. The Factory definitely has to make money. If they didn't, they certainly wouldn't be doing the party that they did with Jeffrey, or the party that they're doing on a monthly basis. Everybody is hurting here, but The Factory is established, and fortunately Sandy is able to get those after-hours licenses when she's doing special events. When we started DRIVE, we were trying to fill a need that many had expressed for another 10-3 venue, but I guess there just weren't enough people, and so now The Factory, as always, is doing great, and a wonderful job. But if you want to go out 10-3, that's the only place you can go.

John:

How did your collaboration with Rohan and Marco come about?

Garrett:

We worked with them on DRIVE. I had been looking at a bunch of different promoters around the country that had successful nightclubs in the past, like John Blair and Mark Berkeley, who had The Roxy in New York. I thought that through all of the drama that's gone on in the past year, and listening to a lot of the feedback of the circuit boys saying "Team up with another promoter and bring us a powerhouse!" we could pool our resources to create something. That was my intention with Rohan and Marco. The past year has been hell on both of us, competing with each other, so I felt that we should join forces and try to bring L.A. something new. But again, as I said earlier, the market just wasn't there. Rohan and Marco were great to work with - really great. We look forward to working with other promoters as well - like I said earlier, we have some new things in the works.

John:

Why is it so hard to get a venue that is able to do regular and after-hours?

Garrett:

It's something that I've been working on, and that will be happening very soon.

John:

What's your opinion on themed events? The 2 big after-hours events right now are Red Eye and Trade, and they have very different sounds and they're marketed very differently. Red Eye is marketed as the darker, more progressive club, and Trade is the more glitzy look with more of a house sound and a sprinkling of L.A. with themed parties.

Garrett:

I don't think of Red Eye and Trade as themed parties. I think of them more as concept parties where they take an idea and they introduce it to the boys, and the boys can either embrace it or leave it. Trade is doing great - it's wonderful, it's bright To me, a themed party is more like The White Party, where you dress in white, or the Black Party where you dress in leather. I think that they're awesome.

Tribe is another example of a concept party, where we wanted to bring all of the boys and different DJs from all corners of the United States together and introduce them to a new concept, which was Unity, and the tribe coming together to celebrate through music. Themed parties, however, in my opinion, will always be the biggest money-makers, and the most unique, and the most talked about parties.

John:

Also the most expensive to produce.

Garrett:

Exactly, because they're so unique, and they're so different. They cost more to produce, and as a result, the admission is higher. I love themed parties.

John:

Red Eye has been a great success. To what do you attribute that?

Garrett:

When we set out to do Red Eye, I wanted to make an after-hours club that was very simple for a very cheap price, and something that beat all the competition. Gay men are getting sick of paying these outrageous prices.

John:

Basically, you wanted no frills, but good music.

Garrett:

Exactly! It's kind of like Spike Friday nights... Spike Friday nights, let's face it - it's not The Palace. It's a dark, dingy, club. But on Friday nights the music was so amazing that you didn't focus on your surroundings, and that's what we wanted to do with Red Eye. We save the glitz and glamour for Tribe and Ski Daze. Red Eye is still doing very well, and it's still $15 in advance. It's every other week, and on December 15th we have DJ Escape - he's coming back. And Chaka is going to perform.

John:

So what is happening with Tribe this year?

Garrett:

Tribe is happening Sunday, January 19th, on Martin Luther King weekend. I don't want to give the DJs away just yet, but Tribe is definitely happening and Will and I are very excited. We've moved it to a brand new, amazing state of the art venue, and it will have the glam, the glitz, the energy, and as always, the HOTTEST MEN IN L.A. will be there! We'll be doing it 4 times a year, and we've got some really big surprises happening.

Note: Since this interview was done, Garrett had announced that the event would be held at Hollywood and Highland (the location he refers to in the interview), but later that venue fell through, and Tribe will now be held at The Palace.

John:

Will all 4 events be at this new venue?

Garrett:

Yes. No question. I'm totally excited. I can't give the location away just yet, but it's probably the only venue where the boys will say "This really does give The Mayan and The Palace a run for their money, and it's about time we had a place like this!"

John:

The nightclub scene isn't the only area where you produce events. Tonic (voted one of the top 10 Best Bars in Hollywood by L.A. Times), the lounge event at La Boheme on Wednesdays, was created by you. What is your motivation or common force that drives you to produce such very different events?

Garrett:

The real reason that I promote, and the thing that I like most about being a promoter is not about throwing a party, it's about marketing; selling, advertising, and Public Relations. To be a good promoter, you have to be good in all of those areas. I enjoy taking a place, and particularly restaurants that may not be doing so well, and creating something new that I can get people excited about; creating a buzz.

John:

Tell us about Ski Daze. It's coming up!

Garrett:

It is. This is the first year we're doing it in Utah - Olympic City. Will is thrilled, and he's awesome at doing these circuit events.

John:

You and Will Gorges have been together since your beginnings. I think most of us think of you when we think of Red Eye and Tonic, but we think of Will when it comes to Ski Daze and Independance. How does that relationship work?

Garrett:

A lot of people think that it is a kind of competition. Will Gorges and myself are completely different people, and that's the beautiful thing about it. I could never have asked for a better partner; I really can't stress this enough, because he's been so wonderful right from the get-go, before he knew if I could really pull anything off. He just really gave me a lot of trust. Will and I have no plans of doing anything without each other in the near future.

Will is more the mover and the shaker behind the scenes. He's brilliant with business deals and sponsorship, and getting the administrative and logistical stuff out of the way. He meets with the venue owners, and gets them excited about these parties. He's a great businessman, and a great salesman. He's more behind the scenes, and I'm more in front of the house.

John:

Where is most of your energy going now?

Garrett:

Definitely Tribe. But Holiday Season is coming up, the 4-day weekends are coming up, and that's always a focus. I'm also now focusing outside of Los Angeles. There are a few projects that I've been called about in New York, and I'm debating whether or not I want to take them on; I don't want to rush anything. I'm perfectly happy with Tonic and Red Eye, and it's been a great year. Even if I don't do anything other than that for the rest of the year, I'll be happy. I love doing it, and it's a steady job, and they're great parties.

I also want to start producing music. I want to start looking for different artists and help them to produce their albums.

John:

You've probably made some good contacts for that during the course of your work as a promoter.

Garrett:

I've made some great contacts, and having grown up in the whole club genre, I really have a great ear for good hooks and I'm excited about embarking on that as well.

John:

Well, I wish you luck, and we're really looking forward to Tribe!

Garrett:

Me too! I'm so excited, I can't wait!

John:

Any more comments before we conclude?

Garrett:

It's time that people started standing up and not putting up with some of the bullshit that's going on, including promoters pulling off greedy little stunts. If you have a problem with a promoter, then tell him and don't go to his event! Whether you're in a restaurant, or in a Nightclub, if you're not happy with something, let them know! Don't just write about it on a web site, tell the people who can make the difference!

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Will and Garrett will be hosting the official Genre Magazine 100th issue party on December 20th at "Blue" in Hollywood with Alex Laughterstein as DJ.


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