Los Angeles parties are notorious for their exclusivity, both socially and racially. A stereotypical WeHo event is often a blindly white cavalcade of interchangeable cis gay twunks, belying the rich diversity of Southern California. Nightbreed strives to remedy that.
Founded by nightlife maestro Bryan Acosta, Nightbreed aims to nurture safe spaces in LA’s queer party scene for the city’s myriad outsiders. (Think Island of Misfit Toys set to an EDM soundtrack.) Acosta’s dedication to creating SoCal sanctuaries for a cross-section of genders, ethnicities, and sexual identities is evidenced by such events as the Submerge Pride party at Sky Bar, Pink Pearl (a 4th of July collaboration with the Pearl pool party), and most recently their first debut at Rich’s nightclub in San Diego. For a better glimpse into Nightbreed’s dedication to inclusivity, we kiki-ed with Acosta about his parties, his first-hand experiences with racial discrimination, and his advice for making queer nightlife more diverse.
For someone who’s never been to a Nightbreed event, how do they differ from a typical LA party?
They differ because, with talent, we’re giving minorities and queer people a platform. So that is unique in itself. We also pay more to be able to really give artists an opportunity to make real money at some of these spaces. I know that some of the bars, specifically in the queer community, they kind of stick to a lower sort of wage. Part of our mission is to really get people up, start building up their portfolios, and really giving them some tangible assets to be able to get out and be more competitive in the marketplace and get spotlighted. When doing that, I think we’re able to build a better community and give people opportunities that they normally don’t have, which I think transfers to people just having a better experience overall.
What motivated you to found Nightbreed?
It was basically seeing the marketplace saturated with a cis white, you know, male-dominated industry, and I’m like, ‘Alright, there are so many minorities, people of color, women, LGBTQ [artists] that are equally as popular, talented, and they don’t have really a platform to be able to share their artistry. I just wanted to be able to provide that, and it’s been working out great.
As a Mexican-American gay man, have you faced discrimination within LA gay nightlife in the past?
I don’t know if it was as blatant as, ‘Hey, you’re Brown, you can’t play here.’ I don’t think it’s been that. But I think in terms of pay, definitely, because I know for a fact that some of my white counterparts playing the same gig got paid double, if not triple. And usually, they’ll get like the headlining spot, over you know, a person of color or minority. That is very common in the music industry. What we’re doing is trying to flip that.
Do you have any events coming up? I had so much fun at the last one!
It’s tricky right now because, I don’t know if you saw, there’s a strike going on with some of the hotels. We had to cancel like five or six [events]. It’s hard because, you know, from a labor standpoint, I understand. I want to make sure people are getting their fair share. And so it’s like, you know, well, I’m not going to try to put on an event while there are people trying to do meaningful work and some say, alright, let’s just put a pause on this and when the strike is over, then we can go back to our regular scheduled programming.
If you’re going to give advice to other promoters, within LA and across the country, how do you feel they can help promote diversity in gay nightlife?
My best advice is to just get into the community and go check out the local bar scene and see what are these DJs doing. Talk to them, talk to artists, I mean, not just DJs. I think it’s everybody. It’s local drag queens, all the up-and-coming people. People that you see on fliers, or you’ve seen them in the background, because they’ll surprise you.
I think one of the things that happens is people just kind of get pigeonholed because they’ll just be like, ‘Oh, all you play is Britney Spears remixes.’ And if you actually talk to them and follow their Soundclouds and see what they’re about, they’ll surprise you. Because a lot of them are producers, a lot of them are people who have a variety of musical education talents. So they’ll surprise you. And what I’ve been doing is just kind of going and just asking those exact people like, ‘Hey, who would you recommend? I’m booking so-and-so as a headliner. Who could be a great opener for this spot, or who do you think could really bring the heat if they’re going to be the opener?’ So it’s really getting to understand and building community around what you’re doing…
For those who have yet to be initiated into the debauchery that is Nightbreed, here are some of our favorite moments from their Submerge Pride pool party.