Author’s Note: I would like to preface this article to say that while this venue and these events are open to the public, they are there to serve a marginalized community. The scene is powerful, yet fragile and is an integral part of Los Angeles’ queer and POC underground. Please check your personal politics and behavior before you decide to attend. Thank you.
Down a trash-filled alleyway in the heart of the Los Angeles Fashion District, up a flight of stairs and into a repurposed industrial loft is Club Vertexx, a venue that regularly plays host to swathes of kids dressed to the nines in their most extravagant outfits, smoking cigarettes indoors and partying until the sun rises. Here I met with Yiwei and Zyren, two fellow promoters that for the past couple years have been making marks on LA’s DIY scene through their selected series of multi-genre showcases. For the past year, however, they’ve been hosting their unique brand of electronic shows that’s been raising eyebrows in the rave scene, booking some of the most out-there experimental acts when not throwing giant parties catering to the crowd of scene-goers that mosh on off days to the new sounds of smelly rock subgenres.
I’ve been attending Minty Boi shows for a little over a year, hosted in many venues such as The Factory, Rec Center, The Union, Top Space, and of course, The Smell. For many (myself included), The Smell is considered the crux of Los Angeles’ DIY scene. It’s always all ages, almost always $5, and serves as an intimate safe space for the greater Los Angeles area, as well as a platform and stepping stool for anyone wanting to get into the world of throwing shows. Yiwei and Zyren are two close friends who act as the primary forces behind Minty Boi. I asked about their first meeting and the origins of Minty Boi.
“The Smell was the first venue I went to, that’s where I met Zyren,” Yiwei said. “We went to the same high school together but didn’t really talk. I saw Sean Nicholas Savage play there and that show and that venue really changed my life.”
“I’ve known Yiwei for five years, I went to a lot of Penniback shows at first, started going with more people, and that’s how I found about the Sean Nicholas Savage show,” Zyren said. “Minty Boi originally was just an art show, and was supposed to be just a one-time thing, and it just grew into what it is now.” Yiwei continued, “Zyren took me on when I first met him, he’d been going to shows for a while before I met him. He taught me a lot of things about shows, The Smell, LA’s DIY scene all that stuff. I think we’re more art heads than into music, but the music just followed naturally. I went to art school for a year at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, then dropped out before I could pick a major. I was a model, did graphic design, threw shows, lots of things. I actually got a commission from the school to throw a show with Show Me The Body, but they canceled it, and that’s when I handed in my resignation.”
Yiwei is the core member and serves as the face of Minty Boi, identified by his long hair and often-painted nails. Born in Beijing and moving here at 14, he was barely able to speak English before discovering Montreal record label Arbutus off Tumblr, which sparked his interest of Sean Nicolas Savage and eventually his first venture into the world of DIY. This year, Yiwei returns from a month-long trip to Hong Kong, where he got to experience the DIY scene that had been hidden from him in his adolescence. I inquired about the scene in China, and how it compares to here. “The DIY scene in China is ahead of the curve, every time I try to book an artist here they’ve already booked them,” Yiwei said. “That’s how I found out about Aïsha Devi, Asian Dope Boys, all these great bands. They got a DIY scene there, but people don’t really care about it here.”
Zyren is the studio manager at Vertexx, and helps with a lot of the shows that are put on weekly at the space. Like Yiwei, his taste covers a wide range of genres, but for the past year has focused mainly on electronic music. “Vertexx is this underground electronic spot that I work at, it’s been operating for a little more than nine months,” he said. “It’s a full-time job, for sure, but it’s super fun. One of our first big events here was a Minty Boi new years rave, which was super crazy, everyone turned out for that.” Yiwei added, “Yeah that was a super fun night, Tabasko Sweet and Pixel played, it was nuts.”
Minty Boi New Year’s Eve 2018 was a definite catalyst for the scene’s interest in electronic music. It served to put the venue on the radar of Los Angeles’ underground electronic scene and soon became a hot spot for a large number of inclusive raves. Since then, the venue has played host to a growing number of fantastic electronic artists such as Rabit, Sega Bodega, Mhysa, S280F, Echavox, DJ Taye, as well as curators Cameo, Noise Pup of Queerspace, Sir Kami aka Backroom, and Nosesso. Vertexx is a veritable safe space for marginalized artists, and harkens back to the original spirit of electronic dance music, a place curated by and for queer people and people of color.
The interesting thing to note is the amount of crossover into other scenes that these raves have, and the appeal to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily go to raves and people who wouldn’t usually listen to electronic music. Most of the kids I see when I go to these events I recognize from shows put on by punk/indie/emo/hip-hop promoters Penniback Records, Redacted, Rare House, and Danger Collective. The crossover is fun to watch, if not notable and I strive to figure out the occurrence. “My taste changed, I started listening to post-punk, then techno, and we went to a couple raves at like the Handbag Factory and Black Lodge to go see electronic music, and that’s what sparked my interest,” Zyren said.
Yiwei added, “Yeah, that’s what happened to both of us, we started to go to more electronic shows and said ‘Electronic music is tight, why haven’t we been listening to this the whole time?’ I think what happens is that people get in their twenties, change their hairstyle, get some tattoos, do some cocaine and next thing you know they wanna stay up really late.” Zyren continued, “We just started seeing all of our friends change and become different people, like a few years ago we were all punked out, and now we’re all like wearing black and beanies and listening to gabber, it’s like a natural evolution.” “Yeah, I see it as our music taste has gotten bigger and wider, not really grown out of it, just expanding,” Yiwei said.
Minty Boi’s roots are firm in the punk, indie, and emo scenes, hosting a myriad of artists such as Bedroom, Clit Kat, Surf Curse, Peach Kelli Pop, and Girl Pusher, just to name a few. Throwing shows is standard operating procedure, but DIY comes with inherent risks of police interference, violence, and safety concerns. Shows can be one drunk asshole away turning disastrous. Yiwei and Zyren reflect on their past shows and obstacles as event promoters:
Yiwei: “DIY can be tough but it’s really fun, really gratifying. I remember we threw these bus shows where we’d find a street and have bands play, and the cops came because of a noise complaint so we drove somewhere else. I was with Julian from Penniback and we found another spot and ket it going, kids were moshing in the street, it was great.”
Zyren: “Keep your addresses secret and all that. Filter out people who you don’t want, undercover cops and stuff.”
Yiwei: “Yeah exactly. DIY is cool but, make sure you do it right, and make sure you know what you’re doing. Like, make sure you have change, clean up, bring your sound guy, have security, all that stuff.
Zyren: “Yeah I remember there was a show I threw when [Yiwei] was in China, and I didn’t have any security. Like it was a huge space with a few hundred people, it was fuckin wild. Luckily nothing happened but yeah it could’ve gone really bad.”
Yiwei: “Yeah, safety comes first, it’s always a good idea to have security.”
Zyren: “I think also, know the difference between exploiting artists and supporting artists. Cheap shows are cool, but there’s nothing wrong with charging more to give the artists more money.”
The artistic side of Minty Boi has been there from the beginning, including house shows thrown at Yiwei’s place turning into free-for-all art fests with artists drawing on the walls while bands and DJs play in the background. Yiwei comments on spreading the collective and his time on the east coast. “The New York DIY scene is cool, that’s where I met Downtown Boys and the space Heck, which got shut down,” Yiwei said. “The problem is that it’s just so small out there that there’s not a lot of space to throw shows, plus there’s already two main bookers that run all the DIY shows. Hard to become a part of this community when you’re just visiting, you know?”
Yiwei and Zyren are 20 and 21, respectively, and have already made waves in the scene that’s so near and dear to them. I had to ask what their parents think:
Yiwei: “My parents know I throw shows, like I dropped out of school two times, once because I was taking too much time throwing shows. A trick I used at the beginning was bringing home fifty bucks, but all in one dollar bills, so it looked like a stack of cash.”
Zyren: “I don’t think my parents know what I do.”
The steadfast growth of Minty Boi is worth noting, having reached both coasts and straddling multiple music scenes and a wide variety of venues in just over a couple years. Not many promoters can boast such a capable reach, and I aimed to find out what they think they’re doing right and where they see themselves going:
Yiwei: “I think it’s cuz we’re really focused and not content with where we are. Like it’s always a push towards the next thing, the next venue, the bigger party, it’s all part of a vision. Booking shows is my full-time job, and Zyren pretty much runs all the shows at Vertexx. I think because we do it responsibly, our hearts are in the right place, and we have goals in mind, that’s why we’re able to do what we do.”
Zyren: “I feel like Yiwei’s gonna take over the world, haha. I’m mainly focusing on stuff at Vertexx right now, but I’m always down to be a part of Minty Boi, and throw shows and keep doing what we do.”
Yiwei: “Right now I’m looking to expand to bigger venues, I love DIY and will always have a place in my heart for DIY but I’m looking towards bigger goals. I’m planning a festival, it’s in the early talking stages but I’d like to have it sometime next year. I also wanna bring back the New York scene, make it alive again. Last year we had a really good run in New York, but we had to stop this year because of focusing on stuff in LA.
The DIY community in Los Angeles is made up of a bunch of kids who were initially just looking to throw parties in their spare time, and, in turn, formed a community of like-minded individuals. Venues like The Smell and Vertexx serve as important hubs for artists and contributors to meet, collaborate and grow. Many of my peers have found their niche in this scene and watching them flourish has been a wonderful experience. Despite the sometimes exclusive appearance of the crowd, the community itself is one of the most inclusive scenes I’ve been a part of and provides a hopeful glimpse of the coming generation of artists that are fostering the culture.
To keep up with Minty Boi’s events, follow their Instagram here.