“Ghost Ship,” the Oakland warehouse that was the site of a deadly fire Friday that killed 36 people (with more likely to be confirmed), was a live-work space for local artists that played host to many events like Friday’s concert. The event, part of Golden Donna’s “100% Silk West Coast Tour,” featured artists on the Los Angeles-based 100% Silk label, a dance-music offshoot of the experimental Not Not Fun label, run by couple Amanda and Britt Brown. Amanda Brown was a member of the band Pocahaunted with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino; several of Not Not Fun’s earliest releases were by that band.
This tour was headlined by Golden Donna, a stage name of the Madison, Wisconsin-based musician Joel Shanahan, who also records as Donny. Two other 100% Silk artists were on the bill, Cherushii (Chelsea Faith Dolan) and Nackt (John Igaz), in addition to other local artists. As of press time, Faith Dolan and Igaz, who was DJing upstairs when the fire broke out, were among the missing.
100% Silk features underground house and atmospheric/experimental music by artists such as Ital, Maria Minerva, Dylan Ettinger, Kaazi, and Innergaze, released in intentionally retro formats like 12” vinyl singles and cassette tapes. Prior to Oakland, the tour had touched down at Werk, a warehouse space in downtown L.A., the previous Saturday.
While the tragedy has brought about widespread criticism toward permit-flouting arts spaces such as the Ghost Ship, Amanda Brown told L.A. Weekly that artists play such spaces out of necessity, not choice. “We’ve all tried to find interesting and open-minded galleries around the country for our community to play in,” she said. “It’s incredibly hard in cities like Los Angeles and [Oakland] and New York to find shows for artists of this size and this type.” She added, “There’s no infrastructure for electronic music to have these safe spaces. … [It] has nothing to do with these artists being unsafe or these artists wanting to be dangerous or to be put in dangerous situations.” Brown clarified that she herself had never been to the Ghost Ship and the show had been booked by one of the musicians.
Since its formation in 2012, 100% Silk has played a key role in the evolution of independent dance music in L.A., a city not historically known for any particular genre of electronic music, a la Chicago and house or Detroit and techno. Despite its relative newcomer status, 100% Silk’s 100th release — Sensate Silk, a 11-track compilation — is scheduled for release on January 27.
A visit to the Ghost Ship site Sunday evening revealed a scene of quiet devastation unfolding in real time, with several makeshift memorials positioned around the site. One woman passed out red roses, while others clung to friends and wept. Some visitors knelt and prayed in silence. The grim work of recovering bodies, sequestered behind yellow tape and flood lights, continued apace.
Octo Octa (Maya Bouldry-Morrison), who has released music on 100% Silk, told Billboard late Sunday, “Amanda and Britt took chances on upcoming and brand-new artists. They supported and helped built the careers of many talented people when others would pass them by. I owe them a lot, and I owe a lot to many friends on the label who are truly wonderful people.”
She also said friends of hers are still missing: “I’m devastated by this.”