In its second year, Gary Richards’ All My Friends Festival held its numbers steady from its inaugural year, bringing in 10,000 attendees over two days this past weekend, October 19-20, at Row DTLA dcomplex in downtown Los Angeles.
AMF DTLA pared last year’s three stages down to two, a move that made the location much easier to navigate — as last year it was a chore to run around the circuit attempting to catch all the great talent. (Although the drawback this year was some sound bleed between stages.) This year’s hours were shortened, with the festival starting at 6 p.m. rather than 4 p.m. and still ending at midnight. Additionally, AMF 2019 moved from August to October — and in fact to the weekend directly following Insomniac Events’ similarly marketed house and techno-centric festival, Secret Project.
Did Los Angeles have the space and interest to host these two events on back to back weekends? Definitely. The primarily element AMF DTLA had in its favor was Richards’ inarguably impeccable musical taste. The devoted attendees of his events — from the HARD brand that he founded to his new endeavors including the rave cruise Friendship — are known for waving signs and wearing T-shirts declaring “In Gary We Trust.”
This year, Richards, who’s long produced and performed as Destructo, once again proved himself worthy of this devotion, bringing together an irresistible lineup including Justice, Idris Elba, Busy P and Sita Abellan on the Saturday and Black Coffee, DJ Harvey, Gene Farris and Diplo b2b MK on the Sunday. The real triumph at AMF DTLA this year was the addition of the Unknown Speakeasy Stage. While this enclosed area’s lineup was not formally announced — although it was personally promoted by some of the DJs — it featured what was easily the best music and atmosphere of the entire festival.
Here are Billboard Dance’s ABCs of AMF:
A is for all the DJs in the Speakeasy, who may not have been the big draw ticket-wise, but are local favorites of Richards — including LA Riots, Mike B, Bones and Lee Wells — so he piled them in and let them loose to do their thing. They destroyed.
B is for the bottle service deck, which (although it sounds cheesy) had the best unobstructed view of the stage, the best seating, and well, the best drinks.
C is for configuration, which was entirely different this year for All My Friends, with the festival not only smaller, but shifted to one side of the lot. This squashed the stages a little too close to each other, as the heaving Friendzone Stage’s turned up sound was bleeding into the sparser BFF Stage’s turned down sound.
D is for Doc Martin, whose wife very sadly passed away just hours before the festival. The news was one of the first things many attendees spoke about when greeting each other, sending positive vibes to the LA icon, who was scheduled for the Unknown Speakeasy Stage and who was understandably absent.
E is for Elle and Leon, two of DJ Harvey’s dancing Angels, whose beat matches got Harvey to take off his headphones and join them in a boogie.
F is for FriendShip Family members, who snagged free entry to AMF DTLA with their cruise ticket purchase.
G is for the gold spray paint that covered the keys of the piano, guitar, mixer, keyboards, and many other of the artfully arranged objects in the Speakeasy — adding character to its warm, tactile environment.
H is for DJ Harvey, who created a dreamy disco atmosphere not only in front of the stage, but also on the makeshift dancefloor behind it.
I is for Idris Elba’s moves, of which the actor/DJ had many, dancing as much as he was DJing throughout his set.
J is for Justice, who went in hard, with the duo’s accelerating long breakdowns driving the crowd into a frenzy. Think Daft Punk crossed with Metallica.
K is for Mr. Kool-Aid, one of Los Angeles original underground acid house and rave DJs, who took over the decks at the Speakeasy — demonstrating that experience beats followers every time.
L is for the lighting in the parking structures, which was not technically part of All My Friends’ design, but had its own art installation feel and flowed with the rest of the festival décor.
M is for “Maniac,” one of the signature songs from the Flashdance soundtrack, which Justice dropped early in their set.
N is for numbers, which weren’t massive in terms of festival attendance — as there was plenty of room to move around — but were high enough to make it feel like a party.
O is for all the OG ravers that came out to All My Friends, some of whom had not seen each other for going on 20 years, but reconnected quickly on the dancefloor, just like the first time.
P is for the porta potty portal to the vibey Unknown Speakeasy Stage, which provided the festival with a sexy, underground feel.
Q is for quality over quantity. The DJ headcount may have been limited, but that took nothing away from the event.
R is for rave in a parking lot, which is what AMF DTLA is, in the best way possible.
S is for the sponsor pop-ups, including Tienda Tecate and Svetka Vodka Rosé Garden, which put in an extra effort to make their stations particularly ‘grammable.
T is for the top-notch food trucks, which offered a wide range of selections to meet dietary needs — and of course, the need for fries, which were the main staple of almost all the menus.
U is for unexpected, which was Diplo and Kool-Aid going back-to-back in the Speakeasy, with Jauz cheering them on.
V is for the variety of attendees, which spanned not only generations and races, but also ranged from expectant mothers to frat boys to costumed ravers and drag queens.
W is for musically woke — which the attendees of Richards’ events reliably are, knowing the DJs, their music and their place in the history of the scene.
X is for the X-crossing rectangular arches over the Friendzone stage, which were flooded with projections that elevated the impact of the stage.
Y is for the yucky toilet situation, with porta potties that became intolerable, particularly smell-wise, and the trailer restrooms that weren’t much better.
Z is for the zen décor of the Speakeasy — with its grass floors, walls of leaves, and plants poking out of everything, plus its brass chandelier and Middle Eastern lanterns.