It’s impossible for me to write about C&D (Cloak and Dagger) objectively, it’s an incredibly personal thing to me. I am aware of the people who love it and all its mysterious glory as well as those who went to town when they announced the C&D Dusk till Dawn Festival. So we’re going to have to do this the only way I know how…personally. Links are underlined.
It started downstairs…with a view of yourself descending those stairs, in all your decked out glory reflected in a large mirror and through a door on your left with the word “Sinners” over it. Diana Dzhaketov would check you in, sign your hand with a knowing smile and usher you off into the shadows. Swing around a tight corner and come face to face with Adam Bravin, the DJ, and co-producer and you’d take a step forward to find a bar lit with candles to your right and table service to your left. Despite how crowded it could get some nights, I swear that room always seemed bigger than it was under the low lights and between the sticky bodies that refused to stop dancing as breathless as we became. I swear you could feel the magic wash over the crowd and everyone became something larger than themselves in the moment. It started in a candlelit basement of a bar where only on Tuesday, you could get drunk off the experience alone.
I was 23 when I first went to C&D. I had never really gone out before so I didn’t have any real expectations, no preconceived notions. The few club nights I had gone to I mostly hid behind a camera and never danced, and certainly never spoke to anyone. I didn’t know what C&D was when I was put on someone’s guest list. I was simply told “All black everything, no pictures, let’s dance.” Sure, I thought, why not. I got there early, not sure if I was too dressed up or not enough, had a mild panic attack in the car and went up to the doorman. “You’re early.” He told me. “Come back at 10.” So I waited and at the time I thought it was just the anticipation of a new experience that made the air hum electric the closer it got to opening, but it never stopped feeling that way every time I walked up. 10pm on a Tuesday and the air hums electric. I come back, I get checked in, and I go downstairs to be told that I’m not allowed inside for some reason, I can only go upstairs. “We’ll get you inside.” The friends who I had met only the week before promised, and I shrugged it off. “I’ll just have an adventure upstairs.”
Upstairs in the front room was for white card members with Ming Vauz of the band, Sleep Mask usually DJing. Although there was more room for dancing, I spent more time on the smoking patio. I would sit in the corner and just relax, something that is normally impossible for me to do. I watched other guests and members come out onto the smoking patio, eyes wide with curiosity or twinkling from the experience (but regardless of how they walk in, at the end of the night everyone is glowing). Maybe it was how open the front room felt but there was definitely a lighter feel to it, like the anticipation of a kiss, and downstairs was the satisfaction. I had wine, cigarettes and a place to sit, I thought that was all I needed but I was not prepared for everything that came after.
Every Tuesday we go to Church…I went every Tuesday, was always early, having to contend with traffic since I came up from Anaheim. “Quite a drive every week for a club in a crowded basement, was it worth it?” Everytime. I got there early in case I had panic attacks about being social, which I did. I frequently had to call friends to help calm me down so I felt brave enough to go in. “It’s okay if you go home. You can try again next week.” and for the first time in my short life, I wasn’t going to let the anxiety win. I never knew what I was going to do once I got inside, but I was going to get inside damn it.
Now, two years later, it’s no longer in the basement, but it still has much the same intimate feel. There are no longer white cards but there is still a variety of DJs that spin in the front room. The members who experienced the evolution of C&D carry those memories with them and carry that same vibe with them back out onto the dance floor. I’m no longer scared of going out, I haven’t had a panic attack at the thought of socializing in months.
Church…we called it Church. A girl and I recognized each other in the light of day at an event so after I became a member. We were about to say Cloak and Dagger when we figured out where we knew each other from, when another girl neither of us knew walked up and asked what we were talking about. We looked at each other with sly grins and said Church at the same time. And it is like church in a weird sort of way. Dancing all night in the shadows next to friends and strangers while heady incense fills the room, getting lost in conversations about anything when otherwise I would avoid them… it’s always cleansing from the beat down of the week before. It is healing and inspiring, at least to me, it is.
Cloak and Dagger is…
You’re going to hear a lot about what Cloak and Dagger is from the variety of people who attend; old school goths, fashionistas, other DJs, cute lost souls, transient artists, city witches, it’s a festival unto itself. To me, it’s home. The overlap of everything I love about Los Angeles, a standing reminder of how taking a single chance leaving the house can change your whole life. It’s where I met most of my friends, I’m sorry, I really mean, family and you’d think that’s a cute line for a 20 something that doesn’t know how harsh the world can be. I assure you, if you could see my family…the way they dance under the smoke and candlelight, they throw their hands up like they’re casting spells for us all, love like it’s what they were born to do and know the meaning of the word “soul”.
Obviously, I have to be a little vague. The experience of C&D is a secret for various reasons, but mostly because it’s hard to describe. It offers something different for everyone. Some need a place to call home, some just want to get lost for a moment in the sound and others need the something else that comes with a strange girl silently taking your hand and leading you somewhere others are not allowed. The experience is a gift, so if you get it, don’t waste its magic talking about it like it was something everyone got. You got it. Hold it. Channel it.
I think this review of one person’s experience at the festival wraps it up quite nicely.
All this talk of magic…
Whether or not you believe in the intricate rituals and far too accurate fortune telling, Cloak and Dagger will never be like other clubs. You can’t boil it down to its individual parts and give it a score in comparison to its gothic cousins in the club scene of Hollywood. It’s the combination of things. Every immersive experience is tailored to you and the women who work at C&D put their soul into it. Every band that’s performed lays their soul out before the crowd for a one of a kind show. You standing against the wall or writhing on the dance floor makes a difference, the DJ notices. “Are you having fun?” Michael Patterson, the co-producer, will ask and it’s a genuine question. So if you are going to walk in with expectations and a checklist for comparisons you are going to miss everything.
But what about the music?
Start here with the playlist.
I always get nervous when people ask what music do they play there, expecting it to be a familiar variety of gothic music. They ask like there’s an alien in their throat ready to eat you alive if you answer unfavorably. To me, the music Adam Bravin plays is for the weird kids of the weird kids, the ones who would be starved being given a singular branch of the tree of dark genres. Yeah, they play Prince, yeah they play Siouxsie, and yes, they do play something new to you if you get there at the right time. Personally, the first 30 minutes have been these beautiful melodies where I’m frantically looking up lyrics before the next one comes on. That’s my favorite part of the night. “No one dances that early in a club.” A friend told me once. “All the more reason to do it.” I told her.
Now as Cloak and Dagger grows…with its most recent opening a monthly night in Chicago, I can only hope that others get to be as lucky as I did, to go from being alone and invisible to finding a brighter version of themselves in all that it offers. I only offer my perspective as someone who does not regularly go out to clubs for a typical club experience. If you get invited, I hope you can see it all for its worth, there’s quite a bit to love.
How do you become a member?
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Until next time,
Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.
Zakkarrii Edison Daniels