From spinning to spitting, Phoenix Orion has done damn near everything
Phoenix Orion is ready for the world to end. In the hour and a half he spent at Todd English late on a Wednesday night, he went on earnest tirades about the wars between dark and light witches and warlocks, summoning UFOs and the various Last Days prophecies of different cultures. It’s why he doesn’t go out and party — he’d rather stay in, his eyes and ears playing vacuum to channels and blogs of Armageddon theories and cultural prophecies. But while he’s awaiting a massive restart on the universe, the guy usually lauded as a go-to hip-hop DJ is making his return to the land of the mic.
At first, Orion doesn’t look like he’ll talk your ear off, whether it’s rap or reincarnation. He’s stoic, a black Frank Sinatra with a smoking jacket on his back and a curvy publicist on his arm. He looks 28. He’s 40. When he sits at his booth, the stoicism melts. The flood gates open. A massive grin takes over his face as he fires off his backstory the way a TV show recaps every season before the series finale: how he got started as a dance choreographer back in Brooklyn. Then a barber. Model. Director. West coast. East coast. West coast. The list goes on the way he goes on about science fiction. And like science fiction, a lot of it sounds suspect. He was part of the major open-mic movement and crew, Project Blowed (confirmed). He did a song on a Linkin Park album (confirmed, “Rnw@y,” Reanimation). He was in multiple films (confirmed, though good luck Netflixing them). His publicist pivots a camera around his head as he rattles off his reels. His evening use of stunna shades makes sense now.
Or it could be a habit he picked up to hide roving eyes. His DJing career started in a Strip club in Hollywood, a gig that fell into his lap after subbing in for the house DJ. “I was like, DJ at a strip club? Hell yeah,” he says. “The dude never returned. So that became my job, spinning at a strip club.”
But Orion’s roots in hip-hop took hold of him — somehow gripping harder than the lap dance siren song. “I had a calling,” he says. “Something in my spirit said to come to Vegas and help the scene flourish.” The original plan was to help the scene flourish by MCing. But, as he says, the Las Vegas hip-hop scene was in rough shape. “Every place else has subcultures,” he says. “New York and L.A. Those places are Meccas. This place has no Mecca. The Strip drowns out everything and the art scene struggles.”
Instead, his experience in Hollywood became job after job at strip clubs and Strip clubs, but in most cases, any creative license he took had to be taken without vocals. It eventually turned into DJing the local hip-hop shows, something that paid substantially worse than the gigs he was getting with The Light Group or any number of Strip jobs. “This keeps me real,” he says. “I can play 15 minutes on the Strip and make $1,000. Doing ‘Hip-Hop Roots’ or [‘Pitch Control’] I might get $100 a night if I’m lucky. But that’s where hip-hop started, and that’s where I’m supposed to pay my dues.”
Orion seems to show up at every hip-hop event, despite whose party it is, taking his place behind the booth and acting as a one-man rhythm section (“I work well under pressure … I don’t practice.”) or verbally ushering talent onstage. His charisma doesn’t make sense for someone who sits in the shadows. And in the span of a cough, everything becomes abundantly clear: Orion admits something most DJs wouldn’t admit even if they’re drunk, naked and holding a MacBook. “Technology has changed the game. I don’t know if I would have even been able to DJ without today’s technology.”
Orion never should have DJed. It’s clear he should have been an MC all along. Everything he writes has that insanely digestible — but undeniably raw — Oakland vibe. His sci-fi leanings give an air of Del the Funky Homosapien circa Deltron 3030: out-there, ethereal, mechnical. All with heavy lyricism and the pound of solar-operated military cadence. “I left the scene,” he sighs. “I really haven’t been doing any of my material that has gotten me where I am today and the things my fans know me for. But I’m going back.” Right then, like his body’s been taken over, he starts rapping into the recorder sitting in front of him. It’s good. Awesome, even. But that doesn’t mean he’s a shoo-in for a comeback. He still has to hop the fence between DJing and MCing, a crossover that rarely yields respectable crossover results.
This might be an exception. Four days after talking about prophetic Armageddon at City Center, Orion’s stripped the smooth operator look. It’s late Sunday night at DaddyMac’s Bar, and he’s standing in front of maybe 10 people, the extent of the patronage at an open-mic night, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He isn’t on the decks. He’s on the microphone. Without pause he breaks into a set of hard-hitting, spacey, incredibly well-put-together tracks that could comfortably play at a club or a Hieroglyphics show. It’s a good omen — the opposite of the planets aligning or the end of days. During a brief pause, he announces his official comeback show. And with a shade of hubris that matches his Sinatra disposition, he declares: “I’m back on the scene. And I’m not making it easy for anybody.”
“Pitch Control”: Phoenix Orion Saturday, April 2, 9 p.m.; Scoundrels Pub, 4360 S. Decatur Blvd., 871-4390, $5
You’re so f***ing famous!
It’s a bad sign when the line at a club has more satin black button-ups and piercing hair than satin black dresses and BumpIts. But despite the heightened chance of douche, David and Cathy Guetta’s kick-off party for the Las Vegas installment of their major Ibiza party, and upcoming Sunday residency at Wet Republic, “F*** Me I’m Famous” was the most fun I’ve had at an LAX party to date — even though the only other time I’ve been to LAX was for Sharam’s let-me-pummel-your-eardrums party (not the official title).
Inside, the venue looked like what happens when a good designer revamps a tacky honeymoon suite. Big neon hearts hung from the ceiling. Ornate pink furniture sat on a motorized Lazy Susan. Videos of Ibiza’s “FMIF” party played on the screens (so, basically sex without the actual act of sex). It was actually pretty hot — and not just because of the beyond shoulder-to-shoulder turnout. For a while, I was a little worried this mammoth meat head and I would be smelted into some subhuman caricature that likes David Sedaris and dead-lifting pick-up trucks. Besides that, it mostly looked like the weekly secret meeting of the pretty people society.
By 1:30 a.m., David Guetta jumps up, welcoming everyone to the first FMIF party in Las Vegas — and the decade-long run of the Ibiza version. His wife, Cathy, just stands next to him, beaming, fist pumping along to “Gettin’ Over You” with what was basically the entire room, including balconies. The whole thing had a real rock-star vibe to it. Guetta occasionally cut out his music, letting the room sing along to the choruses (which they did almost to a T).
The refreshing part of the party, despite music that didn’t try to shove a food processor in your ears, was the dancers. It wasn’t the typical “jump onstage, pop that … well, you know” scenario. Two dancers in updated showgirl outfits (head dresses and corset things) climbed onto a big metal ring rising to the ceiling, then proceeded to do all kinds of Cirque Du Soleil-type moves — all to the sounds of Guetta/Flo Rida’s “Club Can’t Handle Me.” The big shit-loser was probably when he fired into “Like a G6.” You could make a diamond between some of the couples dancing.
The Guettas really know how to do this party. Most events, even the ones with a reputation, can’t steal an audience on a cold run. But damn, Guetta really had this crowd by the balls.
CityLife: Describe F*** Me I’m Famous for the non-Ibiza-goer.
David Guetta: In Ibiza it’s the most successful party there. It’s a mix between crazy clubbers and glamorous people like my wife. It’s a mix of people that don’t really mix: clubbers and VIP. But everybody’s the same. That’s the idea. Of course it’s about electronic music — but also a lot of people dress sexy. It’s a very sexy party.
CL: How often will you personally be on the decks?
DG: We’re gonna do this as a pool party at Wet Republic. I’ll come three to four times a year. This is actually the smallest event we’ll have (laughs).
CL: The Ibiza party is where you introduced Daft Punk and Cassius to a not-necessarily French audience. Is there going to be anyone we should keep our eyes on at the Las Vegas version?
DG: Of course! People didn’t know Daft Punk when I brought them to Ibiza. Now they’re really big. Afrojack and Sidney Samson are working with me this time. They might also become very big in the future. In 10 years you might know them [like you know Daft Punk].
CL: Is this the only residency-style party you’re introducing or are there others in the country?
DG: No, no. We do events everywhere, but this is the only residency of “F*** Me I’m Famous” besides Ibiza.
CL: Will you be the most famous person at the “F*** Me I’m Famous” party in Las Vegas?
DG: (laughs) I don’t know man, we’ll see!
“F*** Me I’m Famous” Sundays, beginning April 10, Wet Republic at MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 891-3562, cover varies.
News & Notes
Former punk rock talent-buyer Roxie Amoroso is taking a break from booking bands. The decision was made after Las Vegas Country Saloon let her go for what General Manager Keith Wallace called a change in musical direction for the venue (Amoroso says she was told it was budget cuts). “As we move into an open-genre venue, I don’t want to brand the bar as just a punk venue.” Wallace says he’ll take over the talent-buyer position. We just hope losing a well-connected booker won’t knock out another good Las Vegas venue. … DJs coming to face-rock: J-Live (April 1, Beauty Bar), Morten Breum (April 1, Surrender), Diplo (April 1, Rain), Ferry Corsten (April 1, Marquee), Bad Boy Bill (April 2, Rain), ATB (April 2, Marquee), Robbie Rivera, ATB (April 3, Tao Beach), Steve Angello, An21, Max Vangeli (April 3, Wet Republic), Mixin’ Marc (April 3, Ghostbar), Steve Aoki (April 4, XS), Donnis (April 6, Ghostbar). Send your tips to email@example.com.