DJ Aaron Byrd spins a beat among the wild beasts at First Fridays
photos by Katherine Peach
A museum may not be the first place one thinks of when considering live bands and stellar night life. That is all changing, though, with the reemergence of First Fridays at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, when the keeper of ancient artifacts keeps its doors open to attract the young, the hip, and anyone who likes to get away with drinking in a museum. The monthly event highlights at least one live act and two DJs to fill the entire building with melodies.
February featured the live jazz ensemble of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a multi-talented instrumentalist who works as a DJ, arranger/composer/music director, and producer who has worked in the studio with such artists as Will.i.am, Erykah Badu, and Dr. Dre. In July 2010, the Miguel Atwood- Ferguson Ensemble, with a diverse group of musicians and Bilal, Flying Lotus, and Aloe Blacc, staged a moving collection of music, including a performance of the “Suite to Ma Dukes” project, in honor of J Dilla’s mom.
The ensemble performed in a dark room housing glass showcases of large North American mammals.
The main attraction, and biggest name-drop opportunity, was the last minute addition of DJ Peanut Butter Wolf. He played his set in the "Fin Whale Pop Up Lounge," which houses the skeleton of a 63-foot-long fin whale suspended from the ceiling. A video set behind the DJ displayed 80s-style music video footage for the entire set.
Partner KCRW loaned DJs Aaron Byrd and Anthony Valadez to spin their own sets in the African safari room. Giant elephants roamed a barren scene behind the turntables. (If nothing else, it makes for a great Facebook photo.)
The night opened at 5:30 p.m. with discussions on topics ranging from how ocean currents work to the works of Nostradamus. The chance to do some learning is a bonus for anyone who can negotiate the traffic or make their way across the USC campus just around the corner. An insider tip for the unpaid and savvy: cheaper tickets are available for museum entry with the main act projected on a screen for all to see.
The next First Friday event at the NHM is March 4, and will feature Virginia indie-pop group Wild Nothing and L.A. punks Abe Vigoda. KCRW DJs Anthony Valadez and Chuck P. will keep the beats alive all night. Scheduled performers are released one month before the show, with monthly events happening until June. Visit the museum's website more information.