BY STEVE WEINSTEIN | Most people associate New York with New Year’s Eve. No matter where they live, the New Year starts when they see the ball drop in Times Square. But not if you’re gay and live in L.A.
That’s because the biggest and most exciting New Year’s Eve party in the world happens right here — and it has expanded into an entire weekend of production extravaganzas. Overseeing parties that will take revelers from 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, all the way through to 6 a.m. .on Sunday, Jan. 1, is Masterbeat’s Brett Henrichsen.
Entrepreneur, businessman, party producer and headlining DJ, Henrichsen just may be the hardest-working and most diversified talent on the gay dance scene today. It was as a marketer of mainframe computer systems for IBM that brought Henrichsen into the DJ scene.
His passion for new styles of music he was hearing in clubs — but not on CDs — he shared remixes with friends using then-new CD burners. By 1996, his hobby became a label, Masterbeat, with Henrichsen recording for it as a fledgling DJ.
In 1999, Henrichsen started the first Masterbeat New Year’s Eve, but after next year’s Millennium spectacular the party became an established “brand.” This year, the party returns to its longtime base in the Mayan Theater. The Mayan is known for its venerable pre-Columbian-style architecture, but it also happens to have one of the city’s best light and sound systems.
The Mayan will host Friday’s party will feature Rosabel, the gay DJ duo comprised of Abel Aguillera (known simply as Abel) and Ralphi Rosario. “One Love,” Saturday’s main event will take place at another landmark theater, almost next door, the Belasco. In keeping with the weekend’s theme of “One World,” Americans DJ Grind and Tristan Jaxx will be joined by headliner Mickey Friedmann, an Israeli who for the last several years has been based in Berlin. They will each be spinning on a different dance floor on its own floor.
The party ends at 4 a.m. but for those who believe that the real celebrating begins early New Year’s Day, there will be a Morning Party at the Mayan where Susan Morabito will be bringing her unique ability to blend hard-driving beats with beautiful melodies.
Morabito, as she prefers to be known these days, will be a familiar name to men who love to dance since the early ‘90s, when the Cleveland native burst on the New York club scene. But while she continues to embrace those fans, she emphasizes her recent rebranding as making her especially relevant to younger revelers.
“I needed to rebrand because I was being pigeonholed as playing a particular sound,” she recently told PrideLA. Afraid of getting a reputation as a “DJ from the past,” she took time off to regroup her energy and repackage herself.
“People who were doing the hiring put me in a box,” she said. “Some people had never heard of Susan Morabito or said, ‘Oh, she was popular in the ‘90s.’”
Henrichsen was one of the promoter-producers who gave her a chance when she returned and has remained supportive. Doing a morning party is second nature to her, but if people come to the Maya expecting remixes of chestnuts like Abba’s “The Visitors” or Erasure’s “Blue Savannah” will be disappointed.
“I like the music that’s coming out now,” she said. “Not all of it, but if you dig deep, you find it.” For this party, she’s relieved she won’t feel obligated to play the big dance hits of 2016, since that is usually the job of the New Year’s Eve party. Instead, she’s planning on a “much more underground vibe, some light, some dark. I’ll feel that out when I get there. That’s the difference between an experienced DJ and a ‘promising’ DJ” — Morabito never goes into a gig with a set of expectations and music to match but tries to feel the crowd’s groove and respond to it.
Henrichsen himself will play the closing party at the Stock Exchange. For some people, like Pei-Chi Chang, all of this is too tempting to miss a beat. “I’ll be at everything,” he said. “I am looking forward to hearing Rosabel. I’m curious if it will be with Abel’s new tech sound or the classic Rosebel. I need to take notes for posterity,” he joked.