Monday, June 17, 2024

Altruism—Long Beach’s homegrown, city-centric nightlife event—celebrates one phenomenal first year

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“What is Altruism about, you ask? When you walk in to Altruism the goal is for you to easily get a glimpse of what Long Beach is about.”

These words belong to NiceGuyxVinny, co-founder of Altruism—and one of Long Beach’s most prolific DJs, producers, and overall keep-it-local champions. Delving deeper, Altruism thrives on curating unique lineups that bring together globally-recognized artists and locally-emerging talents, fostering an environment that raises Long Beach to its rightful place both sonically and visually.

And it is all done through a Long Beach-centric sense of organization and follow-through.

“Altruism represents one of the first sustainable attempts by locals in Long Beach to build a contemporary nightlife outside of the nostalgia of the 90s,” said Senay Kenfe a Long Beach legend in his own right. “What Vinny and his team has been able to do is bring relevant music acts of today to a city that hasn’t really moved forward beyond its dive bar ethos of the past. It’s exciting to see happen in real time.”

How did Altruism come together?

Vinny has a long history of doing events as someone that has, simply put, been around in the music scene. Following ComplexCon’s decision to make Long Beach its annual home, Vinny and his friends always noticed something very awry: There wasn’t an abundance of after parties and much more importantly—there was a lack of official local involvement.

Prompted by long time friends Imani “Ico” Onyia and Jay Verdiales, they formed Oeuvre Creative Group. Together, they envisioned a significant, free event during Complexcon weekend that showcased both notable guests and local talent, aiming to address the absence of such experiences in Long Beach.

Despite challenges securing sponsors that would help make the event have free admission—and being unable to book a major headliner—the team’s vast music industry connections allowed then to still assemble an impressive lineup featuring top DJs from both local and global scenes. They implemented a $10 ticket price, numerous free ticket giveaways, and even collaborated with local collective Art Realm for a free, all-ages art show preceding the main event. On top of this, they organized a clothing and food drive to support individuals facing housing and food insecurity.

“ComplexCon is a dope event—but not everyone can afford it,” Vinny said. ” a lot of people I knew were finessing their way in, so with Altruism, it was all about curating talent in the way that ComplexCon did but way more affordable”

And thus Altrusim was born Nov. 19 last year, featuring sets from afrobeats connoisseur Blaq Pages, Soulection’s Lakim, and Grammy-winning producer Budgie, with support from some the most respected DJs that Long Beach and Los Angeles have to offer: Dezzie Gee and Ashton McCreight, Sammi G and Sammy Sagun, Yalubba and Sabeerah, and of course, Vinny.

Vinny never planned on another event—this was supposed to be a one-off—but the success of the first led to their second event in February of 2023. With two successful events under their belt, they were ready to kick off the summer with a third, “all-out banger,” in Vinny’s word.

And that it was: In collaboration with VIP Records and featuring legendary DJ and producer, Battlecat, Altruism hit a new high when they paired the hip-hop legend with none other than Soulection’s Jared Jackson, it was a sold out show that showed the connections between funk, hip hop, and house music.

Following that was their fourth show in September, a collaboration with Open Gallery and during Latin Heritage Month. It was—yet again—another sold-out event, this time in “celebration of the unifying power of music and dance, transcending borders, languages, and backgrounds,” Vinny said.

It featured Foreigner (who is behind of some of the wildest Afrodiasporic parties in Los Angeles), Brazilian DJ duo Mango and Ginger, Soulection’s rising star Anastazja, and hometown hero DJ Research.

“Doing it four times in a row was amazing,” Vinny said, “but it’s also been cool to see the Edison Theatre evolve this past year. Rob [Marquez, of events company Grey LB] and his team took a chance with us and I’m thankful, they help make it all happen.”

About that one-year anniversary show—and where Altruism is heading

“Time flew by—and it was already our one-year anniversary,” Vinny said. “With this one, it wasn’t about having this super stacked line-up or sold-out event but something more about the people who have supported us since day one.”

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Don’t easily accept Vinny’s humble approach to Altruism’s one year: The lineup featured UK producer K. Le Maestro (play his remixes); Starrza, fresh off her Boiler Room set; East Coast & Dominican representative Giselle Peppers; LB native Mr. Slow Jamz (owner of Slow Jamz, who also had a booth at ComplexCon); and, of course, headliner Huey Briss, one of the few Long Beach artists outside of Vince Staples himself to have a booth at ComplexCon. For the art and photo gallery installment, they teamed up with Play Nice, the 4th Street staple that serves as art space that anchors the cultural and creative landscape of the city.

“It was an honor to have Huey—he was the first actual live artist we’ve had on the the lineup since we typically focus on DJ aspect,” Vinny said. “He had just dropped an album a few days before so it made sense to have him as the headliner, we’ve known each other for years and I’m glad to see him win. It was another successful night and a great way to end the year”

Much like its anniversary event, Altruism happens “when it feels right,” in the words of Vinny—and that is what makes it so special. Altruism is not confined to a monthly occurrence; which leaves the question: what’s next?

“I don’t want to oversaturate,” Vinny humbly said. “I want to space it out and hopefully have something free in the summer—that’s closer to the original vision we had and another following ComplexCon next year… Maybe we can officially work with ComplexCon actually. That would be full circle. I have a lot of ideas and we’ve shown people what’s possible, but even now after five great events, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Because, let’s be honest here: It isn’t easy when you’re not backed by corporate, dollar-printing machines and you’re basically doing this entirely yourself.

“I’m not a promoter or just some guy trying to throw parties,” Vinny emphasized. “I barely party in general. I don’t even drink or smoke… Making music has always been my main focus. So, y’know, I’m not really worried about trying to run a monthly event. There’s already dope things happening monthly in Long Beach thanks to the hard work of crews.”

Vinny goes to note the “endless list of crews and events”— Fight Club LBC, Rise. Art Realm, Soul Cypher, Secret Service, Grn+Gld, Pitch In On A Party, Nothing But Love, R+D, Quaratine Records, Be Here Now…

“The list goes on and on. For me, the goal is something where these creative forces unite—something I felt was lacking out here. Where it’s not just about our own individual agendas or events but more like, ‘We’re all really working together as a community collaboration.'”

And what this ultimately amounts to is a free music festival, uniting the diverse collectives and artists here.

“I was really upset we couldn’t make our events free from the jump,” Vinny lamented. “Some friends would tell me I should charge more, and if I did these shows in L.A. they would be even more successful. But thats not what it’s about. People continually ask me: ‘Why are you so stuck on the free idea?’ And it’s just a reality: I’ve been there—I know what it’s like to not go to an event you want to. Those type of things alter people. Thankfully, mom did what she could and took me to some events as a kid—and I wouldn’t be making music if it weren’t for those events and most of those events were free community shows.”

In other words: The driving force behind Altruism is to provide accessible and transformative music and art experiences, right here in Long Beach. The power of music—despite how capitalistic the music industry can be, Vinny notes—is always there. And that is what Altruism continues to embody as it heads into Year Two.

As for the goal being a free event, Vinny? We’re down.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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