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Backyard Parties | 1990s: Party out of Bounds

1990s Party
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This is part of a series on backyard parties. Read More:

A Brief History of DJ Culture in Southern California
1970s: Temporary Discothèque
1980s: East L.A.'s DJ Culture
2000s: Post-Backyard

Text by Gerard Meraz

The 1990s saw DJ culture become self aware and grow exponentially as new media like magazines, radio shows and the Internet took DJ-based entertainment to broader levels and communication became nearly instantaneous. The backyard party DJs of the 1990s had more music and styles to utilize in their sets as they were aware of the generation of DJs before them and they were becoming aware of DJ culture throughout the world via MTV, radio, websites and various emerging media.

Parties featured "80s flashback" DJs alongside DJs who were mixing house and techno music coming from the other side of the United States and Europe. Magazines such as URB, XLR8R, STREET BEAT, VIBE, SENSURD, and others covered the Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago underground scenes that took root in restaurants, halls, clubs and warehouses. They also wrote about massive parties in the fields of England called Raves.

Radio shows like POWER TOOLS (KPWR 105.9 FM) featured local and internationally recognized DJs playing a variety of music and their accompanying mix styles on the largest radio station in Southern California.

Mix CDs by DJs showcasing their selections and mixing abilities helped promote regional tastes and reinforced global trends. Pictures, music and clothing began to form an identity for people who loved to dance to DJs and this was reflected and adapted to Southern California's needs and capacities.

Flyers began to omit the party's address and instead offered a map point or voice mail box number to call on the night of the event, to get the directions to the map point. At the map point, partiers would pay their fee and get a map to the actual party. This kept the police and people not "in the know" away.

By the mid 1990s backyard parties along with warehouse parties, massive Raves in the desert or on Native American reservations became the norm. Drugs, violence and unethical promoters took their toll on many participants making the scene go more legitimate and into clubs for the 18 and over crowd and reinvigorating the backyard party scene for those under 18.

The new generation of the backyard party scene called themselves Rebels and they enjoyed the "80s flashbacks" and hard house being produced by local L.A. artists and a Chicago-based record label, UC Rec. Their focus made their scene more niche, which reflected the overall trend to listen to DJs that played what you wanted or expected them to play. The element of experimentation and blending of various genres came to a brief close at the end of the millennium.

'90s Mix: Frankie Z. of Madness and Lee of The Lost Boys promoted events in South Central Los Angeles inspired by the Eastside scene. Their neighborhoods were rougher in that they were ground zero for the Crip and Blood wars over crack cocaine sales. This effected their promotion style and music selections as they tried to keep peace on their dance floors. Nonetheless they continued to refine their work and eventually outgrow the Eastside's party paradigm.

Additional Videos


'90s Flyers

90s Flyer (1)
90s Flyer (2)
90s Flyer (3)
90s Flyer (4)
90s Flyer (5)
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90s Flyer (9)
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90s Flyer (11)
90s Flyer (12)
90s Flyer (13)
90s Flyer (14)
90s Flyer (15)
90s Flyer (16)
90s Flyer (17)
90s Flyer (18)
90s Flyer (19)

'90s Scene Gallery

As the rest of the city headed toward uncertain social climates, the backyard parties became the destination of youth culture ready to expierment and make way for a more diverse audience. The '90s music scene brought a blend of hip-hop, house, and trance music that provided a soundtrack for the neighborhoods undergoing economic transformation. Photographs by Gregory Bojorquez.

Two girls on Monterey Park
Monterey Park-Fulton Street 1995 - Two girls having fun.
Girl's shoes & legs at party
Montebello-Via San Carlo 1999 - New Years Eve party where girls wore similar shoes.
Dancing at Pico Rivera-Deland Street
Pico Rivera-Deland Street 1996 - A man dancing to Rock music.
Wet T-Shirt Contest, Alhambra
Alhambra-1994 - Contestants at a backyard wet T-shirt contest look on at the action.
Beer drinking at a party
ELA-1997 - Efrain swigs a beer at a Friday night backyard party.
Police breaking up a Whittier party
ELA-1997 - Efrain swigs a beer at a Friday night backyard party.
Dancing at a summer party
ELA-Keenan Street-1999 - Dancing at a summer party.
Dancing on the roof
ELA-Twickenham Street-Winter 1996 - People dancing on the roof showing they are really 'down'.
Early arrivals at the party
ELA -Bonnie Beach-1997 - Two young ladies who were early arrivals at a Sunday BBQ.
Red cup at a party
Monterey Park-1996 - The iconic red cup at a Saturday afternoon pool party.
Girl dancing at party
La Puente-1996 - A girl dancing to the music at a party with a DJ.
The Freaky 1s girls crew
ELA-1997-Bonnie Beach and 6th St. - At a BBQ, The Freaky 1's in 'Full Effect'.
Young men at a party with gang signs
Montebello-1996 - A gangster party on a Friday night in the Fall.
Empty beer bottles
El Sereno-1998 - Empty beer bottles-the remnants of the party.
Annual graf backyard pool party
"Monterey Park-1998 - At an annual graf backyard party. Pictured third from left is LA Icon D.J. Rob One who passed away since the photo.
Couple kissing among dancers
South Central LA-1997 - These two people all of a sudden started making out where everybody was dancing.
Group at a party
ELA-1992-Near Ford and 3RD - At a party for Rosa Linda aka Donna (pictured on far right in foreground).
Hanging out
ELA 1997 - At a 'kickback' on Bonnie Beach and 6th street.

Gerard Meraz is the author of An Oral History of DJ Culture From East Los Angeles. 

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