Image courtesy of GRN+GLD.
Every second Thursday night for the last year and a half, an experimental beat scene has been quietly brewing at Que Sera. True to its underground ethos, it’s remained largely under the radar, but faithful attendees have compared the monthly shows—hosted by beat- and zine-making collective GRN+GLD—to LA’s Low End Theory, a veteran weekly party that’s propelled the likes of Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing.
“It’s more of like, a chill cult,” GRN+GLD founding member Benny Edles, 27, said. “We hang out all the time.”
The Oakland-born beatmaker (also known as Dirty Merlin) founded the group some five years ago with his high school friend Rodrigo Chavez (G.Wrecks) out of Santa Ana, where they shared a studio. The two eventually moved into a warehouse in Costa Mesa, which they repurposed into an underground venue dubbed the “Wizard’s Den” for “stuff they liked” and sometimes exhibits of their own visual artwork.
The early shows featured a number of punk bands, and in about a year’s time, they were hosting OC’s top-shelf DJs and producers including Dream Panther. But the collective made the biggest waves during its years-long residency at Costa Mesa’s Avalon Bar, the heart of Orange County’s beat scene before its closure in 2013.
Benny Edles, AKA Dirty Merlin, in his apartment. Photo by Esther Kang.
“We booked most of our first guests there,” Edles said. “It all started there.”
Sharing space with OC’s most inventive beatmakers, GRN+GLD organically expanded its circle of like-minded collaborators and started collecting eyes and respect from the likes of OC Weekly, which in 2013 named it Best DJ Collective.
Today, GRN+GLD counts 10 official members, and it’s become a close-knit “second family” more than anything. The majority of them are beat producers, while some solely contribute visual art. Edles, a founding organizer for OC Zine Fest, is one of the few who contributes both (he designs cover art and fliers). GRN+GLD periodically releases its own zines — it’s an “extra way to expand on the myth” about the collective, Edles added cheekily.
“We’re all over the BPM spectrum,” Edles explained. “But there’s definitely a strain, a timbre that runs through it. Just like the name thing it’s a little ineffable.”
After the Avalon Bar’s closure, the collective floated around Santa Ana before finding a home in Que Sera about a year and a half ago. Their repotting in Long Beach was for no other reason than Edles’ own move here about two years ago. Edles notes that Que Sera’s dim red lights and laid-back vibe is uncannily reminiscent of the old Avalon Bar — but bigger with a fuller liquor selection — a recipe ripe for an underground scene to thrive.
GRN+GLD is expanding its functional scope as well, with its first-ever compilation vinyl release set for this summer. The group has so far self-released some 15 EPs and albums, mostly digital and some handmade CDs. In the very near future, the group will be starting a sub label in order to release works of friends.
Their past lineups at Que Sera have reached far and wide, reeling in artists from San Diego to the Netherlands. But GRN+GLD shows remain faithful to the cream of the beat-infused experimental crop across the OC, LA and Long Beach, hosting the likes of Free the Robots, The Natives (Porch Party Records), Breathing Effect (Alpha Pup Records) and NiceGuyxVinny (Soulection). Guitarist Vincent Mazza of Furcast — Edles’ favorite local band — debuted his solo project Boy Zebra at a show this past summer. Their events typically feature about three guests and three GRN+GLD residents.
“The main reason we book shows is to meet people,” Edles said. “They’re shows we’d want to go to. Honestly I don’t really care about the turnout. I just want to meet the people we book and get to hear their tracks. We do it to practice our stuff and hear what the other dudes are working on, to keep pushing each other. And you just get to hang out. It’s awesome.”
GRN+GLD takes place the second Thursday of every month at Que Sera in Long Beach. The next show on March 10 will feature guests Co.Fee and Arti of My Hollow Drum, JSN.MSK of Crimewave 5150 and ONYMICO of Beat Theater. Cover is $3. For more information, visit grngld.com.