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New Conga Room Set to Add Latin Flavor to L.A. Live's Music Venues

By Ed Fuentes and Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, December 03, 2008, at 10:10AM
Conga Room Eric Richardson [Flickr]

One of three bars in the venue, the Conga Room refers to this space as the S-Bar.

Crews were hard at work on Tuesday running cables and stocking bars at the new Conga Room. There's always a lot to be done when opening a music venue or restaurant. When that venue is part of the $2.5 billion L.A. Live and features a restaurant, broadcast facilities and a lighting system that can instantly change the feel of the entire space, those last-minute logistics are multiplied.

But with just two days to go before a December 4 soft-opening, the scene at Conga Room was surprisingly calm.

The chocolate-colored wood floors felt their first quick rhythmic steps from just-hired hostesses dancing over fragile fiber cable waiting to be installed. Barbacks delivered cases of premiere rums to the rich red “S” bar curving against a backdrop of tiled butterflies lit by orange light. Nearby, the exploding lines of the Papaya Bar, designed by Cuban-American artist Jorge Pardo, made halos on the floor when hit with afternoon light.

In a far corner, next to a nest where DJs will survey the dance floor, young artists were applying final touches to a Sergio Arau mural. It’s a luchado, a masked Mexican wrestler seen in mid-fight from his high flying move. He's distracted by a Latina in head dress, striking a pose from "One Million Years B.C."

Indeed the female form even looks like Raquel Welch, highlighting her Bolivian background with eyes gazing over to the VIP area at the back of the 15,000 square foot club.

Textures abound in the new space, designed by architect Hagy Belzberg. From the ground-floor entryway a sculpture known as the Vortex rises up through the second floor and into a white ceiling composed of glossy, tilted acoustic tiles. Strips of LEDs reflect color off the ceiling, instantly changing the color of the venue. The VIP rooms are decorated with rich wallpaper and plush furniture.

Most patrons may not notice, but the new Conga Room is heavy on technology. The venue is fully wired as a live broadcast facility, able to plug straight into L.A. Live's satellite and microwave links. A small control room operates cameras mounted around the venue.

The new space marks a return for Conga Room, which closed on Wilshire boulevard in 2006. The venue is several times larger than the old one, holding 1,055 patrons.

The Pan-Latin feel and texture of the nightclub will be matched by Boca, an in-house restaurant that features a menu of Caribbean, Mexican, South American and Cuban dishes by Executive Chef Alex Garcia. The dining area is separated from the main room by multiple panes of glass, but inevitably sound from the show will find its way to diners' ears.

While the tropical high-tech club is all dazzle, the stage is simple. A black floor and modest neon sign fronts a single glittering curtain on a small intimate space that will hold larger groups of musicians elbow to elbow.

It doesn't really matter how many distraction are in the room. The musicians that can headline in The Conga Room know how to play small stages like they are the King and Queens of the nightclub world.

The preview opening of The Conga Room with Olga Tañón, two-time Grammy Award and three-time Latin Grammy-winning Merengue and Latin Pop artist, will be on December 4th & 5th, 8:00pm / 21 and over / Grand Opening on December 10.


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