The stunning South Coast Botanic Garden is the site of a new immersive music and experiential event called DiscOasis, curated by the legendary Nile Rodgers, the event’s Groovemaster. The pop-up entertainment must-see lights up the Palos Verdes-area, blossoming with natural beauty of the garden and shimmering with disco balls and lively performers through Labor Day Weekend. It’s a utopia of lush flora, music, art, dancing and most definitely roller skating.
“When this came about and I was brought into the mix it felt very natural to me, being with a crew of wonderfully-artistic visionaries who have experience with pop-ups”, said Nile Rodgers. “One because of my love of skating, one because of my love of theater and also honestly because of my love of music”.
Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Crossroads Live’s new Constellation Immersive affiliate activated in a brand-new space and truly created something out of nothing. Their co-head Thao Nguyen couldn’t have said it any better, “We transformed a five-acre, dried-up lake bed in the back of South Coast Botanic Garden into a site-specific glittering roller disco pop-up rink”. Opening night’s VIP soiree this past Wednesday boasted a number of celebrity guests including Nile Rodgers as well as his Duran Duran collaborator John Taylor, will.i.am, Adam Lambert, Jimmy Iovine, Dita Von Teese, Jeremy Scott, Russell Peters, Tess Holliday, Symone and Gigi Goode, while DJ Cassidy was the night’s DJ. Glittering costumes, rotating disco balls, thirty of the region’s top professional roller skaters and performers and thousands of LED lights reflected onto the festive guests. Jason Mraz even stopped by a day before and showed off his slick skating skills.
2017 Rock Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy-winning producer, artist, composer, arranger and guitarist Nile Rodgers was perhaps the most ideal curator for the experience’s music, with his career-spanning hits including everything from “Good Times” to “Le Freak” to “Let’s Dance”, “Like A Virgin” and “Get Lucky”. Some fan favorites even exist as colorful musical installations throughout the gardens for guests to enjoy – but we won’t spoil all the fun. It’s a beautifully-manicured set-up for the Coachella crowd to capture their favorite moments for Instagram and TikTok and the perfect night on the town to get lost in a world Southern California has never seen. And just in case you didn’t think they took the extra mile, DiscOasis even has skate attendants to help out the amateurs, since not everyone is a pro.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again that there’s simply no one cooler than Nile Rodgers at the helm of everything music – the guy was a major fixture in disco, his songs, production and guitar skills have crossed over into hip-hop, rock, pop and electronic.
“I noticed that throughout my life, the style of music that I gravitate towards – disco music and everyone calls it dance music – the labels have changed so much over the years but the heart is still the same. When you’re amongst those people, you are amongst some of the happiest people in the world. They can be complete strangers and within a couple of hours you have a room of best friends. And this is with or without libations (laughter). But it’s true, because there’s a vibe that sort of covers you like a love blanket, like a groove blanket, you respond to the music and I’m telling you man, I used to be a music snob when I was younger because my training was so intense – my training was so intensive that I lived for placating my teachers”.
Rodgers went on to talk about his various tutors and teachers and how he strived to impress on his lessons playing perfectly while also showing his power of interpretation and learning as much as he could. Things changed the first night the eager Rodgers went to a disco because it was his first experience with the concept of continuous music. Prior to discos, he (and most others) had experienced bands playing a song and pausing before the next song to talk with the crowd or prepare for the next song’s chords. Or if you were in a bar, the jukebox was playing and there would be a mechanism with a cranking noise to slot through records to the selected choice. The pause was noticeable.
“There was always a moment where the din of the crowd and the level of the music changed, it was this thing that was always modulating up and down”, said Rodgers. “The only time that never happened to me was when I walked into my first disco and my girlfriend didn’t know what the hell I was talking about because she was an art history major and I was just enthralled like staring at the people and I was absorbed by this continuous sound and it was Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby” just going on and on and on and then when the record was over, when the DJ chose for the record to be over he segued into The Village People’s “San Francisco” seamlessly, and then right after that he went into a slower groove song, Eddie Kendricks’ “Girl You Need A Change Of Mind” – and I was like “this is the shit!” Two weeks later I wrote a song called “Everybody Dance” and that was the beginning of Chic”.
The DJ was gaining momentum in the 70s and 80s with disco and hip-hop – music would morph into a completely different experience with the influence of these two genres. DiscOasis blends the best of these eras with some of the top hits of the playlist generation and their Sunday Sunset Series offers a nod to many generations, featuring iconic music artists and icons such as Grandmaster Flash (August 1), Blu DeTiger (August 15) and Ultra Naté (August 22) with more special guests expected to be announced soon.
Nile Rodgers has been roller skating since he was a kid and it’s safe to say DiscOasis is a dream come true for the music maestro. The experience is a multi-sensory overload in the best way possible, a place to observe the sights, dazzling costumes and to see and be seen, to smell the glorious surroundings of a botanical garden in one of the greatest cities in the world, to taste roller rink-style treats from food trucks (plus cocktails and mocktails of course), to listen to the grooves of many decades and to feel the energy of the crowd and one of the largest rotating disco balls on the West Coast on a ten-thousand-square-foot roller rink.
“It’s amazing, I can tell you that the first few days we’ve had, just to set up and the feedback that I’m getting from people, it’s been so positive”, said Rodgers. “I got a little video last night from this eighty-year-old couple who are cancer survivors like myself, and they told me when they had just unlaced their skates and were leaving the rink “Good Times” came on they said “shit, now that’s skate music!” and they wanted to go back on the floor. I like the fact that I was putting my record crates together and I had to recognize that though we call it DiscOasis it wasn’t to necessarily perpetuate the music that has been tagged as disco because every generation has its form of dance music that they love. We’re going to have everything”.
Snap a photo with your bestie, your summer fling or a one of the many rotating mirror cacti at DiscOasis through Labor Day Weekend. The all ages experience is dubbed as the place “Where Music Flows & Magic Grows” and the cost of admission ($39.00 – $114.00) includes skate rentals and nothing but good vibes and good times. We Are Family Foundation, is the charity partner for DiscOasis, a not-for-profit organization co-founded by Nile Rodgers which creates programs that promote cultural diversity and nurture talents of young people. wearefamilyfoundation.org
Words by Michael Menachem
Photos by Todd Westphal