Underground music scene gets scrutiny after deadly Oakland fire

Published 9:59 am Thursday, December 22, 2016

LOS ANGELES — The party is over at Purple 33.

About a week after 36 people died in a fire at an underground music party in Oakland, inspectors acting on a complaint discovered a makeshift nightclub and unpermitted living quarters concealed in a warehouse near Los Angeles International Airport.

Authorities searching the drab, two-story building found an illegally constructed dance floor, paired with a bar and DJ booth. Haphazard wiring snaked through walls, and an outdoor staircase capped by a bamboo canopy was flagged as a fire threat.

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The unlicensed club was shut down, and operator Donald Cassel, who also lives there, was ordered to clear out.

The closing of the space dubbed Purple 33 highlights growing friction between underground music venues that can be the only option for experimental or emerging performers and their fans, and authorities who see disasters-in-waiting.

Finding them is another matter, when clandestine events can be announced with a fleeting Facebook post or text message and, in many cases, vanish after the music stops.