"I don't care! He's not gonna be talking to me all crazy!"
Arms flailing, head whipping back and forth, a young woman is being carried through the sweeping front doors by a hulking security guard who ignores her protests and beating fists. Setting her down gingerly on her teetering heels, he admonishes her in a deep voice — "You need to learn to calm down" — before shaking his head, turning around and heading back into the fray. It's Friday night at Club Dreams in Glendale, and the party has just begun.
"The first thing about making sure people have a good time in the club is the ladies," explains Maurice "DJ Topshelf" Colvin as he parts the sea of party-goers, being greeted by nearly everyone he passes. Halfway to his table, he approaches a group of ladies and singles one young woman out. Sidling up to her, out of earshot, he says something that makes her blush and giggle, and her homegirls stare in wonder. "I told her I liked her outfit, so I gave her a bar tab for the night," he reveals later. "It's the little things, you know."
Nipsey Hussle, 9 p.m. Friday, February 3, Club Dreams at the Sangria Lounge, 4501 East Virginia Avenue, $10, 720-435-9831.
It might be the little things that keep the ladies happy, but it's a mix of several big things that keeps Club Dreams, one of the hottest hip-hop nights in the city, continually packing them in every Friday night. The combined effort of a group of individuals has helped grow the night to the point at which the club is consistently and peacefully closing each evening having broken the 1,000-person mark at the door. Club Dreams has drawn the urban nightlife crowd to a new locale while effectively changing the game.
It all starts with security.
These guys are the first faces you see before you can even get close to the door. They want to see your ID and, if you're of the male persuasion, to pat you down. Every single guy who comes through the door gets searched, no exceptions. Interestingly, head of security Oscar Avila says it's the girls who cause the most problems.
"When it comes to fights and conflicts in this club — or most clubs, for that matter — it's usually the girls," he says. "They come in all sweet, but by the end of the night and after a few drinks, it's a whole different story. They think they're Mike Tyson or somebody. Unlike the guys, though, they're not pulling out any weapons."
While this is largely true, there have been occasions when gunshots have rung out in the parking lot, sending patrons scattering and ending the night. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's the club's policy that all offenders be dealt with directly by police. Most common items removed from guests? Pepper spray, bottles of booze and razor blades.
It's still early in the evening. DJ Ktone is warming up the crowd with some tunes, and the first wave of of patrons is beginning to arrive. The bartenders, who have all taken their places, are splitting their time between wiping down counters and staring at the clock as they prepare for an onslaught of orders containing the word "Cîroc."
Next to security, music is the component that matters the most at Club Dreams. The goal is to keep the people entertained by any means necessary. Here the style is Top 40, so you can expect to hear anything from the latest Drake track to a wall-thumping, bass-driven joint from Young Jeezy. Ktone and Topshelf are the Friday-night residents, and they're often joined by guest DJs. Topshelf strives to maintain a balance between songs for the ladies and those that keep the fellas on the dance floor. The rotation depends on the overall plan for the evening. On this night, Ktone plays the opening tunes, then passes the baton to Topshelf, who builds to the evening's crescendo and passes it back to Ktone, who takes it on home.
The art of rocking a party, Topshelf says, is finding the balance between what the people want to hear and what's going to move the evening forward. Club Dreams seems to follow this formula to the letter. Early in the evening, a young woman stands on the threshold between the patio and the dance floor, gyrating, sliding her hips and mouthing the words to a slinky hip-hop number banging through the speakers: "No Hands," a sexually explicit track from Waka Flocka that calls for the ladies to get down on the floor. Just then, women in high heels and sequins, bathed in more perfume than a world of flowers, flock to the dance floor, throwing knowing glances at the men, who watch their every move, and with their hands in the air, fingers snapping, commence winding and grinding all over the place.
Up in the booth, Topshelf is largely oblivious to the ladies' shenanigans or the fellas' posturing. He's working up a sweat. Stripping off his DGK (Dirty Ghetto Kid) jacket, down to his white T-shirt and jeans, the DJ is assisted by Hypeman P (Pablo Severton) on the mike, who gets the party rocking with sporadic announcements and shout-outs.
By midnight, it's a full-on soiree. The bar is jumping and security is taking care of business, exerting authority when necessary, but for the most part watching and watching out. The promoters for Parlay Productions, Diallo Thompson and 1600 Ent, are moving through the crowd, taking in the scene, eyeing the throng. Satisfied with the turnout, the two finally set about unwinding with a few drinks.
The entrance, meanwhile, is bustling with activity. A line has formed in both directions, filled with folks looking for air and those who are more than ready to start the party. The door girl keeps less than $100 in her hands at all times and is secured by a stoic figure with a chin-strap beard wearing a leather jacket and undertaker-style gloves. He's Jaymar Thompson, Diallo's cousin and right-hand man, and the facilitator of traffic going in and out of the doors.
"There's only one entrance, in and out," he notes over the loud music, "so sometimes this area gets pretty packed. If there's a fight or something like that, we have to make sure security can gain access to this entire entrance to control the situation."
And control the situation they do. With the number of people who are in and out of Club Dreams, it's hard to imagine how they cover the entire area, but they do. Two Glendale police officers are on hand at the behest of the city, but for the most part, it's the Dreams team security detail that keeps the peace.
"We can expect, on any given night, for there to be at least two or three altercations inside of the club," Jaymar Thompson says. "It can be big or small; the more people drink, the more exaggerated it is. It might happen inside the club or in the parking lot. It's our responsibility to clear the parking lot so guests can get to their cars and exit the club premises safely."
This process is something like herding cats — in stilettos and blazers — and it often involves pepper spray. The lights come on a little after 1:30 a.m., while the song selection from DJ Ktone, who's back on the decks, reeks of Keith Sweat and other monstrous slow jams. This selection calms the fray, but it also makes people reluctant to leave. Girls are sweating their perms out left and right, fellas are going for one last squeeze, and exasperated security guards are seizing plastic cups full of drinks and whisking unbalanced ladies from the floor or other entanglements.
DJ Topshelf is perched at the top of the steps leading to the VIP area flanked by at least four women expressing their thanks for his hospitality, while he reminds the crowd from the cordless microphone, "We do this each and every Friday night. Club Dreams is turned up!" Diallo Thompson is making the rounds through the crowd again, surveying the final moments of the evening, and after receiving several affirming pats on the back from party-goers, he shoots a knowing, satisfied smile at Topshelf and Ktone, who are making their way back toward the DJ booth.
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A short time later, as the parking lot is cleared, the crew begins wrapping up another Friday night at Club Dreams.
"It's been very exciting, challenging and humbling watching Club Dreams go from twenty people to over 1,000 consistently," says Diallo.
"Building something from the ground up wasn't easy," Topshelf concludes. "It wasn't easy; it just looks like it is. We started from the beginning and built something successful through hard work."
And big Dreams.