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Bubble Report: LA parties like it's 1999

Tech events in Los Angeles reached a fever pitch last week, and reminded us of an earlier, more innocent time.

DJ Perry Farrel
It might be a bubble if...Perry Farrell is your DJ.
Michelle Thatcher/CNET Networks

The night club was filling up, free drinks were flowing, and Perry Farrell stood behind the DJ table. There was something distinctively bubbly at the TechCrunch/PopSugar "Geek Goes Chic" Meetup in Los Angeles last Thursday, and it wasn't just the personalities of the PopSugar readers.

The party's organizers are only the latest members of the Web scene to bring a little bubble love to Southern California. Social media blogs Mashable and have both hosted LA events in the last month. The move makes sense: Aside from being at the center of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles is one of the fastest growing regions for venture capital [PDF link], and late last year the Los Angeles Times reported that the region had bypassed New England to rank second in the U.S. for tech investment. Plus, the tech community here has been gaining steady momentum since 2006; Tuesday marks the second anniversary of the LA Geek Dinner gatherings.

Still, the impression of froth at the TechCruch/PopSugar meetup was only reinforced by the fact that the most-reported story from the party seemed to be the rumored ejection of representatives of both Mashable and tech-gossip blog Valleywag--complete with debate as to whether the incident was in fact staged to generate buzz. ("If a blogger gets thrown out of a party, but no one cares, does the Internet make a sound?" asks one commenter on the Los Angeles Times story.)

Surely the event's many sponsors can't be happy with the distraction. But it was disappointing that so few exhibitors had anything new to talk about that night. In fact, most of the sponsoring companies were familiar from such past events as Twiistup and Lunch 2.0. The key attention-grabbers seemed to be recently out-of-beta Engage, which helps you connect with potential dates within your existing social network, and last-minute-add ArtistForce, whose reps smartly hung a huge banner to help raise visibility in an otherwise tough corner spot.

Don't get me wrong: I like free beer as much as any other self-respecting journalist. And there's something amusing about throwing a party that's explicitly, if stereotypically, designed to encourage geeky guys and fashionable women to hook up. But the geek/chic idea had its bumps--and grinds, as I discovered. While chatting with friends next to the stage, I was aggressively shoved out of the way by the insistent backside of a dancing attendee. From my vantage point I couldn't tell if it was chic or geek, but either way sometimes the concept is better than the reality.