By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
On the edge of the Crenshaw district, Fais Do-Do, former site of a bank, is a faded but still-spectacular operation, boasting some beautiful architecture, with an impossibly high ceiling and a collection of blues, jazz and rock performers regularly heating things up. The blues will always have a home at Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn, which, although recently relocated, still retains the no-fooling, house-rocking atmosphere that made it legendary. In the Valley, Smokin’ Johnnie’sand Cozy’s Bar & Grillalso keep the blue flame lit, and a collection of other small blues locales (Harvelle’s, the Classroom) and the beautiful high-class woodwork and authentic grit of B.B. King’sensure the blues’ longevity well into the next century.
But rock & roll does not require luxurious surroundings. Ramble downtown to Al’s Bar, for 20 years perhaps the ultimate in bare-bones, no-frills, chipped-paint, strange-graffiti, just-the-bar-and-the-stage-thanks underground rock & roll haven. Melrose Avenue’s Gabah, while a bit more conscious of aesthetics, is another uncut East Hollywood forum for all things rock; Bar Deluxe— intimate, dark, often steamy, with its huge suspended fish tanks and hordes of punk rock and psychobilly bands — is a comfortably scruffy destination for the disenfranchised troublemaker.
Subtlety and good taste are not requisite; over on Vine Street, the bamboo-lined Jacks Sugar Shackmixes up tropical elements with a blues-party ambiance — where else but in Hollywood could one find an 8-foot-high color rendering of Natalie Schaeffer and Jim Backus wardrobed as Lovey and Thurston Howell III, staring across the room at a beautiful framed vintage portrait of the late, great Boss of the Blues, Big Joe Turner?
There are the rambling rooms such as the Dragonfly, a dark, capacious spot with its variety of bars and tiered levels of seating; The Garage, rumpus room to Silver Lake’s scruffy elite, is another room-to-roam setting, with its showroom and back lounge, two bars and a what-me-worry? mood that perfectly suits the goateed and faded-denim-clad habitués. The folks at Silver Lake’s flagship of hip, Spaceland, home-away-from-home for that district’s modern-pop-and-beyond movement, pretty much left the existing tony-chromey cocktail-lounge décor alone, and have gone so far, bless ’em, as to install an enclosed back bar overlooking the stage wherein tobacco fiends can burn as they churn to an only slightly muffled version of the onstage audio.
On the grizzled, streetwise beat, there are no-nonsense joints like North Hollywood’s Blue Saloon, or the on-again/off-again rock bar the Silver Lake Lounge— neighborhood gin mills bursting with barfly atmosphere, ideal settings for an evening of backbeat and the pursuit of happiness. Another timelessly popular rock & roll room is long-established East Hollywood strip bar Jumbo’s Clown Room, where the sleaze-and-tease mood perfectly complements any booking. Without a doubt, the most deliciously casual spot is Mr. T’s Bowl, whose boozy atmosphere (also shared by Eagle Rock’s Bowl-a-Rama in the All-Star Lanes) makes it one of the great anything-goes-and-often-does places to hang. Over the hill, Q’s Riverbottomin Burbank has the busted-down charm of a flat-out classic dive — bar, stage, some tables and chairs, and that great musty feel only time’s passage can bring.
In the safe-and-sane category (that is, nary a howling punk rocker to be seen in these), the upstairs-downstairs, multibooking West Hollywood caba-rock center LunaParkfeatures a small army of musicians, comics and DJs almost nightly, and perhaps the most ambitious highbrow haute food service in any of the city’s clubs. The nicely appointed, well-mannered Largoon Fairfax is another room with both full dinner service and, thanks to operator-owner Flanagan, a pleasant hint of the old world about it. Another menu-prideful club is Lumpy Gravy, whose Dadaesque décor is matched by a wild policy that brings in everything from ambient to industrial acts. Hollywood renegade Harry Dean Stanton has made Pico Boulevard’s The Minthis regular beat, a room that boasts an at-the-ready, as-good-as-it-gets studio setup to capture any performance.
The singer-songwriter ethic strums on regularly in Genghis Cohen, Molly Malone’sand the Crooked Bar, with each providing Hollywood troubadours ample room to prove themselves the next Dylan (we seem to get about six of them annually from these spots). Acoustic-musician-oriented rooms such as recent addition Boulevard Musicin Culver City (and, lest we forget, Covina’s Fret House) operate like miniature concert halls, presenting all sorts of finger-pickers and folk-rockers as esoteric as they are cult-esteemed. The king of such spots remains music-store-by-day, club-by-night McCabe’s, that intimate Santa Monica shrine to singers and their songs.
On the Westside, things are generally a bit more ordered; 14 Below, a favorite spot with the college crowd, and The Gigon Pico, with its assortment of sofas, offer a homey atmosphere (as does the Gig’s recently opened Hollywood sister on Melrose). With two facilities specializing in tribute and disco bands, the West Endclubs in Santa Monica and Redondo Beach offer big beat for the coastal set, while Wilmington’s all-ages, no-booze PCHclub regularly features scads of touring underground and indie acts, from art-rock to hardcore. On the Santa Monica Pier itself, Rusty’s Surf Ranch, a temple to the beachcomber mystique, boasts an impressively displayed collection of vintage surfboards; also on the Pier is wild card Arcadia, former site of the short-lived, high-toned Ash Grove, which has been sporadically operating in and out of limbo, but threatens to re-establish itself as a showcase for big-name performers.