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
Photo by Larry Hirshowitz
The ’30s and ’40s: Swing, Swing, Swing
Curly-coiffed chicks with movie-star makeup and vintage rayon dresses jitter and flitter with their dapper dates in zoot suits and wing tips, while those too timid to trample the dance floor look on nonchalantly and sip their martinis: It’s another night at The Derby, and it’s goin’ off! Though several years have come and gone since the swing revival made couple-dancing cool again, the scene here in L.A. thrives, thanks to this Los Feliz spot’s swank interior and intimate stage, offering the best jumpin’-and-jivin’ live acts in town.
The authentic ambiance of The Coconut Club, inside Merv Griffin’s Beverly Hilton Hotel, makes you feel like you’ve stepped back into a world of old Hollywood glamour, and you have — this room was once frequented by Tinseltown’s brightest. Remodeled to match the opulence of its heyday, the club features live swing orchestras and a mixed crowd of young and old, moving and grooving like it was 1948. The smoking ban in clubs and bars has become somewhat of an inconvenience — it’s hard to pose like a ’40s starlet without a ciggy to suck on seductively.The ’50s: Greasy Kid Stuff
It’s easy to tell when a rockabilly event takes over an L.A. venue — the parking lot boasts a fleet of cherry’d-out T-Birds, Falcons, Impalas, etc. It looks like the outside of Arnold’s in Happy Days, and if you happen to be one of the daring few to park a new Japanese import in this sea of gleaming classics, you’d best have some fuzzy dice or a winking-cat sticker on it to show you’re down with the ’50s!
With two popular rockabilly nights and occasional special events at spots like Bar Deluxe and Hollywood Billiards, High Octane events guarantee hipsters a trip back to a time when girls wore pedal-pushers (okay, we’re wearing ’em again) and boys put enough grease in their hair to start an oil shortage, and lately they’re incorporating surf, swing and punk into the mix. High Octane’s Wednesday-night events offer the best local rockabilly groups, but it’s their Bowl-a-Rama Nightat Eagle Rock’s All-Star Lanes that’ll really take you back. Maybe it’s the geeky shoes and spiffy shirts worn by bowling enthusiasts of the past (and present), or maybe it’s the cheesy decor in most bowling alleys; either way, the pin-pounding sport embodies the innocent, carefree outlook of the nuclear-family era. While Betty Page look-alikes sip Budweisers alongside cuffed-Levi’s-wearing, tattooed dudes at the cavernous adjoining bar, bands like 13 Cats, Big Sandy and the Paladins rock the house with ç country-tinged sounds that pay homage to our American rock & roll forebears.The ’60s: Mod Elevators
Thursday nights, a colorful row of Vespa scooters leads you to the door at Cafe Bleu, where young girls in go-go boots and micro-minis and guys in dark suits and pageboy haircuts wait their turn to jump into the fray. Local bands of the Oasis/Suede Britpop variety play early, but it’s the DJ-spun "6-T’s" sounds that pack this place, upbeat tunes compelling C.B.’s patrons to jump on stage and show off the moves they’ve copied from old editions of Ready, Steady, Go!
It’s the same scenario at Shout(second Sunday of the month at El Rey Theater), only on a much grander scale. With projected visuals of Twiggy, Brian Jones–era Stones and other modish psychedelic images — and go-go gals wearing blue eyeshadow, white lipstick and dresses that once belonged to their mothers — this danceteria brings to mind those giddy sequences Goldie Hawn used to do on Laugh-In. Sounds range from soulful Supremes hits, to poppy ’60s anthems like Nancy Sinatra’s "Boots," to modern Britpop, to tunes from the ’80s mod movement by the likes of the Jam, Madness and the Untouchables.
Speaking of the Untouchables, the monthly shindig Solid(first Saturday of the month at Fais Do-Do) is hosted by a former member of that mod-ska group, and this groovy hangout is teeming with well-dressed "rude boys" in ties and pork-pie hats, and dainty gals with fake eyelashes and falls in their hair. Most of the stylish crowd are too young to remember the ’70s, much less the ’60s, and they betray no interest in the acid-fried hippie lifestyle that most of us associate with the decade — they’re all about streamlined looks and soulful sounds. And all that time spent getting ready ain’t for nothing — this dance party awards best-dressed and best-dancer prizes, too. Yeah, baby!The ’70s: Glittering Generalities
Ever since Studio 54 made its mark as the palace of wanton hedonism, it’s been a ç standard to which most nightspots aspire. But few clubs have been able to duplicate the magic of the ’70s New York dance emporium. With the not-so-long-ago popularity of grunge and the baseball-hat/baggy-pants look of the hip-hop scene, clubsters just weren’t into dressing up to go out anymore, and this "keeping it real" lack of flamboyance made creating a wild, extravagant atmosphere near-impossible.