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
You remember Jabberjaw, the cool all-ages club that folded back in 1997. Complete with video games and hot cocoa, the Pico Boulevard club was, in its time, one of the only places bands could play for underage fans. Hole played its first-ever gig there. And there were these oft-recalled performances by Nirvana, Ween, Weezer, Jawbreaker, Beck, John Spencer Blues Explosion, and L7 . . .
Filling the void left when Jabberjaw’s closed, the Smell has been around six and a half years. Originally located on Lankershim and Magnolia in North Hollywood, the club was started by three music fans: Ara Shirinyan, Jarrett Silberman and Jim Smith. Shirinyan and Silberman, who started the club in part to have a place for their bands to play, moved on. That left the club in the hands of the now 35-year-old Smith, a Cal State Northridge poli-sci grad, who seems almost too good to be true.
In the months it fails to turn a profit, Smith keeps the club going with income from his job as a union organizer. He wouldn’t know an A&R executive if one stood right in front of him.
He has 10 to 12 Converse-wearing kids who volunteer at the Smell, though Smith makes it a point to pay those who can run sound, including Jennifer Clavin from Mika Miko (Clavin’s dad is a sound engineer at Universal Studios). Most of the Smell’s volunteers have bands, and most of these bands — like Wives, Mika Miko, Child Pornography, the Sharp Ease, My Little Red Toe, and Rose of Bohdan — play the Smell regularly. Smith often attends the shows when his bands play at other venues. It’s hard to imagine any of the slick West Hollywood nightclub owners, who often make bands “pay to play,” doing that.
The three-room rectangular space is covered in stencil art, cheeky graffiti and handmade fliers. Discarded bikes and parts sit in a pile for the taking. There is an all-vegan snack bar that serves soda, water, tea, licorice, veggie burritos, sandwiches and, on a recent April night, “Hell Ya Hillel” sandwiches made with Jenna’s (of Mika Miko) grandmother’s Passover Sedar leftovers.
Bands are as prone to setting up on the floor among the thrift-shop couches as they are to setting up on the stage. Crowds can range between 30 to 250 people. There are art shows, fashions shows and recently an “under 21” night, during which all the bands were underage, and if you were over 21 you needed a fake “under-21” ID to get in.
Most kids ride their bikes there. The cover is usually 5 dollars, which seems like a small price to pay for a reason to leave the house and to restore your faith in the L.A. music scene.
The Smell is located at 247 S. Main St. (enter in the back), open “four or five times a week.” It’s best to check its Web site (www.thesmell.org) for a schedule, or call (213) 625-4325.
Where Kids Rock
The Smell (see above story), Knitting Factory, Fais-do-do, The Roxy, The Troubadour and The Whisky are open to all ages. The Glass House and 51 Buckingham in Pomona are cool, on the same block, and all-ages. Koos in Long Beach is all-ages, too, but has a curfew because of noise regulations. Sacred Grounds, a coffeehouse in San Pedro, has also been putting on some cool all-ages shows lately. Casa del Pueblo Cooperative in Echo Park is a community center that sometimes has underage bands — check the schedule before going. Sundays at Zen Sushi is all-ages. Brian Miller will have his next big Neon Hates You concert at USC this fall. But, if you want to see bands play at a house party or maybe in its garage, it’s always a good idea to check the band’s Web site; they generally post upcoming gigs.
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