By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Photos by Apollo Staar
We don’t go to bars to pick up (we’ve got a man) or to get drunk (we draw the line at comfortably buzzed, but sometimes that line does get a little, uh, blurry). Still, we love planting ourselves in the middle of one of our favorite drinking grottoes at that precise instant (usually midnight or so) when the air turns electric. It’s when everyone in the place seems to be riding the same intoxicated current, inhibitions suddenly melt like butta, potential romances — and possibly regrettable one-night stands — begin to bud, strangers act like old friends and the entire room bustles with expectation and 80-proof-fueled bliss. At that moment, music is everything. Bar bands? Nah, facing the stage makes for less interaction. Jukeboxes? Sure, they offer choice, but ever had to wait all night for your selections, while the group of frat boys next to ya goes through the entire Bon Jovi catalog? Not fun. Thankfully, some of our favorite local bars are wising up and enlisting the help of DJs to provide the soundtrack to their crowd’s gumption for consumption. No giant dance floors, no chaotic disco lights — just good tunes mixed together by a pro (or even a real rock star) who understands the ebb and flow of a room and knows just what works, whether you’re there to guzzle or just sip up the scene. BIGFOOT LODGE
A lot of people were really bummed when this cavernous Los Feliz cocktail cabin stopped showcasing live bands last year, but the characters behind the decks have always been just as interesting as the ones who strutted on the stage. DJ Lee Joseph (the man behind Dionysus Records) is the place’s godfather of sorts, spinning a wonderful, sometimes wacky mix of ’60s-heavy grinds and obscure punk rave-ups, a combo that really took off at his now-defunct monthly jam-slam Club 66/77. These days, Lee can be found buffing the wax every Wednesday at London Calling, his U.K.-sounds gathering, where you can sip Newcastle and Guinness while the sounds of the Who, the Sex Pistols, Sham 69 and lesser known limeys shake in the background. (If you’re down for a drive, check out Lee’s exotica DJ night at the Lucky Tiki in Mission Hills too!) For an even broader beat-blend, pop in on a Tuesday night, where rotating themes and promoters include Sinking With Sea Level, with Todd from the record store of the same name spinning an eccentric selection, along with guests from local bands; Mixtape, a gathering that’s all about crafting that perfect blend of music in the perfect order, just like back in junior high when we’d make our crushes cassettes that told ’em just how we felt through the songs (sigh!); a punk-night Lurk and Chug; and Girlskool, a slumber party–esque affair where the self-proclaimed “best worst girl DJs” spin cheesy ’80s dance and garage rock as well as music from, according to Bigfoot’s Web site, “local bands they’ve slept with.”
3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater, (323) 662-9227. THE BAR In the space that used to be Raji’s (not the famous rock club Raji’s but the dive bar that came some years later), The Bar is pretty inconspicuous from the outside, but inside it’s a comfy, candlelit room that’s just short of classy. In this neighborhood, where the Old Spaghetti Factory down the street was about as fancy as things got, it’s a hidden gem. The vibe shines brightest on Wednesday nights when DJs spin an ’80s rock and new-wave-heavy mix for hordes of multihued heads in Converse and metallics. The skinny, bamboo-covered smoking section outside is popular, as is the front-door area where you can watch as Hollywood riffraff drive by. But it’s the booths inside that provide the best view of both the DJ and the inebriated trendoids who inevitably attempt to gyrate, though there is absolutely no room in the place to do so. Drinks always end up getting spilled, but who cares when Bow Wow Wow’s bouncing in the background?
5851 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 468-9154. DOLCE/CHI
Okay, these are two totally different spots that are nowhere near each other, but they have more than a few things in common. Both are trendy restaurants with a bar area that could be three times larger and still get packed, and both are owned by a bunch of people but only get attention for their celebrity investors — Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake, respectively. We ate dinner at Dolce not too long ago and purposely chose a table near the bar so we could ogle all the designer bags and shoes. Dunno if most of the cosmetically enhanced crowd was actually waiting for a table or just to be discovered, but they seemed to be having a good time, especially when a pretty blond DJ got behind the decks and started spinning high-energy rock from AC/DC and ironic stuff like John Cougar — great for the bar-area vibe, if a little weird to eat a pricey meal by. At Chi at the Hyatt on the Sunset Strip, there is a tiny, makeshift dance floor, and perfectly manicured gals — and guys — pack it when the bewitching hour hits. Mondays are most popular here, with DJs playing funky hip-hop from a laptop perched above the decks. The dark, exotic outdoor bar area offers the DJ action on one side and the excitement and chaos of the traffic-jammed Strip on the other, not to mention a steady flow of celebs and assorted perfect people rubbernecking each other all night. Now that’s entertainment!