(Don't) Look Back in Anger: 2016 Was a Weird, Sad and Wonderful Year for L.A. Nightlife
Attendees at Lethal Amounts' Heroes Tribute night at the Monty
Going out is for the most part about escape, especially in this city. This past year, we all had plenty of reasons to want to escape.
The steady stream of music icon deaths never stopped, nor did the “final” farewell tours. The emo resurgence made millennials happy but started to truly seem “sad as fuck” to those of us over 25. There were way too many “hip” foods to be seen eating (avocado toast and ramen, again?), cleverly named drinks to down (usually tweaked from tiki menus), “dope” emcees and bands to see and part-time/not-real DJs to dance to (yours truly included). Despite the year’s despair, or maybe because of it, there was always plenty to do in L.A.
Still, if you were more than a mindless clubster, daily debates over sexism, cultural appropriation, online dating hookup culture and, of course, presidential politics not only tainted your social media but affected your actual socializing — like, in the flesh — as well. There’s no denying it: Our collective mood while going out this year was mostly melancholy, mad at the world, even. And it only got worse as the year wore on and we learned the government would soon regress.
We were all in such a funk this year that a lot of us didn’t even notice all the club closures and openings that went down around us. So let's break down the biggest new spots, bid farewell to the places we lost, and attempt to remind ourselves of the fun we still had sometimes. While deaths and debates consumed us way too often, there was also unity, commiseration and celebration. If next year sucks just as bad or worse, at least we’ll also have more of this too, right?
Lemmy statue unveiling at the Rainbow
David Bowie’s death will go down as the single most devastating loss to music of the computer age. The mourning had already begun with Lemmy Kilmister’s passing a couple weeks before, and continued for both of them online and out in the city’s bars and clubs for months. As we come up on the one-year anniversary in January, it still continues. When Prince followed, then Leonard Cohen, among many others, it started to feel like the Grim Reaper was on a rampage — and even this week with George Michael, it still does.
But there was beauty in this loss: The music of all the above has continued to be omnipresent in Los Angeles after dark and is likely to continue to be. Highlight gatherings included The Band Who Fell to Earth’s residencies at Davey Wayne’s and Breakroom 86, Adam 12’s unparalled Prince dance parties at Giorgio's at the Standard Hollywood and in downtown warehouses, and SF DJ Dave Paul’s Prince vs. Michael Jackson nights. Lethal Amounts’ Heroes Tribute at the Monty celebrating Lemmy and Bowie remains Danny Fuentes' finest party achievement (and he's had a lot of them), and the statue ceremony for Lemmy at the Rainbow turned the Sunset Strip landmark into a holier place for rock & roll than it already was.
Geneva Jacuzzi performs at HM 157.
The Ghost Ship fire in Oakland had its own repercussions in L.A., but even before that tragedy, nontraditional venues struggled. HM 157 made strides to come back after its own, less serious fire and for the most part it’s succeeded. But DIY venue Pehrspace closed its doors and the Smell may soon follow. And as of just this week, another underground staple in L.A. (one that I promised owners not to write about because it would mean its demise) has bid adieu via its Facebook group.
We don’t have all the details yet, but if you were a night owl in L.A. the past few years, you knew about the Overpass and went to its various late-night-into-early-morning shindigs. It was a true underground after-hours, a rarity in L.A. these days, frequented by hipsters, punkers, funksters and sleepless revelers. I'm kind of surprised this dance-driven den of debauchery lasted as long as it did, and I'm not entirely convinced it’s completely kaput, so I won't say where it was or who put it on quite yet. Plus, something is bound to take its place sooner rather than later. L.A. will definitely need it next year.
Star Girls Burlesque at the Dragonfly
WHEN CLUBS FLY
Speaking of closures, another venerable music club quietly closed several weeks ago, and I didn’t report on it, mostly because I wasn’t able to get the full scoop. Still haven’t really, but it’s pretty safe to declare by now that the Dragonfly on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood is no more. It’s been shuttered for weeks, reportedly due to problems between its partners. One of my favorite venues in L.A., the Dragonfly was where the Boulet Brothers' sexy soirees first started and was also home for many years to long-running drum 'n' bass night Respect. So many exciting events went down at this lively, midsized venue (Star Girls’ Star Wars Burlesque, The Spazmatics residencies, the first big Foo Fighters secret show, and on and on), it’s hard to do it justice with a short recap. But unlike departed rock stars, whom we know can’t come back, I’m hoping this place can somehow resurrect itself. If it does, I’ll letcha know.
Union opening night
For every venue and party that called it quits, there were many more that opened, full of hope and hullabaloo. Some reinvented old faves., such as Mitch Edelson's Union, in the former Jewel’s Catch One space, and Bobby Green's Highland Park Bowl in the old Mr. T’s Bowl. Both impressively upgraded their locales while nodding to their original buildings' histories.
Lord knows the slew of new bars that opened up this year was more than welcome. Hot new hooch hovels included El Dorado (from Rio Hackford of the Monty), Nighthawk (from Jeremy Fall) and Adults Only (in the back of a faux video store). Pacific Seas finally opened up inside Clifton’s and took the tiki trend to a swank new level that some loved and others loathed. For live music, the Hi Hat was a hit, while the Riff rocked and Loaded Hollywood got reloaded, booking live music again in its adjacent room after shutting it down for several months.
Emo Nite L.A.
LIKE IT’S (BEFORE) 1999
The '90s have been a thing for a couple of years now, but in 2016 they really exploded. The Riff, mentioned above, focused on the era, and of course Emo Nite at the Echoplex saw script-tattooed types pack in for pop-punk flashbacks. Club '90s at Los Globos paid homage to shameless pop hits of the decade, and made them seem kinda cool in the process. No big surprise, since dance clubs vets were behind it.
Dilana Smith at Ultimate Jam Night
JAM BAM, THANK YOU MA’AM
Two rock & roll jam nights — Ultimate Jam Night and Lucky Strike Live — vied for star power and sit-in supremacy, making for some pretty stellar, player-packed and unpredictably themed live music nights, Meanwhile, a longer-running gathering — Tuesdays with The FOCKRS, featuring many of the musicians from each — kept its groove going at the Kibbitz Room. In general, 2016 was pretty jam-tastic in L.A. thanks to all three.
Mick Jagger at Desert Trip
When it came to live music, old-timers were tops this year. Guns N’ Roses made their triumphant return at the Troubadour, followed by bigger hometown reunion gigs at Coachella and Dodger Stadium. Motley Crue finally (like finally, finally) bid farewell just before the top of the year, and The Go-Go’s and Black Sabbath did so in dramatic fashion as well. Jane’s Addiction marked the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza and the closure of Irvine Meadows by playing all of Ritual de lo Habitual, and Iggy Pop, The Cure, ELO and Grace Jones all played some of the best shows of their careers. (See this list for more of the best this year).
Then there was Desert Trip, which was both revered and ragged on (“Oldchella”) from pretty much the moment it was announced. Priciness and torturous online ticketing process aside, few who went regretted doing so. The heartbreaking musical losses of 2016 made us all acutely aware that we could soon say goodbye to the geniuses still here — Sir Paul, Sir Mick, Keef, Dylan, Young, Waters and other legends not on the bill — anytime. In a way, that level of appreciation was a gift for music and nightlife lovers, and it’s one that is likely to keep on giving in 2017.
More from Lina Lecaro:
The Cure Played Four Encores at the Hollywood Bowl and We Still Didn't Want It to End
Why Has Everyone From Slash to Dave Grohl Played This Tiny Bar in Tarzana?
Jane Wiedlin Looks Back on 38 Years of Go-Go's
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