We can probably all agree that The Echo and the Echoplex put Echo Park (we wont use the other "E" word for fear of being rebuked by The "Eastside" Police) on the musical map, and no doubt, the adjacent venues are at least part of the reason why so many music makers reside there these days.
But one thing the musician hub/hood has lacked is a proper guitar shop. Until now.
The Fretted Frog, which just opened last Friday on Alvarado, is looking to fill a void in the area, both merchandise and live music-wise. The new shop, opened by Frenchie transplant Roland Belloir, offers a spot to quickly pop in for busted strings, get repairs and customization (for electric axes too) and peruse a nice selection of beautifully handcrafted acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, and ukes (the latter, seemingly getting some novelty use by rockers again).
Perhaps most exciting for the newly nicknamed by some "Frog Block" (which also includes stylista Micki Curtis' groovy vintage clothes emporium Lemon Frog Shop, The Downbeat Café and Machine Projects artspace) is the corner stage right in the shop windows, which will showcase live acoustic music on a regular basis, plus open mic nights and instrument clinics.
Friday, the inaugural house show featured the melodies of Haroula Rose, whose sweet and simple songs were as delicate as her name might imply, but had the depth to keep the entire room (even the many dogs and children there!) captivated.
Walter Spencer, who took the stage with a group of acoustic players, brought a bolder bounce to the opening bash. The former punk bassist (who's played with The Water Tower Bucket Boys and Pat Smear among others over the years) makes twang-tastic party music, and cuts like "Have A Good Time" and "Let's Dance" had the friendly and fashionably-casual crowd doing both.
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Still, one Spencer song lathers like no other. "Dr. Bonner's Magic Soap," which he wrote about the unfortunate predicament pal Don Bolles (The Germs, 45 Grave, Celebrity Skin) found himself in 3 years ago (he was put in jail after the soap -which he kept in his car- came up positive for GHB, and released after further tests found nothing). Even without the now-mythic local backstory, it's a sprite little ditty, and it's got one of the most memorable choruses ever: "It makes my baaaaallls tingle, but it don't get me high!"
Adding to the tune's relevance Friday, it happened to be Mr. Bolles (aka Kitten Sparkles) birthday. The tireless drummer/Ding-a-Ling DJ wasn't on hand for a serenade, unfortunately, but he did showcase his new project Fancy Space People down the street a couple nights later at -where else?- the Echo, for Sunday's Part Time Punks club. We hear it was out of this world.
Check out the Fretted Frog's website for products, services, calendar and even tips, here.
More in this Thursday's Nightranger column.