It’s often the little things that get overlooked, taken for granted and eventually forgotten in a city the size of Los Angeles. But that’s not the case with Ye Olde Hushe Clubbe (formerly Club Ding-a-Ling), which happens on Wednesdays weekly at the Hyperion Tavern in Silver Lake, a beer-only bar smaller than some of its wealthier neighbors' shoe closets. This week, the hub for underground and experimental music celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Founded by artist and musician Nora Keyes (Centimeters, Fancy Space People, Rococo Jet) and punk icon and DJ Don Bolles (Germs, Exterminators), the 10-year-old club regularly packs not only the tiny (75-person occupancy) club itself but the sidewalk in front as well. Inside, attendees find an odd assortment of vintage California law books on the shelves and beautiful chandeliers. The atmosphere is fitting for the type of parties thrown at Ye Olde Hushe Clubbe, at which pretty much anything goes.
“We get a lot of cool-looking people at the Hushe Clubbe. We get a lot of weirdos, too," Bolles says, speaking by phone with a discernible grin his voice.
Keyes, who has been a part of the underground music and club scene for more than two decades, discovered the venue while walking down Hyperion Avenue one day in 2007 with her friend, Mindy Le Brock. From the street, some chandeliers caught her eye.
“We walked in and the owner was there and he was just finishing up refurbishing the bar. It had been a leather-daddy bar called Cuffs. We told the owner we were interested in doing a night and he gave us a night on the spot. That’s how we got Club Ding-a-Ling. We brought Don on board, and DJ Prickle, and Mindy and I would bar tend,” Keyes says.
Club Ding-a-Ling, as the night was known for its first three years, grew in popularity quickly. Bolles, who met Keyes more than 20 years ago when she screamed in his face at a local record store, had been involved previously with the popular Club Screwball at the Parlor Club, which featured some fairly out-there theme nights, and the new club continued that tradition.
“We wanted the name to be something like Screwball, and Ding-a-Ling is like a polite Three Stooges term,” says Bolles, who along with Keyes often creates long and intricate stories to explain the theme of each ritual-like party.
There was also a yearlong period when Club Ding-a-Ling was forced to take its show on the road after the city cracked down on several clubs (including Hyperion Tavern), which were told to cease and desist having live music. It was at the conclusion of this period that Keyes and Bolles decided to change names.
“Ding-a-Ling became very popular. It was too popular in some ways," Keyes says. Shortly after the economic collapse of 2008, "If the city could find any faults with clubs at the time, they were shut down. There were a lot of things in the Echo Park area that [stopped]. The vice squad was making numerous appearances around the town at that time."
Live music has been a consistent part of Club Ding-a-Ling/Ye Olde Hushe Clubbe since the beginning, including early sets by Best Coast and by Bolles and Keyes' trippy band, Fancy Space People. More recently, bands like Sextile, The Swords of Fatima and the ever-popular Borts Minorts have put on some excellent shows.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
“The Hushe Clubbe is the absurdist clubhouse for the various genres and scenes in the Los Angeles underground,” Keyes says. “It’s a place for people to try out new stuff. We get people trying out their first band or even people who’ve been in many bands and want to try out their new project. It’s very familylike in there.”
Ding-a-Ling was on Tuesday nights but Ye Olde Hushe Clubbe takes place on Wednesdays. For this Wednesday's 10th-anniversary show, Fancy Space People are going to play, as is the Department of Descriptive Services, featuring the wonderful Bebe McPhereson, who took part in the very first Club Ding-a-Ling show in 2007.
While the overall aesthetic of Hushe Clubbe may not be steeped in any particular tradition, the importance of maintaining the L.A. music and arts underground is not lost on Keyes. “We’re more interested in art, and the true spirit of art, and keeping it alive in L.A. I think we serve a purpose, too. We intend to make people happy and feed their souls. In these times, I feel like that is a really important thing to do."
Ding-a-Ling/Hushe Clubbe's 10th-anniversary party happens Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Hyperion Tavern.