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Rockin’ in the Free World

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

The president says the economy is getting better all the time, and such performers as the Eagles and Barbra Streisand apparently feel the same way because ticket prices for their shows have shot up wildly in recent years beyond the rate of inflation. Tickets often cost more than a fan’s monthly rent, with Streisand demanding as much as $1,500 per person (which means she’s either an arrogant diva who wants only the upper caste to attend her concerts, or she’s blithely optimistic about the economic recovery trickling down to the rest of us soon). The relatively proletarian Rolling Stones are charging $450 (we’re talking face value) for upper-end ducats to their Dodger Stadium gig in November — and that doesn’t include a $30.55 “convenience charge,” the needlessly taunting euphemism that basically means they’ll mail you a ticket.

While it’s heartwarming that so many other folks can afford such expensive entertainment, there are still plenty of free, high-quality events around town for those cheap bastards and doubting Thomases who are too stubborn or blind to take part in the rampant prosperity bubbling up all around them. Spaceland’s free Monday nights spotlight soon-to-be-famous, before-they-start-to-suck indie-rock bands and rising local combos. And its sister club, the Echo, hosts no-cover shindigs like Grande Ole Echo, which features some of L.A.’s finest new-cornpone auteurs. Just up the street at Taix restaurant, there’s never a door charge to catch a tuneful assortment of clever bubblegum-pop prophets (Kristian Hoffman, Eugene Edwards), intelligently moody chanteuses (Carolyn Edwards, Io Perry), arty funk-jazz explorers (Atomic Sherpas, Joe Baiza) and new-cornpone auteurs (I See Hawks in L.A., Kingsizemaybe).

Many nights at Mr. T’s Bowl in Highland Park are free, with below-the-underground bands you’ll never find on the Sunset Strip. That hulking hangar-size emporium known as Amoeba Music presents frequent miniconcerts, and — if you can avoid the considerable temptation of wandering the aisles and impulse shopping — you can walk out of there with the smug feeling that you just saw Solomon Burke, Neko Case, the Remains, Daniel Johnston, the Flaming Lips, Paul Westerberg, the Raconteurs or the Kills without spending a dime. And there’s no better way to listen to a surf-guitar legend like Dick Dale and punk surfers Agent Orange, or blues howlers like Koko Taylor and Eric Burdon, than stepping off the continent and walking above the water on the literally rocking Santa Monica Pier during its Twilight Dance Series on summer Thursday nights. You may end up never needing to hear “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” again.

Amoeba Music 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 245-6400

The Echo 1822 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, (213) 413-8200

Mr. T’s Bowl 5621½ N. Figueroa Ave., Highland Park, (323) 256-7561

Santa Monica Pier at the end of Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, www.twilightdance.org

Spaceland 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 661-4380

Taix 1911 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, (213) 484-1265

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