Transformed from a Mexican ranchera bar to a raucous punk hub where you're more likely to see purple hair and Doc Martens than cowboy boots and Stetsons, Cafe NELA has slowly become the venue of choice for hardcore bands and local legends to let it all out. Three years rocking and still going strong, the Cypress Park hole-in-the-wall is a proud and proper dive that's remained gloriously untainted by the area's surrounding gentrification. It features the requisite Christmas lights, cheap cover charges, cheaper beer (brews only, in fact), a lot of bar neon and a worn-in feel that's earned, not evoked by some design team. Booked bands are typically loud, quirky and badass. The Insect Surfers, Pu$$y-Cow, Betty Blowtorch, The Gears, Haunted Garage, I See Hawks in L.A., Lucky Otis, Gitane Demone and Keith Morris all have graced the stage. NELA conjures a vibe that seasoned clubbers will recall from seminal spots like Al's Bar, Raji's and Mr. T's, a place where the room temp, volume and performances meld into a sweltering, vociferous assault on the senses, making for a gritty, no-frills hot mess of a good time, as any authentic punk-rock experience should be.

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