Best Mask Since the Masque

If you’re in any sort of serious rock band, the only thing worse than playing ?late on a weeknight in an empty club is not getting to play at all. Backbiter singer-guitarist Jonathan Hall and his wife, Marea Katopodis, who fronts Motorcycle Black Madonnas, got tired of waiting for callbacks from bookers at the local hipster nightclubs, so — in true punk rock, DIY fashion — they started organizing their own events. Named after the Lou Reed album, the Blue Mask was first held at the since-closed, off-the-beaten-track North Hollywood dive Rumors in 2002, but things didn’t really take off until the pair moved their series of shows (held on the last Saturday of the month) to Mr. T’s Bowl in Highland Park earlier this year. “It’s basically an excuse to not deal with promoters and to play with people we like,” says Hall. “So far, it’s been pretty successful.”

It doesn’t hurt that the people they like include some of the city’s most respected underground punk, hard-rock and bent-jazz musicians. Recent bills have featured former Minuteman Mike Watt, Saccharine Trust’s mad poet-singer Jack Brewer, a rare Bag Theory reunion, the fairy-tale-eerie goth-punk jangle of the Dagons, ace keyboardist Paul Roessler (Nina Hagen, the Screamers), the Shards, the Chairs of Perception (a new spinoff of longtime art-punks the Urinals), the Probe, Third Grade Teacher, and the occasional touring combo, such as Sioux City Pete & the Beggars. While the Blue Mask may not have the same impact as the legendary late-’70s Hollywood punk club the Masque, it does evoke the communal, creative, non-heavy-metal-careerist vibe of long-lost haunts like Al’s Bar and Raji’s. “Those scenes have collided,” says Hall. The cover is a reasonable $5, DJs play everything from the Ramones and the Stooges to Bob Dylan and the Sonics, and you never know which surprise guest star might join in on one of Backbiter’s spontaneous jam sessions. Best of all, there’s almost no chance that the faux-rock glitterati (or celebrity trash like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan) will ever discover/ruin the place.

The Blue Mask Last Sat. of the month at 5621½ N. Figueroa Ave., Highland Park, (323) 256-7561

LA Weekly