Talking about downtown L.A.’s renaissance is like talking about global warming: You know it’s happening, but until a huge, in-your-face change occurs, it remains an abstract concept. Scruffy (cart/drug) pushers still mill about the exteriors of our pals’ pricey lofts in the vicinity, and the supermarket that locals predicted would change everything hasn’t. (Well, maybe it has for residents, and that’s important.) For downtown to truly transform, though, people from surrounding areas — and yikes, tourists! — have to want to go there. (Some artier dwellers probably don’t give a crap — or care about the crap outside their door — but since this all affects property values, maybe they should.)
What we’re trying to say is that, like it or not, it’s the big stuff that makes the difference when it comes to revitalization — like 5.6 million square feet big. That’s how much space consumed by LA Live!, the new entertainment complex across the street from the Staples Center, and last week we checked out its latest addition, the swanky new Club Nokia. We’ve seen a couple of shows at the bigger Nokia Theatre (admiring its great sight lines and acoustics), but unfortunately we can’t report too much about its new “club” because VIP access — which we had for the Goldenvoice-thrown bash on opening night — only allowed us to watch the stage from the venue’s upper level, or on monitors.
Boho pin-up and former Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis (who opened for Beck) offered a hazy, groove-dipped set that would have only sounded better if a doobie had been floating around. It wasn’t. From what we did see looking down on the crowd, Club Nokia’s dark, sleek and futuristic feel isn’t for dope clouds, it’s for Cosmos and frou-frou “tini”-type drinks. Under the VIP room’s op-art-lit, slanted ceiling, we overheard someone say, “This is like a club you’d see in Sex and The City.” Or on Star Trek, we thought. Which ain’t a bad thing. It was strangely cozy, in fact. Outside, LA Live’s bounty of bright lights (love the illuminated blue trees) made for a much more chaotic atmosphere, and though critics of shopping mecca monstrosities like Universal Citywalk, Hollywood & Highland and The Grove will hate it, the setup is festive and inviting (as we walked back to our car a few blocks away we were surrounded by spirited rock and b-ball fans (Lakers were at Staples and the Who was at Nokia’s big space) who, like us, parked blocks away. We felt safe going to and leaving the complex by ourselves, and that’s a big part of what’ll keep us coming back. Next to open in the “campus,” as they call it, will be the high-tech bowling alley Lucky Strike, which gets the ball rolling with bold names at an Alliance-hosted preview bash this Friday.