If you’re sick of waiting in the ridiculous line outside of the Echoplex to get into the monstrous event known as Emo Night L.A. on the first Tuesday of every month, there’s another spot in town where you can get your '90s and 2000s alternative nostalgia on.
Guitarist Jack Barakat of pop-punk band All Time Low opened up the Riff in Hollywood this summer to fill the void of a music-themed bar in Los Angeles that he'd want to hang out in. The goal was to create a spot for artists and fans alike to party and drink at — with a little less old-school grime than the Rainbow and without the snobbish atmosphere of a club — while still keeping it authentically rock & roll.
“Our whole thing the whole time has been to be anti-club,” Barakat says. “We want it to be a place where you can just kind of be yourself and not worry about bottle service and tables and arrogance. We just want it to be good vibes. If you want to dance, you can dance. If you want to mosh, you can mosh. It mirrors the rock lifestyle and what it’s like being backstage on the road.”
After opening a similar bar, the Rockwell, in his hometown of Baltimore back in 2014, Barakat realized that a rock & roll hangout in L.A. could really take off. The Rockwell drew tons of rock fans but few musicians outside of the handful local to the city. With a music scene the size of L.A.'s, Barakat saw the potential to host after-parties and events based around bands’ touring schedules, much like what one of his favorite defunct bars did.
“When I moved to L.A., there was Angels & Kings back then, and it was a place where bands could hang out with the fans of the bands,” Barakat says. “When Angels & Kings closed down, there was an absence of places for the bands and fans to go and all be at the same bar in the same area. We really wanted to bring that back.”
The Riff's immediate success has been aided by what’s now commonly known as the “emo revival.” The pop-punk music of the early 2000s is more popular now than it has been since it was current, and its fans are now money-spending 20-somethings rather than broke teenagers. Events like Emo Night L.A. have cashed in on the nostalgia, and while some artists find it blasphemous, Barakat believes the boom in popularity is doing nothing but creating opportunities for many of those bands to come back from the dead.
“It’s been really fun, and I think it’s only helping all of the bands in our scene and the older bands,” Barakat says of the national influx of “emo nights” since Emo Night L.A. began. “It’s one of the biggest reasons bands like Blink-182, Sum 41 and Good Charlotte could make such big comebacks. It helped prove to everyone that the scene wasn’t dead. All of these scenes are still alive and still relevant.”
Among those revived bands, Blink-182 is easily the most meaningful to Barakat and the rest of the All Time Low crew. The bands toured Europe together a few years ago and shared a stage for a good portion of Blink’s summer tour. The latter was a dream come true for Barakat, the proud owner of a Blink-182 tattoo. Seeing his favorite band of all time back in full swing every night often seemed like more of a vacation than a gig.
“Touring with your heroes is everything you want it to be,” Barakat says. “I felt like I won the lottery or like I was ripping someone off because I got to perform every night, but then I got to go watch my favorite band.”
But going out on the road all the time isn’t easy when you’re also responsible for operating a bar. Managing a business from a tour bus is no easy feat, and it could easily put a damper on even the best of tours. Thankfully, Barakat says his Riff-running co-pilot can handle more than his fair share while the guitarist is traveling the globe.
“It gets a little difficult to be involved with a business when you’re across the country,” Barakat says. “My business partner Jon Nichols and I are always on the same page, so it’s nice to know I have such a good babysitter when I’m on tour.”
The good news is that Barakat likely won’t be away from the Riff too much for the rest of the year. Except for a week-long jaunt through Canada, All Time Low is done touring for 2016 — but that’s not to say they’ll be resting for long.
“All Time Low doesn’t like taking too many breaks or stopping for too long,” Barakat says. “We’re taking a couple of months to write some music and see what 2017 brings, but I don’t expect us to be gone for too long.”
The Riff is located at 6356 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood. Visit theriff.la or call (323) 469-0040 for more info.