By Kevin Moultrie
Living in Westwood is like being trapped in Footloose's Bomont, Georgia. There are no clubs, no open mics, no student centers, no anything. It's bad. They're even shutting down one of the only two bars students go to with much frequency -- Westwood Brewing Company -- to replace it with the chain The Boiling Crab.
The campus tries as it might to offer some sort of relief, but there aren't many opportunities to get too crazy. As a recently-graduated student, I can attest: Our only respite on Thursdays and Fridays was trying desperately to convince the frat kingdom gatekeepers to let us in. And then, if we were lucky, we got to hear some Skrillex. There had to be a better way.
Finally, there was a Eureka moment: A group of students -- Taylor Fugit, Aaron Rabkin, and others -- got together in early 2011 and decided their 500 square foot apartment, on Midvale Avenue, could suffice as a concert venue. Thus Midvale Sessions was born. And it was a hit.
Students would line up around the block to see their friends' bands perform; people squeezed themselves into the small, oxygen-deprived room to hear some of the school's most talented musicians. In the beginning, it was mainly music students -- like classically trained, jazzy cats -- but rock bands quickly arrived as well. One of the first regulars was a student group called No Insurance. They mixed pop-punk with hip-hop and rocked the tiny room so hard, and drew so many people, that they cracked the floor and had to replace the downstairs neighbor's ceiling fan.
Demand grew and soon there were many spots to see live music around campus every week, mainly student apartments. There was one room that called itself The Treehaus (which hosted the open mic nights that led to the formation of the band I'm in, The Ten Thousand) and another called The Lighthouse. Even frats started catching on.
One band, called The Internship, organized an entire concert featuring three bands in May 2011, in a UCLA Parking Garage (above).
It all got so big that Westwood's co-op (a student-run housing facility off campus) started hosting events that continue to happen today, in the courtyard of the co-op's main building. These co-op shows attract 500+ attendees, rivaling the Echo or the Troubadour in size -- and, I'd dare say, often exceed their intensity. For proof, here's our first The Ten Thousand video, filmed partly at one of these shows:
These indie-rock parties are so big and novel that even when the local cops come to shut them down, they're so impressed that they usually stay and hang out for a bit. They also seem to like the music.
What makes this scene so great? Could be Westwood's relative isolation from the music of L.A.'s east side -- especially if you're a student without a car. In any case, the bands nurtured by this scene have graduated to official UCLA events like Spring Sing, Mighty Mic and Jazz Reggae.
It's even fair to say that many acts have become minor celebrities. You'll see members of groups like Alto being asked for pictures and autographs while grabbing late night munchies from Fat Sal's or Bella Pita. Sure, in the past we've had some bands from this school break out before -- like Lady Danville and Hunter Hunted -- but never before has there been such a rich and diverse scene.
So we've gone ahead and put together a compilation, called D O U C L A!? Volume 1 and out today, May 28. It's available here. We think the music is great, and we also want to document a really cool time in the history of Westwood, when nobody could stop us from having fun.
Kevin Moultrie is a recent UCLA grad and member of UCLA band The Ten Thousand
Correction: An earlier draft of this piece said that Westwood only has two bars, which is not correct. We regret the error.
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