Strip clubs have long been important hip-hop testing grounds in the south. Artists try to bribe DJs to put their songs on, the logic being that lapdance tracks get seared into dudes' brains. Plus, in places like Atlanta, influential music industry folk tend to hang out there for hours, so it's a good place to network. They even eat the buffet.
And, of course, strippers and rockers go together, at least in the vicinity of the Sunset strip. But Echo Park/Silver Lake-style indie rock? Seems contrary to the nudie bar aesthetic. The bands and their fans tend to come from liberal, middle class backgrounds where paying money to see someone naked is quite gauche. But, seeing as they can put boobs on just about anything here in L.A., indie rock at the strip clubs has become a thing. We know, because we saw it with our own eyes at Cheetah's last Monday.
This was a different strip club experience than any we'd had. Guys in attendance weren't circling the red leather-and-chrome stage ogling dancers, for one thing. Instead, they were pressed against the bar, about as far away from the women as could be. (You can lead a Pavement fan to strippers, it turns out, but you can't make him watch.)
Their eyes were firmly focused on the groups performing further back. The acts included John Carpenter — who released a 2009 single called “Seasons” on Mexican Summer — and Silver Lake's own Open Source Rebellion. Most of the bands were affiliated with Bedrock, the Echo Park studio and practice space.
Cheetah's and another Hollywood club, Crazy Girls, actually do a whole swath of live music nights. Everyone from Morlocks and Blowfly to Har Mar Superstar has performed at these venues, for events organized by promoter Mike Abdelnour. But one would think the weepy, often a-rhythmic strains of indie rock would be hard to dance to, no?
“We try to do more danceable numbers, because a lot of our stuff is more moody,” counters Joey Albanese, the drummer in John Carpenter. And while their stuff was certainly no “Till the sweat drip down my balls,” the comely Sophia — rocking a heavily-tatted, Suicide Girls look — found it conducive to pole acrobatics, at least comparatively. “For a grindcore band,” she imparts, “you practically have to be having a seizure.”
It was about this time that one audience member nervously ran up and tossed a crumpled bill onto the stage, before scampering back to his seat. In defense of these skinny, stubbled cheapskates, the women weren't actually factually stripping. In fact, we saw not so much as a bosom the entire night, owing presumably to a city ordinance. Instead, they wore ripped fishnets, lycra tops, and obligatory clear heels.
Lap dancing is permitted, however, which gave us an opportunity to pick the brain of one Jenny Lin, who is not only a stripper but plays one on TV, in shows like Californication and Nick Swardson's Pretend Time. “Some girls don't like the bands, but I like the diversity of the clientele they bring in,” she says, adding that hipsters need a little extra cajoling, which is why she doesn't hesitate to infiltrate the sausage parties by the bar. “I do really well with guys who just broke up with their girlfriends, and guys who are unhappily married.”
As for the musicians themselves, they had almost nothing to do with the dancers; at one point Open Source Rebellion's guitarist moved in the general direction of one, like he was Izzy Stradlin or something.
But he then appeared to lose his nerve, stopping short to play some licks, rather than having her, I don't know, straddle him upside down while fingering a “G” chord.
It's all part of somebody's rock and roll fantasy. But when it comes to indie rock on the near east side, folks apparently prefer to keep it classy.