Many local barflies have had a hard time adjusting to club life after the sudden closure of downtown neo-Bukowskian landmark Al’s Bar this past summer. (One local musician, Merf Schultz, guitarist with the art-rock duo I’m Not Kathy, even protested the loss of Al’s by refusing to enter any other L.A. club for several months, out of a perverse form of spite.) No venue can ever replace Al’s funky brick-walled-sweatbox charms, but longtime Al’s booker TOAST recently started booking Thursday and Sunday nights at THE GARAGE, bringing in former Al’s staffers like coolly menacing doorman
CLIFF SHEGOG and ace soundman JO JO to reincarnate Al’s’ seedy boho atmosphere. Toast’s also taken over the entertainment scheduling in the upstairs room (usually with no cover charge) at
ZEN SUSHI, a really renovated Silver Lake restaurant that’s becoming the scene’s hottest hangout (and we don’t mean literally, as used to be the case there — the upstairs now has air con). Radio Vago guitarist JEN GILLASPY and Rock And Fucking Roll label head MARTIN McMARTIN were among the tastemakers spotted at Zen’s party celebrating the release of THE CHICKEN HAWKS’ RAFR CD, Hard-Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People. After sets by new new wave revivalists
THE VON STEINS and exuberant local pop-punks THE EXCESSORIES, touring Sioux City trash rockers the Chicken Hawks clambered on to Zen’s narrow stage, with leggy exhibitionist BETSY BADLY squalling like Poison Ivy’s evil younger sister over hubby PETE PHILLIPS’ unholy mix of Stones-y riffing and rootsy Gun Club–style slide guitar. Al, if there had been one, would have been proud.

—Falling James

Shortlist Hits the Fans

Despite grumblings about possible conflicts of interest (voting panelists doubling as nominees) and disgruntled fans of dirge soundscape kings Sigur Ros (Iceland’s version of Radiohead) discovering they’d dished out 60 clams for a three-song set, Virgin Megastore’s inaugural SHORTLIST PRIZE ceremony and show at the KNITTING FACTORY was an amusing, if not somewhat shaky, affair — and a heck of a clever little marketing ploy. The Shortlist, which honored acts whose albums sold less than 500,000 copies (perhaps a first in the music biz), featured 10 not exactly unknown finalists, including Ryan Adams, PJ Harvey, Bilal, Air, Jay Dee and Gorillaz (whose Dan the Automator was also a judge). After speeches by panelists such as BECK, record producer ROSS ROBINSON and KCRW’s NIC HARCOURT, the 10-grand booty went to SIGUR ROS, who, curiously, were given the check in the middle of their short (evidently, in keeping with the theme) set, during which they had to compete with some serious hubbing and bubbing at the bar. Perfs by nominees DANDY WARHOLS (unplugged), NIKKI COSTA and JULIA FORDHAM were decent, but it was rapper TALIB KWELI in tandem with MOS DEF (another judge), doing an impromptu Blackstar reunion, that really tore the place up. Panelists wandering about included the Roots’ ?UESTLOVE, MACY GRAY, AIMEE MANN, MICHAEL PENN, Urb’s RAYMOND ROKER and legendary English producer STEVE LILLYWHITE. Taking it all in were DJ/publisher SCOTT BECKER, hip-hop promoter CHRIS VARGAS, former label exec MARK KATES (on his way back to Boston after 14 years in L.A.), freelance A&R honchos RANDY KAYE and PERRY WATTS-RUSSELL, journalist-researcher JOHN SUTTON-SMITH, punk icon KEITH MORRIS, artist KERRY COLONNA, rock TV producer LISA FANCHER, underground club pioneer SOLOMON MONSOOR and veteran rock writer DON WALLER. Of course, it turned out to be anything but a short evening.

—Brendan Mullen

People, Places and Protozoa

Hordes of salivating vinyl and CD collectors (some of whom trekked all the way from Japan and Spain) flocked to AMOEBA MUSIC on opening weekend, with the true beat junkies camping out overnight on Cahuenga Boulevard just to be among the first to enter the mammoth music emporium. Excited crate diggers charged into the poster-covered palace like bargainers to a blue-light special, pawing through the stacks in between greeting familiar faces and checking out who found what. The store hadn’t started its series of free live-music shows (OZOMATLI kicks that off this Friday), but it still felt like a club with so many rockers, DJs and assorted scenesters hanging out — and those are just the people who work there. Chocolate City’s GARTH TRINIDAD, Club Milk’s TONY SMITH and turntablists SERGE, REVERAND MOE, JIMI HEY and LANCE ROCK are just a few of the experts the store has employed. “I’m like Julie McCoy on The Love Boat, here to make sure everyone’s happy,” said Rock, as he helped guide shoppers, including Red Hot Chili Pepper
JOHN FRUSCIANTE, MTV’s former Jackass JOHNNY KNOXVILLE, comedian MARGARET CHO, Marilyn Manson bassist TWIGGY RAMIREZ, and actors ADAM GOLDBERG and ELIJAH WOOD. A few rock bigwigs (think a “flaccid” fellow and a “hole-y” hellcat) tried to get the jump on the geeks by requesting private shopping sprees before the opening, to no avail. Even MICK JAGGER was spotted peeking in the window the night before Amoeba opened, which happened to be right after the nearly impossible-to-get-into rock & roll circus otherwise known as his star(fucker)-filled record-release shindig at El Rey. Well, you can’t always get what you want . . .

—Lina Lecaro

Beggars’ Banquet

But if you try sometime . . . we got one of those exclusive invitations to MICK JAGGER’s Goddess in the Doorway album-release party at EL REY. Many regular shmos as well as panting paparazzi hung on the velvet ropes as flocks of famous-looking people strolled triumphantly up the red carpet, all looking so hairy and marvelous — but a bit antsy, like something was gonna jinx it. Once inside, we ate copious amounts of tasty little foodish items and waited for the Mickster to show up and hit the stage. Supposedly among the glitterati were JACK NICHOLSON, MEG RYAN, SEAN PENN,
smashin’ pumpkinhead BILLY CORGAN, surfer dude DAVID SPADE (or was that Chris Douridas?), HEATH LEDGER, Limp whizkid FRED DURST, Sugar Ray’s MARK McGRATH,
, Black Crowes’ CHRIS ROBINSON and wifey KATE HUDSON, and Mick’s
director-actress daughter KARIS JAGGER. And say, wasn’t that ELIZABETH HURLEY? Actually, it was her winsome doppelgänger, Virgin Records PR boss lady LISBETH CASSIDAY. The Mickman ripped through a rad buncha tunes from his corking new disc, and yes, he did all his “classic moves,” loose as a damn goose and fulla vim and vigor and relaxed high spirits and all that. Yes, you can git whatchu need.

—John Payne

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