My first Los Angeles indie rock show

We arrived at the club at 10:45 p.m. to see a band that was scheduled to take the stage at 10:30. They began playing at 11. This was the first lesson I learned about Los Angeles’s unsigned band scene. In music venues from Hollywood Boulevard to Melrose Avenue, time is meaningless, like shirt sleeves and pants.

I had never been to an L.A. music club before, but my friend Mike, a professional musician, promised to show me the ropes.

“You should write about this,” he said.

“Never,” I responded.

The club was called “1650.” It was located on a side street between Hollywood Boulevard and what appeared to be Mogadishu. Music clubs are always in the gritty side of town. You’ll never find a music spot between a Williams Sonoma and a Monocle Hut. The good venues are always between Checks Cashed and Eye Patch Hut.

At the club, we were greeted by a man with a clipboard. The clipboard had a list–The List–and on The List were the names of people the band deemed worthy of a $2 discount to the show. We made The List.

I must say, wow. I felt like Charlie when he found the golden ticket in the Wonka candy bar. It felt good. It felt “I’ve got a golden ticket!” good.

Inside was a plush lounge with a bar. Beyond that was the stage. Before venturing inside, Mike pulled me into the bathroom. He grabbed a paper towel, handed it to me and said, “You’re going to need this.”

I tucked it into my pocket and thanked Mike the way you thank your grandma for a roll of pennies, “THANK YOU,” I said. “That’s very nice.”

What I didn’t know was that when you tear paper towel strips and roll them into balls, you can use them as ear plugs. I discovered this would come in handy later–after the show–when I needed to hear.

Inside the club was a warehouse with a stage, lights, bar, couches and tables. In the middle of the room was an open space where most people watched the show.

The following characters were in attendance:

Hot Woman, her sidekick Fat Woman, Formal Dress Woman with Back Tattoo the Size of a Stop Sign, Clingy Boyfriend Who Won’t Let Go of His Woman in a Room Full o f Musicians, Girlfriend Who Wished Her Man Would Let Go, Bearded Guy in Velour Suit (With Medallion), Obvious Drug Dealer In Sweatpants and, a feet away, Parents.

The club held the aroma of vomit, beer and perfume. This is what rock ‘n roll smells like, I remember thinking.

Some of the music was good and some was bad.

I can only describe one of the opening acts in the following way: What if Creed and Metallica had a baby? And what if that baby never learned to create original music, but was undeterred by this fact?

The band we came to see, Madras, was excellent in the way that the British band Travis is excellent. You can’t always sing to it. You can’t always dance to it. But it sounds GOOD.

And when it’s good, you walk out later knowing that–whether you witnessed the pinnacle of the band’s success or another stop on its road to stardom–you were there to see it.

It’s almost as cool as being on The List. Almost.

This piece originally was published on the Scripps-Howard news wire.

Photo by Keram Malicki-Sánchez.

Here is a video by Madras.


Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.