indie travel guide                                                                                                      home
a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Los Angeles, USA

By Monique Lacoste

 

Los Angeles is a city of contradictions. Its public image is so familiar that it’s become an unflattering stereotype - bottle blondes with plastic body parts all vying to become the next big thing in a place high on fame and beauty and lacking in substance or soul. Big studios and big labels searching for the next Baywatch or Britney Spears, squeezing out the independents and forcing a tacky, homogenized culture on the world. With these images thrust in the public eye, it’s easy to assume that LA has nothing more to offer. But to ignore the many positive contributions LA has made to popular culture and write it off as the used car salesman of America would be a grave mistake. Peel back the surface and you find a city with a secret life and a beating heart. For every generic sit-com and theme park there is a record store, an art galley or an independent film house waiting to be discovered. While the surf-punk sound has become its most popular musical signature, LA has also indelibly shaped the course of pop music with major talents ranging from The Beach Boys to Beck, and continues to be a destination for all types of talent. The melting pot mythology of America is alive and well in LA, with eclectic ethnic neighborhoods and a strong Hispanic influence that adds an undeniable amor para la vida to the city. There are terrific museums like LACMA and The Getty, along with quirkier places like The Museum of Jurassic Technology. And there is no better place on the West Coast for enjoying the leisurely beach lifestyle that made California famous than the costal towns of LA. While it may take a little effort to find the city’s indie scene, it’s all there to be discovered by someone with a little time, a little imagination and, of course, some good transportation.


Clubs

Hang the DJs
Every third Saturday at the Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd., 18+, $7
The Echo hosts this night of Brit/indie rock. There’s no sign on the door, and the space inside is tiny, but the scene is cool without being intimidating and the DJs sometimes break for sets by local bands. The Echo also hosts great artists at other times, so make sure you check the schedule.
(attheecho.com)

Clockwork Orange
Every Friday at The Ruby, 7070 Hollywood Blvd., 18+, $10
This weekly club night features three rooms of musical fun - a hip-hop room, a goth/industrial room and an indie/80s synth room. Its atmosphere is fun and hip but not pretentious. Stop by on Monday nights for Blue Monday, a mini-version of Clockwork Orange.
(evilclubempire.com)

Velvet
Every Sunday at Club 7969, 7969 Santa Monica Blvd., 18+, free before 10:30pm.
Music from Le Tigre, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Joy Division, Peaches and much more. A sexier, more adult environment than the others listed here, Velvet feature topless go-go dancers. Ooo, la la. (evilclubempire.com)

The Fold
Many locations, see website for schedule and details
More a roving musical circus than a club, The Fold is the purveyor of some of the finest indie music, local and otherwise, that can be found in the city. Juana Molina, Bangs, Bright Eyes, Deerhoof and Petra Haden have all played The Fold, among many others. Make sure you check their schedule if you want to see a great indie band while you’re in town.
(foldsilverlake.com/index.html)

Underground
Tempest 7323 Santa Monica Blvd, Friday at 10pm
Nice little club playing mainly Britpop and mod music with a bit of twee thrown in early on. Friendly crowd, probably the best indie club in Los Angeles. Little dancefloor. The club is split up over two rooms but the same music in each. There's also a small patio section outside for the smokers. (DB)

Ruby
7070 Hollywood Blvd, Saturdays 10pm
Three rooms. One plays mod, one plays electronic and the main room plays 80s pop and Britpop. Not a bad night out but not as good as Underground. Folk seemed to care more about their hairdos than dancing to the music. (DB)

Part Time Punks
Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd. Sundays, 10pm, Free
Probably the best real indie night in Los Angeles. Excellent DJs and an enthusiastic clientele who aren't afraid to dance to songs they haven't heard before! From their website: The night focuses heavily on obscure and classic music coming out of America, the UK and Europe in 1978 to the present: Punk, Post-punk, Punk-funk, New Wave, No Wave, Hardcore, Indie-Pop, Twee, Grunge, Electro, Minimal-Synth, Shoegaze, Baggy, etc. (T)
(parttimepunks.com)


Venues

 

The El Rey
5515 Wilshire Blvd, times and prices vary
The El Rey is a converted art deco theater that showed films during Hollywood’s golden era. It’s now a fantastic and beautiful music venue where some of the best modern indie bands cut their teeth.
(theelrey.com/index.shtml)

The Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood - prices and times vary
The Troubadour is a Los Angeles staple. One of the best venues for up and coming bands as well as established acts, it’s got a two-tiered standing area and a VIP bar that you can get into if you flirt with the bouncer at the front. A list of all the bands that have played here would be pointless - it’s quite simply a must-visit.
(troubadour.com)

The Knitting Factory
7021 Hollywood Blvd, times and prices vary
With a counterpart in New York, the Knitting Factory is an eclectic venue that gets some great performers. It’s tucked away at Hollywood and Highland, one of the most commercial corners in town, but the line-up is often far from commercial. Acts like Stereo Total have taken the stage, and there are DJ nights. It’s also a good spot for stargazing…if you’re into that sort of thing.
(knittingfactory.com/kfhollywood/index.cfm)

Spaceland
1717 Silver Lake Blvd, times and prices vary
Located in a one of the hippest areas of town, Spaceland is a favorite among the LA indie set. Lots of local bands mixed with some national and international acts keep the place lively. Spaceland has hosted the LA show for a slew of US and UK bands on their first or second tours, including the White Stripes, Jet, Arctic Monkeys and British Sea Power, to name a few. If you go, make sure you dress the part. It's definitely "the" indie venue in LA.
(clubspaceland.com/schedule2.htm)

The Smell
247 S. Main St, all ages, $5 (unless noted), doors open at 9pm
Don’t be put off by the name or location of this place. Though you have to wade through the occasional strung-out junkie to get in, The Smell is worth the effort. Literary readings during the day give way to evenings of some of the best indie and punk music around.
(thesmell.org/index1.html)

Hotel Café
1623 1⁄2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., All Ages, opens at 7pm
Part music venue, part restaurant and bar, The Hotel Café is a fantastic, low-key venue - many bands play unplugged versions of their music, and the small space guarantees mingling with the musicians after their sets. Seating is limited, so get there early or you risk standing through the set.
(hotelcafe.com)

Largo
432 N. Fairfax, table reservations required (w/$15 minimum order), $5-$15 cover
This sit-down dinner club features music by people like Aimee Mann and Robyn Hitchcock. The food’s not bad, either. You should reserve a table in advance to get the most out of your evening.
(thelamusicscene.com/artists/index.php3)

Little Radio
1218 Long Beach Ave.
Primarily an internet radio station, Little Radio has started hosting live shows at its warehouse downtown. Local and national acts have played there, including the Brian Jonestown Massacre, BRMC and the Charlatans. (T)
(littleradio.com)

Safari Sam's
5214 W. Sunset Blvd.
The newest venue for live music in Los Angeles, Safari Sam's showcases local and touring bands indie and otherwise, as well as theater, performance art and poetry. It also includes a full-service restaurant with nightly specials. Check their calendar for free mid-week shows of popular local acts.
(safari-sams.com)


Bars

The Dresden Restaurant and Lounge
1760 N. Vermont Ave., 21+, no cover
The Dresden is a favorite among LA hip kids. Located in the one of the coolest (and most overpriced) areas of town, The Dresden combines 70s décor, photos of stars and a fantastic lounge act known as Marty and Elayne. The effect is an often crowded bar and a difficult parking situation, but it’s worth it to get a chance to experience this place, immortalized in the film Swingers.
(thedresden.com/lounge.html)

Silverlake Lounge
2906 Sunset Blvd., Silverlake, 21+, covers vary
The Silverlake Lounge leads a double life as bar/music venue during the week and Latino transsexual performance space on the weekends. In other words, it’s the best of LA all in one bar. Go during the week for the music, but consider going on the weekends as well.
(www.thelamusicscene.com/clubs/thefold/index.php3)

Molly Malone’s
575 S. Fairfax, 21+, $5 cover (unless specified)
A rockin’ Irish pub in the heart of the Miracle Mile area, Molly Malone’s is small and often packed, but it’s hard to beat for a good time and a taste of the Emerald Isle. The bands that often play are a delightful bonus.
(mollymalonesla.com)

Star Shoes
6364 Hollywood Blvd., 21+
Part cocktail lounge, part shoe store, all LA. Go there just for the experience of looking at cute shoes and drinking pretty, expensive beverages.
(starshoes.org)

The Shortstop
1455 W Sunset Blvd
Little Joy
1477 W Sunset Blvd
The Shortstop and Little Joy are one block from each other, and present the best opportunity for "bar hopping" for hipsters who live in Silver Lake or Echo Park. Both bars cater to a more indie clientele, with different DJs most nights of the week. Little Joy is the more fabulously sleazy of the two. (T)


Record Shops


Amoeba Records
6400 Sunset Blvd., Parking under the building is free with validation
No trip to LA would be complete without a stop at this phenomenal store. They have frequent in-house performances and a great movie collection on the top floor, but it’s the music that makes it famous - rooms full of new and used CDs that would take days to go through completely. A music lover’s paradise.
(amoebamusic.com/html/index.php)

Aron’s Records
1150 N. Highland Ave.
Just a hop away from Amoeba is Aron’s Records, a local favorite with a knowledgeable staff and decent prices. They have a bi-annual parking lot sale that’ll clean out your wallet and leave you glowing. Check the website for details. Update: Aron's is now closed.
(aronsrecords.com)

Fingerprints
4612 E. Second St., Long Beach
You have to drive outside the main city to get to this store, but it’s worth the effort. A good used selection and frequent in-stores by the likes of Tegan and Sarah, Mary Timony, Ed Harcourt and much more. (fingerprintsmusic.com)

Sea Level Records
1716 W. Sunset Blvd.
Located in Echo Park and best for new indie releases on CD and vinyl. Sea Level has in-store performances nearly every weekend with both local and national acts. Tickets for Spaceland and other venue shows are also sold here. This is the real mom-and-pop (or in this case, just pop) store that you want to support! (T)
(sealevelechopark.com)

Rockaway Records
2395 Glendale Blvd. (in Silver Lake)
Great for collectibles and their $1 record bin! Plus new releases, used vinyl and CDs. (T)
(rockawayrecords.com)

And on the outskirts of Los Angeles:

Atomic Records
3812 Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
A nice selection of "classic indie" used vinyl here. (T)

Freakbeat Records
13616 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks
Good for new and used indie CDs, nice selection of used vinyl - indie, alternative, 60s, 70s, 80s. (T)


Local Bands

 

Rilo Kiley
One of the more popular indie bands making the local and national circuit, Rilo Kiley combines the talents of former child actors Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennet. The music is indie pop/rock with a little bit of country and a sweet soul that tends to make audiences swoon.
(rilokiley.com)

The Ditty Bops
Quirky girls who create toe-tapping music that takes you back to the Jazz Age and makes you want to shimmy all over the house. They put on an adorable live show, too. Get out your dancing shoes, put on your cloche hat and go see them when they’re in town.
(thedittybops.com)

 


Miscellaneous

LA Weekly
The best guide for events around LA and in the surrounding areas, the LA Weekly comes out every Thursday and can be found online or in most coffee shops.
(laweekly.com)

Nuart Theater
A small theater with rusty seats and tiny bathrooms, the Nuart shows films that other theaters are afraid to play. If you like cinema at all, it’s worth a visit.
(landmarktheaters.com/Market/LosAngeles/NuartTheatre.htm)

Main LA photo © Urban75
Additional reviews by Daniel Bailey and Tita

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

             los angeles messageboard                 contact us                        myspace page

city index                                                                                                                                     site map

 

 

 

 

 

 

eXTReMe Tracker