For those whom have never been to L.A., imaginations often conjure scenes of red carpets, Hollywood premieres and shopping on Rodeo Drive a la Pretty Woman (or Entourage, depending on your age). But for those outside “the business” who call L.A. home, it is a very different city; a city with an active music scene and growing art world.
Sharing with us this non-Hollywood version of L.A. is blogger, Sirius Radio host and owner of the music label Autumn Tone Records, Justin Gage, who has been at the forefront of the indie music scene in L.A. ever since he first began his now well known blog Aquarium Drunkard in 2005. Aquarium Drunkard strives to “bridge the gap between contemporary indie with vintage garage, psych, folk, country, New Orleans funk, r&b, soul and everything that falls in between” which it does, swimmingly. But what Aquarium Drunkard also accomplishes is shining a different light on a town that is often only lit but the flash bulbs of paparazzi.
What should we know before we go to the L.A.?
Unlike, say, New York, or other large cities with high density, L.A. is vast and very much spread out. This is both good and bad depending on what you are looking to get out of your trip. If you have a lot of time you can really dig in to the various niche neighborhoods and locales (the beach communities, “Hollywood”, the eastside, etc). If you are only coming in for a long weekend I would concentrate on one ’section’ instead of spending hours in traffic. Sitting in gridlock in a rental car for extended periods of time will put a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.
Oh, and if you can, try and see the city through a local’s eyes. Where they eat, drink, hang out.
Who are your local musical heroes?
There is a guy out here named Michael Orendy who records under the name Frankel. I don’t want to paint him into a Jandek corner, but he is definitely pretty mysterious when it comes to his art. Frankel just played his first show since 2008 last night downtown and I had to miss it. Kicking myself this morning.
What local bands or musicians should we be listening out for?
What are your favorite music venues and where should we eat and drink around there?
A lot of the makeshift venues (art spaces, lofts, warehouses) have some amazing things happening, but if we’re talking venue proper (read: liquor license, electricity, etc) I would say the Troubadour. That being said I only make it over there a couple of times a year. I tend to spend most of my time at Spaceland and the Echo which are in my neighborhood.
Any local music festivals or events we should put on our calendar?
The FYF fest just announced their lineup this week for their September festival downtown. For those with even a passing interest in contemporary ‘indie’ there’s a lot to like. Aquarium Drunkard’s second WAVED OUT fest is happening at the Echo and Echoplex September 25th. Dungen are headlining. Further lineup details coming soon.
Is there a ” L.A. sound”? Or is there a community/scene vibe in the city?
No, not really. That is a question I have tried to address on the two L.A. music samplers I’ve released, RAM ON L.A. and L’Aventure. While the city is too big to have any kind of through line when it comes to an overall aesthetic there are very much pockets of micro-scenes if you wanna call it that. Downtown’s art/noise community, the Topanga Canyon folkies, etc etc.
What’s your perfect night out in L.A.?
It’s very different from when I moved out here 9 years ago, but I would say these days it would involve good friends, good music and outside on a good patio.
Any other things that are a must see and do in L.A.?
Have an open mind. Most of the people who begrudge L.A. have spent little to no time here, or were hanging out with the tourists on Hollywood Blvd or something. Go laze in the sun at Zuma beach, eat at taco trucks in Echo Park, hike to the Griffith Observatory, see a show at the Greek Theatre, catch a pacific sunset and drink a Tecate.
2700 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027 – (323) 665-3125
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The Griffith Observatory
2800 East Observatory Avenue, Los Angeles, CA – (213) 473-0800
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