A typical night in the Los Angeles music scene could be an exasperating experience. Hordes of people fill up the hot spots, shimmering in vintage attire and salon-punk hairdos, eulogizing the current band clone of The Velvet Underground or the Stooges.
Silverlake and Echo Park have become home to some of the more popular venues and bars including Spaceland, The Echo and The Silverlake Lounge. A typical show will cost from $5 to 12.
With the publication of articles in mainstream media, glorifying the once covert musical sanctuaries, there has been a noticeable increase in the multitude density.
Fighting one’s way through a drunken swarm is not an easy task. Working your way to the bar could be an odyssey.
Trendy has replaced art.
Fortunately, there are people in Los Angeles that strongly believe in the “Do it yourself” philosophy.
That is what is happening now with the emergence of small galleries and show-spaces throughout the Los Angeles area. These hidden nooks serve as havens for bands and artists without the overwhelming elements of a critically acclaimed establishment.
Like many mainstream venues, each one of these independently-owned show-spaces have their own unique characteristics and atmosphere.
Perhaps the biggest of these spaces is Hangar 1018 located in the warehouse district in downtown Los Angeles, near the corner of Santa Fe and Olympic.
Hangar 1018 features art and music events almost every Friday and Saturday, as well as some scattered shows throughout the week.
Known for its immense hangar-like chambers, Hangar 1018 draws an eclectic crowd eager for a glimpse of the underground art world.
Local bands grace the hand-built stage while spectators gaze at the various art hung meticulously on the gallery walls, some with the intention to buy.
The gallery’s spacious design conveniently ensures a comfortable night, unburdened by tightly packed sweaty bodies.
“(Hangar 1018) is a great place to display art,” said Kimberly Rock, a photographer who has exhibited her work at the gallery. “There’s always a good vibe at the shows and it’s a good opportunity for artists to interact with the community.”
Not too far from downtown is The Hear Gallery, a smaller loft in Echo Park on the corner of Beverly and Lake.
The hard-to-find art club is known for its art and music event known as “The Look Listen,” a combination of independent artists and musicians driven by the DIY philosophy and the network of underground creativity.
Although The Hear Gallery is more confined than Hangar 1018, a sweaty crowd could sneak out to the alley behind the building and gasp for air or break for nicotine, a privilege that is constantly revoked by the no-ins-and-outs policy of many mainstream venues.
Behind the main room is a lounge area to escape a growing crowd and wind down with a glass of wine.
Robert Bauwens, co-founder of the The Hear Gallery, said the lounge-room is essential to the gallery’s atmosphere.
“It’s a good place to relax and escape L.A.,” Bauwens said. “People leave the attitudes and egos at the door here, and that’s the way we like it.”
The event is a good opportunity for art students to exhibit their work and perhaps even sell a piece or two.
In addition to the plethora of artwork, The Hear Gallery features music by the latest local bands and traveling musicians.
Bands like the Paris-based Delaney perform in front of a small crowd of art connoisseurs, while San Francisco’s The Drift awed spectators with their avant-jazz instrumentals.
“The sound is good here,” said Rick Kitch, guitarist for the experimental folk group, Golden Grimes. “The bodies absorb the music, creating a warmth you can’t get at a commercial venue. There’s no line that separates performers from the audience, which makes for a genuinely intimate experience.”
If an individual is looking for a more casual experience, Pehrspace could be the best option.
Serving as the headquarters for the independent record label, Pehr, Pehrspace is the result of founder Adam Hervey’s dedication to serving independent artists and musicians.
By day, the relatively small room is cluttered with office equipment and filled with the constant sound of phones ringing. By night, the tangled computers and office desks are hidden in storage as the clerical room turns into an ambient gallery adorned with minimal furniture and elegant white walls.
Pehrspace features a monthly event known as “Tonalism,” a mellow evening filled with the textured sound of ambient music and experimental art.
Spectators often arrive with cushions and sleeping bags as they bask in the reverberated tunes spun by various DJs, including Jimmy Tamborello of Postal Service and John Girgus of Pehr’s Languis. The white walls become covered with the projections of avant-garde films and experimental animations accompanied with an improvisational score.
Located on Glendale Boulevard, one block south of Temple, Pehrspace is one of the newer galleries that opened their doors to the public in March 2006.
With the success of their debut show that featured live music by Timonium and Third Uncle, Pehr expects to have more nights filled with live music and inspiring artwork.
“(Pehrspace) is a great alternative to the more popular clubs,” said former intern for Pehr, Nicholas Thompson. “We’re all about the artists here, not the ‘scene.’ I guess that’s what separates us from everyone else.”