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Where to See Underground Music in LA

Los Angeles Restaurants + Bars Insider Guides
by Jarret Leong Apr 14, 2014
First off, where NOT to go

I’m sure you’ve heard of names like The Viper Room, The Roxy, The Whiskey A Go Go, The House of Blues. I’ve heard of them too but I’ve never been there, because no one really goes there. Seriously! Don’t get me started on how lame Hollywood is.

For the dance floor

Only a few years ago, Los Angeles was a wasteland for any electronic music that wasn’t super cheesy Avicii EDM stuff. Now just about every weekend underground warehouse parties are booking legit people like Julio Bashmore, Tensnake, and Jacques Greene.

A Club Called Rhonda is probably the leader in LA’s house music scene, held every first Friday of the month in Silverlake’s Los Globos club. They bill themselves as a Polysexual Party Palace, meaning it’s super gay friendly and people wear all kinds of crazy shit. Think wedding veils, mesh suits, haute couture samurai troupes, ’60s flight attendant drag. It’s pretty popular, so I recommend getting there before 11.

Mount Analog is a record store based in Highland Park that specializes in darker electronic music. They host a regular party called Nuit Noire. Think more gothy and industrial than regular rave stuff. Check out their calendar for smaller shows around downtown LA.

Fade to Mind, VSSL, and Body High are a couple of record labels who also regularly host warehouse parties in undisclosed locations, so look them up as well. The best way to get into the parties is to follow their Facebook pages, where they announce these events. Once you RSVP, they’ll email you the location a few hours in advance. They’re generally a little bit east of downtown and can be best accessed by taxi or Lyft.

For the mosh pit

If your idea of fun involves dodging elbows and shoving people in a sweaty mob, LA has plenty of that. For years now, an all-ages DIY space known as The Smell has become SoCal’s indie rock epicenter. It’s hidden away in a gross little alleyway that smells like pee and is patrolled by a homeless “security guard” (his name is Daniel and he’s cool, buy him a taco or something), but all the shows are less than $10 and you can find local acts there like FIDLAR, Wavves, HEALTH, The Garden, Best Coast, and so on.

Getting there isn’t too hard if you know what you’re looking for. On Main Street and 3rd, there’s a
bar with a sign that consists only of five stars. They regularly host punk, hardcore, and metal acts during the week, and it’s a great spot in itself. Go around the shady Mexican bar and into the alleyway. Look to your right and Daniel should be there to direct you to The Smell.

In the summertime, Fuck Yeah Fest regularly books super classic acts like My Bloody Valentine and Descendants. FYF actually began as a ramshackle festival consisting of bands from The Smell, but has now expanded to a two-day affair with a pretty diverse lineup. Definitely my pick over bro-chella anyday. Bring a scarf or handkerchief to cover your face, because it gets really dusty.

Burgerama in the OC is also a good place to look for indie and punk rock in the spring, and don’t forget to check out the Echoplex in Echo Park for shows throughout the year.

For beats

No mention of LA’s music scene is complete without mention of its “beat scene,” which can best be described as electronic music produced with a hip-hop state of mind. Flying Lotus is the most visible of this movement, along with all the folks at his Brainfeeder label. They regularly play at Lincoln Heights’ Low End Theory club, which has become so popular they often can’t even announce who’s playing because it causes traffic problems. Thom Yorke is known to play impromptu DJ sets here, so don’t miss Low End Theory.

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