The Complex Band Booking In Los Angeles
Bands abound in Los Angeles, there are probably a few groups born every day, since each time I look at the schedule of clubs, a few new names pop up. Not bands visiting from another city, not foreign bands from abroad, but new musical groups from LA. You would think that after years and years wandering in clubs late at night I would know most of the bands playing in this city? Not at all, the LA is so vast that it produces each day more bands than I can follow. Plus a lot of bands from all over the US move to LA in the hope to get a break, and many bands break up reform with another name… But this is beyond the point, I know I will never see the end of this inventory, and this Wikipedia page is probably outdated.
However, I have noticed a phenomenon, not all bands have equal chances to perform at any given venue, not all bands have equal chances to become known at a national level. And I wonder why because this city is an impressive pool of talent. It looks like LA bands are gathered in sort of cliques, and soon you figure out if a band belongs to certain clique or not. As everywhere else, connections play a big role in booking. For example some of these bands play the Echo/Echoplex all the time whereas you will never see another one play this same venue: these ones just don’t have access to the hippest clubs in town, and have to play other venues (also cool in my book) like the Bootleg, the Satellite, the Roxy, the Troubadour, the Viper Room… Since the split between the Satellite (which used to be called Spaceland) and the Echo/Echoplex, you don’t see the same booking at the two Silverlake venues.
These days, the independent company Spaceland Presents seems to own the city as it controls The Echo and Echoplex, the downtown Regent Theater but also plenty of cool summer music concerts such as Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier, MOCA Music, and Levitt Pavilion’s Summer Concert Series. Spaceland is your passport for music in LA and also a real platform for young bands to become well known. Spaceland also produces Desert Daze music festival, and this is why many bands which were playing there, are the Echo/Echoplex regulars. They are part of the Spaceland/Lolipop records/Burger Records crowd, and I could name a few bands which never make it there, as they were never able to enter this close circle. It’s actually very hard to be booked for veteran bands which do not exactly fit the profile of Spaceland’s hip and young public.
Most of the shows at the Roxy and the Troubadour are handled by Goldenvoice (AEG), which also book most of the bigger theaters such as the El Rey, the Fonda, The Novo, the Mayan, The Shrine, The Theater at Ace Hotel, … and then there is Live Nation which handles the Hollywood palladium, the Wiltern, the Belasco… but all these venues are for major acts, the small indie bands which want to make it, either have to be in the Spaceland circuit or have to navigate between all the other venues and bars of the city (Redwood bar, Five Star Bar, Harvard and Stone…)
Many other venues still have an independent booking, like the Bootleg, the Hi Hat, El Cid, Silverlake Lounge, Zebulon cafe but also the Teragram Ballroom and its recent addition the Moroccan Lounge, opened by the team behind New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge. These are major additions to the city for indie bands, as they are not affiliated with corporate concert promoters like Live Nation and AEG Live.
Los Angeles has plenty to offer to new indie bands, and this is probably why so many of them end up there. And if your band is not in the trendy Spaceland circle, there are plenty other options to get known, but of course the big coup is to get one of these residences at one venue. Residencies, which last an entire month at the same club, have become a fundamental part of L.A.’s rock scene, and famous bands such as Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, Local Natives and the Silversun Pickups have started to build an audience this way. Of course it doesn’t work each time, but the dream is well alive… if you are well connected.