this l.a. weekly article on the smell is a great read. it touches on a ton of great local acts (no age, mika miko, abe vigoda, lucky dragons) and articulates the tension obviously present when something small, close-knit, and d.i.y, hits the mainstream in a serious way. i found this particular passage interesting, as it is something that i know too well playing in bands during high school (albeit in seattle, not in L.A.):
Like most of the kids who’ve found purchase in The Smell’s hallowed din, Randall and Spunt were refugees from L.A.’s rock-club scene. “One of the first places I ever played was The Cobalt Café, in the Valley,” Spunt recalls. “They’d do a bill of six local bands, and when you walked in, they asked you what band you were there to see and, once you got over 50 people for your band — which was impossible — then you got 50 bucks and dollar a head after that.”
Spunt adds, “They made you really feel like a kid.” Never mind that he still was one. “The first time playing The Smell, it was the antiversion of that.” No booze. No tickets. No backstage. No bullshit. No security hassling you. No pay to play. The Smell is the very definition of anticlub. “At The Smell,” Spunt says, “you were treated as an equal.”
i had something similar in my town, a place that nurtured kids making music instead of exploiting them. i feel like if i hadn’t had that i would have grown with an underlying assumption that ‘this is the way it works’, a mind set i see every now and then amongst some of my peers, that really stunts peoples attempts to expand, try new things, and be experimental – not only in an artistic sense but in community and cultural practices.
the whole article is super interesting and a provides some insight into the type of community that has been nurtured in downtown l.a., which is undoubtedly one of the odder places in the u.s. (a complete mélange of cultures and a perfect snapshot of l.a.’s diversity). i had to stop myself numerous times from basically quoting the whole piece so just read it – doesn’t take too long.
i’ve never played a show at the smell – hope i will sometime soon.