Off The Record is a recurring, feature here on the Drunkard, that marries two of my greatest interests; music and travel. Having a locals perspective when visiting a new locale is the difference between experiencing it through the lens of a tourist and of that of a native.
Off The Record gathers some of my favorite artists, asks them to reflect on their city of residence, and choose a handful of places they could not live without, be them bookstores, bars, restaurants or vistas.
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1) Will Rogers State Park (Pacific Palisades)
Not to be confused with the Will Rogers Park in Beverly Hills, where George Michael got in trouble with the police for polishing his knob, Will Rogers State Park is in Pacific Palisades off of Sunset Blvd. Will Rogers built a little compound there back in the day. It’s got stables, polo grounds, and some great hiking trails. Most importantly, one of these trails winds through the Santa Monica mountains and offers stunning views of just about the whole city. Plus, it’s not that crowded, in my experience.
Sadly, I haven’t been there in a long time since: a) I live on the eastside now, and b) my car is broken. What’s so great about this spot is that it reminds you how rural and “natural” Los Angeles can be. You’re literally 10 minutes away from one of the busiest freeways in the world and you’re smack dab in the middle of an (albeit small) mountain range. One of the reasons I love Los Angeles so much.
2) ArcLight Cinemas (Hollywood)
The ArcLight is my favorite movie theater in Los Angeles. Granted, it’s REALLY expensive (like $14 a person at night), so one must be judicious in when to go. That is, you don’t necessarily want to see Fast and The Furious IV there. But as far as comfort, convenience, and viewing experience go, the ArcLight can’t be beat. All the seats are assigned in advance, so you don’t have to worry about scrambling to get a good seat. And, truthfully, there aren’t any bad seats. The sight lines are amazing. The screens are the size of a football field, and the sound is unbeatable. Plus, an usher comes out before the movie starts and announces the name, gives some info, etc. A nice touch. And, they have great food and beverages: really good coffee and these delicious chicken apple sausage baguettes. Really, they’re just fancy hot dogs, but damn they’re tasty! Moreover, ArcLight gets a lot of the best movies. If something has only been released in two theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles, before anywhere else in the country, dollars to donuts the ArcLight is one of those theaters. It is pricey, but a movie-going experience that’s second to none.
3) Spaceland (Silver Lake)
Hands down my favorite music venue in LA, and quite possibly my favorite venue of its size (capacity is around 250) in the whole country. (With Schuba’s in Chicago and the Mercury Lounge in NYC running neck and neck for second place.) As corny as it sounds, Spaceland just feels like home to me. We’ve played there a ton, we’ve gotten to know a lot of the people who work there (both at the club and Jennifer, who books it), and every time I go there I run into someone I’m actually excited to see. I especially love going when my friend Sylvia is bartending, because she’s fun to talk to. She works in the smoking lounge – oh, the smoking lounge. That might be the best feature. If you’re a smoker it’s the bee’s knees – the only place I know of in LA where you can smoke inside. It’s up some stairs at the back of the club, a room enclosed by a very large pane of glass, so you can still see (but not hear) the show. It’s simply a wonderful place to see a show – intimate without feeling cramped, even if it gets really crowded. The sound is great, and as a musician the stage is spacious and the monitor mix is always excellent. Really it just comes down to the people who work there – just about everyone there, from the bartenders to the door folks to the sound guy, is super nice and professional. I guess Silver Lake might suffer to some extent from a reputation of being snooty and/or cooler-than-thou, but that’s absolutely not the case at Spaceland. You can’t find a more relaxed, down-to-earth, comfortable venue in Los Angeles.
4) Village Pizzeria (Hancock Park – on Larchmont)
My favorite pizza place in Los Angeles. My girlfriend Ann and I discovered it several years ago and recently have been going back quite a bit. I’ve never ordered a whole pizza – just by the slice. But boy is it delicious. The sauce is perfect – not too sweet – and it’s kind of on the greasy side, which is right up my alley. My favorite slice is the Clam and Garlic thin crust – it’s a bit expensive but well worth the extra dough. (Haha.) It’s on Larchmont, which, while kind of a fancy pants street, is kind of fun to stroll up and down. Plus, you might spot a celebrity. I saw Peter Krause from Six Feet Under/Sports Night in front of the Coffee Bean next to Village Pizzeria just last night!
5) Apex Manor (Silver Lake)
I will close with a spot that, unfortunately, is not open to the public. It’s my best friend Adam’s house in Silver Lake. (Though Adam is incredibly kind and generous, so if you decide to show up he’ll probably invite you in and offer you a drink.) He has a great pad – it’s a little duplex and you have to walk up a lot of treacherous stairs to get to it, but it’s worth the exercise. Just when you get to the top, by his front door, there’s a breathtaking view of the downtown skyline. Apex Manor, as we call it, has been a wonderful refuge and hang-place for me. The best feature is the back yard. Peaceful, lovely, and private. Again, you have to walk up a few more steps. There’s a nice, well-manicured lawn, with a hammock (which I broke), and it’s the perfect spot to lounge upon and read a book, or have a cocktail and enjoy the sunny afternoon. And there’s a banana tree. Plus, his place is a five minute walk from the Red Lion, which is the funky German bar/restaurant on Glendale Blvd. that’s a great spot to drink some German beer, eat sausage, and watch football on a Sunday afternoon.
MP3: The Broken West :: On The Bubble
MP3: The Broken West :: You Can Build An Island
Video: The Broken West – You Can Build An Island (CMJ 2006)
Amazon: The Broken West – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On