Heroes of the night: Los Angeles
New York is known as the city that never sleeps. And if you can make it there… well, you know the song. NYC is a metropolis that is set in its ways, which works for some. Across the USA, though, is Los Angeles – a city whose story is as malleable as the thousands of film and TV scripts that course through its cultural veins each day. Nothing is written in stone in LA, and that’s exciting. Want to be in a city that never sleeps? Head to Koreatown. Need to feel like an ant under the weight of towering skyscrapers piercing the night sky? Downtown has you covered. Craving sand in your toes and the sea breeze in your hair? Yeah, LA’s got that, too.
With its sprawling landscape and permanent mandate for constant reinvention, Los Angeles is limitless. This can feel empowering or daunting, but either way you should still take the plunge, because there’s always a community that will accept you with open arms and a stiff drink.
The Red Bulletin spoke to a few patron saints of the city’s re-emerging nightlife scene about what makes LA so electrifying right now.
“Koreatown has always been its own little bubble,” says Jimmy Han. “The [biggest] change since we opened five years ago is a lot more people are discovering Koreatown who aren’t Korean.”
Conveniently located in-between downtown, Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Koreatown has become an essential nightlife hub – and slap bang in the middle is Beer Belly, Han’s decidedly un-Korean establishment, which serves craft beers alongside high-end bar food. “I wanted to make sure we were unique and different,” says Han, and thanks in part to his efforts, Koreatown now offers night owls endless options for a “choose your own adventure” evening.
“It’s getting much more diverse,” says Han of the growing list of dining alternatives and secret spots for debauchery in karaoke booths and 24-hour spas. “It’s always evolving, and much of that has to do with the culture and the community: it’s dense and there are a lot of liquor licenses. Even in 2008, when the market took a crash and everything wasn’t on the up and up, Koreans supported Korean businesses. People here are still going out to drink and eat, even if it’s not the best of times.”
Two to three times a week, party crew Brownies and Lemonade present the kind of acts that will allow you to one-up your friends at all future cocktail parties. “LA is one of the few places where music thrives; where people are constantly looking for something that’s new,” says Kushan Fernando, who started B&L with Jose Guzman back when the two were roommates and Fernando was attending UCLA.
“Everyone wants the coolest, newest stuff in the worlds of music, fashion and even electronics. LA is the type of place where people feel like they want to discover – and there is so much to discover!”
Fernando sounds like a proud father when he talks about some of the artists B&L have nurtured via their showcases. He reels off names such as Lido, Jai Wolf and Louis the Child with the same excitement – if not more – as those of some of the heavy hitters who’ve shown up to play, like Skrillex and DJ Quik.
“We started to go on a consistent basis, doing things based on emerging artists, or artists who we thought had a cutting-edge sound,” says Fernando. “We felt really strongly about getting artists out here to perform in LA.”
Metro: A one-way journey from the beach to Downtown LA using a TAP card costs $1.75, which includes transfers between lines.
Rideshare: The same journey using a carpool app costs $20-30.
Drive: The distance from the beach to Downtown is roughly 25km, which will cost you around $2 in petrol, but the price of parking starts from $10 on peak nights.
Parks Barbeque, Koreatown: The classic among a host of Korean BBQ joints. Its banchan – an avalanche of side dishes – is as delectable as the meats grilled at your personal BBQ.
Bestia, Downtown LA: Run by an Israeli chef and his American baker wife, Bestia epitomises DTLA’s culinary transformation, serving modern takes on rustic Italian dishes.
Barbrix, Silver Lake: Spanish tapas in eastern LA’s hipster neighbourhood du jour. Barbrix is set back a bit from the street, creating a chilled atmosphere.
The Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood: This iconic restaurant has served juicy steaks and stiff martinis to Hollywood’s finest for almost 100 years. Nothing much has changed in that time – from the menu to the waiters – and that’s how everyone likes it.
As one half of DJ/production and promotions duo Dig Deeper, Masha Martinovic has thrown some of the best underground parties ever seen in the City of Angels.
The discerning ears and unique sensibilities of Martinovic and her partner, Alison Swing, go wherever the music takes them. Tired of the Hollywood megaclub environment, the pair moved their parties to private residences and old warehouses, and their music aesthetic has been expanded by a growing network of curators.
“The underground scene that we’re a part of has developed so much in the last few years,” says Martinovic. “You don’t have to go to Berlin or Europe to see the [best] DJs, because we’re booking them and bringing them here.”
Take a musical journey through LA with Dig Deeper
Along with his partners, Dmitry Liberman and Dimitri Komarov, Bobby Green stays ahead by looking back. The 1933 Group’s bars transport patrons to a different time and place before they’ve even take their first sip.
“It’s like a day at Disneyland,” says Green. “How could you not be swept away to all these different lands and time periods and worlds?”
A self-confessed “vintage person”, Green has been integral to the recent surge in renovating old LA buildings. “It’s hugely important,” he says, an air of seriousness creeping into his otherwise playful demeanour. “It’s been a source of great frustration and great exhilaration my whole life, seeing some wonderful things torn down and some wonderful things saved. I think the restoration of period buildings, as well as other old things, is in fashion – finally!”
At their latest creation, Highland Park Bowl, the stained-wood bowling lanes hail from 1927, and comfy leather couches beckon you to stay. Green knows that what’s most important to the future of LA’s bar scene is that the locals feel at home: “Cater to the neighbourhood, because that’s who your client is. You can be a destination bar, but you might not be a destination forever, so you can’t alienate the neighbourhood.”
Every scene need its scribe, and Los Angeles nightlife is no different. Luckily, the City of Angels has Lina Lecaro, who has been watching party invites pile up on her desk – and more recently in her inbox – since the ’90s. LA Weekly’s go-to after-dark expert was one of the first to sense the impending wave of DJs-as-gods.
“I have a great appreciation and respect for people who can [curate music] well,” she says, “so the influence of the DJ has changed LA’s nightlife scene… and I mean in all kinds of music, not just electronic and hip-hop.”
While Lecaro has embraced the omnipotence of the men and women behind the decks, she also sees the dominance of bottle-service nightclubs beginning to fade: “I’m going to Hollywood-type clubs less and less. It doesn’t feel as creative and organic as seeing a new band or going to a gay club.”
And what kind of music does Lecaro think will rise to the top in the next few years? “I’d like to see gritty cock- rock come back again,” she says with a toothy grin. “LA was just as vital as New York during the early punk years… and with the state of politics right now, we need some angry, aggressive music!”