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CLUB REVIEW : Hell's Gate: Devilish Rebirth of a Hot Spot for Brave Souls

August 04, 1994|HEIDI SIEGMUND

At Hell's Gate, the new and appropriate moniker for Hollywood's Club Maxx, even the fish look ominous.

As the steel-gray creatures circle slowly around in two 60-gallon tanks (a third one merely has bones in it), you can't help but draw a parallel to the 18th Street gang that has a visible, veritable stronghold in the neighborhood. Their presence, according to the club's former owners, had kept many would-be patrons away.

Finally, however, the beleaguered venue has used this situation to its advantage. Rather than being spruced up when new owners came aboard three months ago, Hell's Gate has actually been deconstructed--stripped down in a bare-bones fashion. Adorned mostly with skulls and shrunken heads-- really-- the 150-capacity club has created a Hades-like environment for the not-so-weak at heart.

Hell's Gate is offering tough bands in a tough environment, with the sound man and equipment actually residing in a locked cage. (Call the vibe "voodoo chic.") The club is now luring people with free and low-cover shows, focusing on "psycho-alternative" groups and bar bands, averaging four or five a night. After a recent set by the Charlie Daniels-esque Freehead (the latest incarnation of the Screamin' Lederhosen), people were tapping their toes to "the devil went down to Yucca" as they fled into the night.

* Hell's Gate, 6423 Yucca St., Hollywood, (213) 463-9661, cover varies.

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