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Rising From the Ashes

The Malibu Inn is returning to its comfortable days as a warm home to live music and people seeking angels.


Oceans of angels / Oceans of stars / Down by the sea / Is where you drown your scars. . . .


Hole's "Malibu" is one of the most beautiful songs to hit the airwaves in the last year. Courtney Love, who wrote this very personal, wrenching tribute, couldn't have selected a more passionate setting.

There's just something about Malibu. It's a fantasy and nightmare rolled into one, and that's its allure. People with money, fame and power populate mansions by the sea; still, they can't stop Armageddon from hitting at least once a year. Fires, waves, mudslides, Robert Downey Jr. playing Goldilocks. It adds to the romance of the place, passion and fury being the ultimate bedfellows.

It's funny, however, that an area offering so many enticements hasn't inspired much by the way of night life. Funky seaside restaurants dot the Pacific Coast Highway, some dabbling in live music but without making much of an impression.

The Malibu Inn, a popular local restaurant and bar (that doesn't have an adjacent hotel, despite its name), may be the sole exception. Back in 1991, some students from nearby Pepperdine saw potential in the inn. There was no stage, but the cluttered venue--with its hanging surfboards and sports bar memorabilia--was only a mile from the college, making it a convenient meeting place. A band called the Furlies (named after Don Knotts' character on "Three's Company") was looking for a place for gigs.

The manager let the band try out on a Thursday night, and the Furlies--heavily under the influence of Seattle's burgeoning grunge scene--performed some Nirvana covers. Mosh pits led to fire marshals and, lo and behold, a scene was born. The group was invited back the next evening and the Malibu Inn quickly became a place for local bands to test their wares.

"It was like playing in a garage or at a house party," says George Gordon, an original member of the Furlies, whose new rock band, Limestone Rome, plays monthly shows at the inn. "Even when there's a smaller crowd, it has a warm pub kind of feeling to it. You're not gonna have a typical Hollywood crowd, people just standing there, staring at you, [thinking] 'Oh my friend's band's better than you.' No one cares about that here."

Despite the near death of the scene in 1993, when fires raged through Malibu, devastating the area and killing the likelihood of any shows for a couple of years, the Malibu Inn bounced back, building a proper stage for performers and slowly rebuilding its following.

At a recent Limestone Rome show, the warm feeling was back. The crowd, a broad mix of locals old and young, college students, surfer types and blue-collar workers, let it all hang out. Some danced and twirled to the music, while others ponied up at the bar, chatting with the bartenders.

When the band finished its guitar-driven, psychedelic rock set around 1 a.m., it may as well have been 10 p.m., with people still in party mode gathering around the outdoor patio's fire pit with no intention of leaving any time soon.

As the weather gets warmer, there's little doubt one of the inn's biggest draws is its spacious outside patio, which overlooks Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean, giving patrons a chance to draw some fresh air before heading home. Or better yet, before heading across the street, as Courtney Love might, to try to find some angels and stars.


Malibu Inn, 22969 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 456-6106. 21 and over in bar area; All ages in restaurant. Cover varies.

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