Like the revamped Courtney Love, the Gig Hollywood is a polished, perfectly coiffed class act. Cool. Modern. But, like Love's band, Hole, the featured bands are raw, energetic and aggressively loud.
Neal C. Rocklin took over the space on Melrose Avenue formerly occupied by the Gem and debuted the Gig in November. The decor of the 200-capacity room is muted and warm, with arts-and-crafts lighting brighter than the average rock club and nice carpeting underfoot. Although the Gig doesn't serve food, one cannot escape the feeling that a snooty waiter soon will appear with a list of overpriced specials. Low, overstuffed settees with ottomans and a comfortable dark-wood bar with twinkly lights that reflect off a burnished ceiling give the club the feel of a sophisticated jazz joint.
The place sparkles with a cleanliness rare in Hollywood rock clubs. There are no hide-outs, though. No secret places for late-night gropes. No booths. When you enter, you'll be seen.
The crowd at the club is haphazard in dress and coffeehouse in attitude. The room screams for girls in cocktail dresses, but most look as though they're on their way home from Grunge 101. Laid-back would be an understatement.
When the lavish, theatrical, black-velvet curtain rises above the stage, one would expect the dressed-down crowd to show some interest, but when the first of four raging rock bands blasts its twisted message to the room, the hoards just can't seem to get their butts off those comfy seats. By the time the last band gets on stage, there are enthusiastic fans on their feet near the front of the room, but an air of politeness is pervasive.
"I'm 42--probably the oldest guy in here," says Rocklin with a laugh, apparently not noticing the diverse ages in the room. He wanted to upgrade the Gig Hollywood from the down-and-dirty look of his original Gig on Pico. He credits his then-girlfriend with the odd designs on the back wall, noting she tried to paint a sort of leopard print and failed. Somehow it works anyway. Rocklin is a former pharmacy owner who got into the rock business when he lost his Third Street Promenade Ethical Drugs after the 1994 earthquake.
"No, there was no damage," he says. "The landlord just used the earthquake as an excuse to end the lease, so I decided to try something new."
The club's sound system alone is worth the $5 to $7 cover. It's loud enough to turn rib cages to powder but clean enough to hear the angst-ridden wailings of bands like newly signed Jessica Christ and the darkly humorous hip-hop lyrics of up-and-coming Sonny Bones.
Thursdays, Mike Galaxy presents Indy Hits--a showcase for unsigned bands. Galaxy, former drummer for the band Vinyl, started Indy Hits in 1997 as a promotional/marketing service for bands and provides monthly demo CDs to industry heavies. Sifting through hundreds of submissions, he offers the live venue for those lucky few who pass muster. Spotted in the crowd on a recent Thursday were industry scouts Jeff Sosnow from DreamWorks, Interscope's Tony Ferguson, and Epic's Judy Ross. On stage that night were Dublin hopefuls Crush, a three-piece power pop band with a U2 bent; Deepdown, a Korn-like band with a lead singer who resembled David Schwimmer; charismatic Sonny Bones, a band given the KROQ local spotlight treatment; and New York's Yummy, whose songs have been featured in many independent films.
The Gig's 17-by-15-foot stage is big enough to accommodate most bands, and a large movie screen is available for groups who require multimedia effects. A little less reliance on the fog machine would be appreciated, however, as the room is quite intimate and there is no escape from the eye-watering mist.
Open seven days a week, the Gig Hollywood provides valet parking but is far enough past the busy part of Melrose to allow for parking on side streets within a few blocks. There are no real scene-makers yet, but Adam Sandler and Chakka Khan have been spotted, and those Thursday night industry scouts have a celebrity all their own.
The bands are hard and hot, the service is great, the staff is attentive and attractive. The question remains: Why isn't the place jumpin'? The answer lies in the interior design of the Gig Hollywood. It's just too nice. Too much like the lobby of the Four Seasons. Lower the lights, push back the sleep-inducing furniture and spray some sweat in the air. This is rock 'n' roll, baby. If it's pretty you want, try Patina.
The Gig Hollywood, 7302 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. 21 and older. $5 to $7. (323) 936-4440.