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Bigfoot in Step With Live Music

Innovative punk, garage and lounge rock enliven Wednesday nights at the hot spot in Atwater Village.

November 01, 2001|KASTLE WASERMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Underneath the mounted deer antlers, it's not uncommon to spot a fully decked-out mod kicking back by the fireplace. Clustered in booths are early-Brando-style greasers and retro-lovin' gals in vintage threads. Working-class folk and neighborhood barflies unwind, while fans of the band gather around the makeshift stage in the back corner. It's not quite your typical night at the local lodge, though.

Every Wednesday, this little joint in Atwater Village is kickin' out the jams with innovative punk, garage and lounge rock. It's a breakout live music setting recently tapped by Dionysus Records founder Lee Joseph.

A musician and underground music enthusiast, Joseph began doing a lot of time at the Bigfoot two years ago. He befriended the bartenders and owners, and eventually took over the bar once a month to create Club 66/77-a night featuring strictly punk, bubble gum and soul music from the '60s and '70s. But it was when Joseph's band, Davie Allen and the Arrows, performed for a monthlong residency on Wednesdays that the Lodge's owners realized the venue's potential for live music.

Joseph was put in charge of booking Wednesdays at Bigfoot last summer. The music entrepreneur has no problem rounding up talent. He's been heavily involved in the alternative music scene since launching the Dionysus Records Empire in 1983.

"It started when I was in a band in Arizona and I wanted to put out a single. I was taking a humanities class at the time and thought, 'Dionysus: wine, women, and wild behavior. What a great concept for a label!"'

Joseph brought the idea out to L.A. and, after a stint at Epitaph Records, made the label his full-time commitment. Now the indie music company features current garage rock, surf, punk, rockabilly, lounge and exotica acts. The Empire part of the company comprises a variety of sub-labels: Orange Sky Records, featuring '60s-and '70s-influenced mod, pop, and psychedelic bands; Bacchus Archives, which offers out-of-print and unreleased material from punk to doo-wop; and the Hell Yeah label, which features modern underground punk.

Joseph's experience as a club promoter includes his monthly "Dionysus Presents" nights at the now-defunct Shamrock Bar and two multi-day festivals called the Dionysus Demo Derby in 1997 and '98 featuring bands on his label and vendors of alternative ilk. The Bigfoot shows aren't necessarily a vehicle for the Dionysus label, he says, but they do feature the style of underground punk, garage rock, mod and lounge music that the label is known for.

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Depending on who's playing, the mood in this intimate watering hole can range from mellow to energetic. When the Tiki Tones played recently, patrons relaxed to the band's laid-back sounds of Moog keyboard-infused surf lounge. The following week, the '60s garage rock-inspired Boss Martians shook the place up, and a large crowd began shimmying in front of the stage. Lead singer Evan Foster, coifed in a retro-era bowl haircut, took advantage of the excitement by venturing into the audience during his rollicking guitar solos.

Tucked within the bar's woodsy cabin decor, which includes log-covered walls, a life-size statue of Smokey Bear and an animatronic raccoon peeking out from a tree stump, is the deejay booth usually manned on Wednesdays by deejay James. Guest deejay "consultants," such as Dead Boys bassist Jeff Magnum, occasionally sit in and oversee the sounds for the night.

While the Wednesday night scene caters to fans of live music, it is also for those who just want to chill out with a cool crowd on the cheap-the cover is only $3. Plus, they only feature one band a night instead of a whole lineup. Joseph cites the Invisible Men and Ramsay Midwood as the popular draws. "It's a much more casual, no-stress situation," Joseph says. "The bands can do one set or two, and there's no worry about them cutting into another band's set."

In addition to his alternative rock nights on Wednesdays and Club 66/77 at Bigfoot, Joseph also deejays on Saturday nights, when there's more of a weekend crowd of 9-to-5ers. The musical choices on those nights are "all over the map" and could include sets of disco, hard rock, '80s alternative pop or '60s garage rock.

"A lot of twentysomethings who go there have never heard this style of music I play, and they love it," he says. "Essentially, it's just dance music."

While Joseph's live music Wednesdays as well as his other two nights at the Bigfoot share a common alternative focus, he says it's all about having the opportunity to merge his love for underground rock with the business of bringing it to the masses. "I started it simply because I was a musician and a fan," he says.

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Live Music Wednesdays at the Bigfoot Lodge, 3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 662-9227. Cover $3. White Live Fever performs Wednesday. Club 66/77 is the last Thursday of each month.

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