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A Cure for Those Monday Blahs

Across L.A., promoters are turning an off-night into a hot evening for sampling new talent and veterans.

April 25, 2002|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's just another Monday at the Viper Room and you can smell the rock. It's Camaro night, the house party for L.A.'s blowin'-up rock scene, and Loaded, the new band fronted by Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan, is blazing away on stage. The guests look like extras from hell, clad in black and leather with hip-swingin' chains.

Sure, it's a school night. But for L.A.'s rock-loving set, Monday may be the most important night of the week, when clubs like the Viper Room, Spaceland and the Troubadour offer first-class talent for cheap. It's a night when club owners can afford to take chances and new bands can build audiences. The people who go out on Mondays are serious about hearing music.

"I love the scene because it's always the best bands," says Kerol Rae, a Hollywood resident who often spends her Monday nights flitting between the Viper Room and the Troubadour. "You get turned on to local bands like Motochrist and can also check out what veteran rockers are up to."

The low-key vibe and level playing field--many venues are free--make Monday more inviting than a Friday or Saturday night, when the tourists up the ante. Monday's night owls own the streets, leaving the crowds, the jacked-up valet rates and high cover charges for the weekenders.

"It's a professional night, there's no amateurs," says Casper, a long-haired rocker and scenester who rarely misses Camaro. "The people who go out on Mondays are nightclub people and they want to hear rock 'n' roll. Nobody stumbles in on accident."

Sal Jenco, the Viper Room's impresario, started Camaro two years ago as a sendup of '80s rock, featuring the rock 'n' roll cutups Metal Shop. But what started out as a heavy metal parody has become one of the best places to check out new acts. Booker Dayle Gloria has brought in up-and-coming bands such as Otep, which is releasing its Capitol Records debut this spring.

Monday night's reasonably priced shows are pivotal to developing new bands. Alumni of the Troubadour's Monday-night rock shows, for instance, constitute a veritable who's who of the alternative music scene.

"We launched Papa Roach out of the Troubadour's free Mondays," says Brett Bair, who manages Papa Roach, Leisure and Hoobestank. The Troubadour's free Monday showcases have become a launching pad for the second stage of the Ozzfest, with Papa Roach, Static X, Disturbed and Staind each gaining widespread attention there.

Music lovers who wouldn't dream of driving west of Vermont have their own week-starting haven in Spaceland. The Silver Lake alt-rock club has been the site of free Monday-night rock residencies since 1996, showcasing rock acts such as Tsar, the Hangmen, the Negro Problem and Popdefect over the years. But surprise guests can be as much of a draw as the resident bands. Elliott Smith, Fiona Apple and producer Daniel Lanois have been known to swing by.

"Spaceland's an arena for musical spontaneity," says Lanois, best known for producing U2's albums. "I like the cross-section of folks they get in there, including the clientele, and I particularly appreciate the absence of radio-communicated muscle. It's kinda folksy in there."

Other clubs, including the Joint on Pico Boulevard and Coconut Teaszer on the Sunset Strip, turned bunk nights into packed houses by offering cheap rock shows and drink specials. In the world of electronic music, Mick Cole and Freddy Be--a.k.a. the Bud Brothers--have smoked the competition since '96 with their Monday Social. Groove Armada, the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim were spinning there years before L.A.'s electronic music scene exploded.

"We started the night because no one would book us," says Freddy Be, himself a DJ. "It just blew up from there." Formerly at Louis XIV, the Monday Social picked up steam earlier this year when it moved to the booming Hollywood club Las Palmas.

Although clubs are seeing a brisk resurgence, L.A.'s love affair with Mondays dates to the '80s, when the Whisky was the site of the No Bozos jam sessions. Rockers turned out in force; fans were drawn by the titillation of hanging out with the era's biggest stars. In the '90s, Club Lingerie's free Monday shows provided a stage for Weezer and Wax to polish their talents in front of large crowds.

These Mondays, Camaro's Metal Shop is king. Each week, singer Mike Diamond strolls into the Viper Room with a stripper on each arm. Wearing bun-hugging spandex pants, he takes the stage and bursts into his "dude"-laced routine. By the time the real bass player from White Snake jumps on stage and they launch into "Genie in a Bottle" (with Christina Aguilera in the house, by the way), the crowd is TKO'd. And when they wake up, it'll only be Tuesday.

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