They've turned their frontyard into a thriving garden and they're re-landscaping their sprawling backyard, whose most prominent feature is a low enclosure for three desert tortoises.
"I really like the fact that we can work in the garden and decompress from the things you get wound up in when you're creating," Garretson, 44, says. "The only way we ever really stop working in the studio is go outside and don't bring the phone, or leave."
The changes have come quickly to Echo Park: live rock and other music in the bar at the 75-year-old French restaurant Les Freres Taix; DJs and electronic acts at the Echo, opened by the Spaceland people last year in an old Spanish restaurant; in-store performances at the indie-centric Sea Level record shop; Chicken Corner and the Short Stop as trendy spots; the Downbeat as a neighborhood hangout.
"It reminds me of when the East Village [in New York] exploded again in the late '80s," says former Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli, one of the six partners who bought and transfigured the Short Stop last year. "A lot of people who were pushed out of neighborhoods that had become super-gentrified needed a place to go."
Will the same happen here? Locals keep a wary eye out for leakage from the mercantile boom a couple of miles west in Silver Lake. "I don't think it would take much to tip this neighborhood," Farmer Dave Scher says, sounding more fatalistic than fearful. "But at the moment it's a really brilliant place."
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The neighborhood sound
If you want to compile a mix CD for a hike through these hills, you can find a good sampling of Echo Park music from this assortment of CDs.
Eels, "Beautiful Freak" (DreamWorks, 1996). Contains the mother of all Echo Park songs, "Susan's House."
I See Hawks in L.A., "I See Hawks in L.A." (Ethic, 2001). In the title song he wrote, guitarist Paul Lacques turns one of the neighborhood's regular aerial features into a potent image of loneliness.
W.A.C.O., "Game of Cards" (True Classical, 2001), Listing Ship, "Dance Class Revolution" (True Classical, 2002). These intertwined outfits are the leading exemplars of Echo Park's art/experimental community.
Beachwood Sparks, "Make the Cowboy Robots Cry" (Sub Pop, 2002). The six-song EP takes the band's cosmic country into an almost pointillistic realm, with electronics help from neighbor Jimmy Tamborello, who records under the name Dntel.
Wiskey Biscuit, "Santa Ana River Delta Blues" (Shipwrecords, 2000), and "Zig Zag" (Shipwrecords, 2001). If any band defines Echo Park's distinctive mix of urban grit and country greenery, this is the one.
Future Pigeon, "Golden State of Dub" (Shipwrecords, 2001). Wiskey Biscuit's other incarnation reflects the neighborhood's substantial reggae vibe.
Hear the ballads of Echo Park
1202 N. Alvarado St., Echo Park. (213) 483-3955.
Future Pigeon with Jamaican dub master the Scientist, Oct. 31.
1822 Sunset Blvd. (213) 413-8200.
Les Freres Taix
1911 Sunset Blvd. (213) 484-1265.
Sea Level Records
1716 W. Sunset Blvd. (213) 989-0146.
The Short Stop
1455 W. Sunset Blvd. (213) 482-4942.
1543 Echo Park Ave. (213) 482-7676.