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Lot 1 Café draws a crowd in Echo Park — for music

The unusual space on Sunset Boulevard has quickly become home to intimate concerts.

May 20, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, Los Angeles Times
  • Devin O'Brien of the band Pageants performs at the Lot 1 Cafe.
Devin O'Brien of the band Pageants performs at the Lot 1 Cafe. (Cheryl A. Guerrero, Glendale…)

It's a Wednesday in Echo Park's Lot 1 Café and a crowd squeezes into the vintage bric-a-brac-lined walls of the cafe's backroom on Sunset Boulevard, dancing and sweating to the bluesy rock of local band Rumspringa. Passersby stop and stare through a picture window at the band's backsides. The small cafe has become an important venue for the burgeoning Echo Park scene.

Over the last few years, indie music fans have flocked to this stretch of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, from the larger, more professional Echo on its Western edge to the do-it-yourself Echo Curio art-and-music space a few blocks east. But when the Echo Curio was shut down by the city for lacking an entertainment license in October, it left a void in the community.

In the intervening months, Lot 1 Café owner Eileen Leslie turned what had been a vintage store attached to the cafe into a small but vibrant space that has attracted talent, including jazz composer Austin Peralta and DJ sets from abrasive dance-rockers HEALTH, who played at Coachella this year.

Driving this success was Leslie's decision to reach out to fixtures of the local music scene. Leslie has assembled a booking collective, informally lead by JAXART Records proprietor Ashley Jex, who has booked well-regarded bands So Many Wizards and Pageants at Lot 1 Café already.

"The first show that I did was a band called Black Jesus, and did insanely well, and [we've] just kind of been going ever since," said Jex.

Music journalist Drew Tewksbury is booking shows for the first time, but said that putting together the monthly Echo Park Jazz night has also been very well received.

Leslie "has given me free reign and then trusted me, and she creates a really positive place for musicians," he said.

With this supportive attitude, and the fact that all door proceeds go to the bookers and musicians, Leslie has created a haven for local tastemakers. Kevin Bronson of Buzz Bands LA, Sean Carnage — who is noted for throwing frenetic all-ages shows — and Manzan Records of Echo Park have all brought bands to the space. There are also craft beers and a cheap cover price, which fits the neighborhood.

"This entire space will always evolve," Leslie said. "I'm not done figuring it out … it's like, wait, what other great thing might just happen that I never thought about?"

daniel.siegal@latimes.com

Lot 1 Cafe

Where: 1533 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Nightly

Price: $5 cover, Wednesday nights free.

Info: (213) 481-8400, http://www.facebook.com/lot1cafe

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