Dam Funk wields his keytar May 18 at the Mondrian Sessions, a live music series… (David Morrison, David Morrison )
Alternative rock band Lido Beach is used to getting a pretty rowdy crowd when it plays at the Roxy, so it was quite a change of pace when the band was planted in the RH restaurant at the Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood. "It was definitely a lot more sedate than we are used to," lead singer Scott Waldman says with a laugh. "At least people were tapping their knives and forks to the music."
Welcome to the new music destination on the Sunset Strip. Instead of beer-soaked floors and wall-to-wall sweaty bodies, think hip décor, classy cocktails, fashion-forward small plates and, oh, yeah, some pretty cool music.
Hotels like the Andaz, which was famous for rock excess when it housed Led Zeppelin and the Who as the Hyatt House, a.k.a. "Riot House," are now opting for a cooler, lighter approach to their musical heritage. The Mondrian, Standard Hollywood and Sunset Marquis have also launched live music series.
For the past few months, the Andaz has been hosting a monthly music series called "Under the Covers Sessions," which features stripped-down acoustic sets by rock bands normally associated with the more infamous clubs on the Strip. The series is curated by the Roxy's owner, Nic Adler.
"The idea is to basically get these up-and-coming bands that play regularly at the Roxy and give them a totally new audience to relate to," says Adler. "We ask them to play cover songs of bands that have influenced them or had some impact on them in some way and to tell their story." The bands also participate in a podcast and photo session at the hotel that is later posted on a link through Tumblr.
The new hotel music scenes are mostly free and all provide a variety of musical landscapes from small lounge intimacy to all-out party vibe, with artists ranging from progressive folk to retro pop, from hard-worn indie rock to pulsating electronica.
The Andaz, for example, is a little more "MTV Unplugged," but the Mondrian opts for a summer-night pool party at its monthly Mondrian Sessions, on the newly renovated Skybar deck.
Curated by hip music label IAMSOUND (which released Florence and the Machine'sfirst EP in the U.S.), it programs an international selection of name and on-the-verge acts. Lykke Li and Little Boots have played there, U.K. beat-music producer SBTRKT played his first stateside gig there, and last week the season opened with DJ-musician Dam Funk laying down a funky, keytar-driven set.
"Sometimes it can get a little crazy," Niki Roberton, owner of IAMSOUND, says with a laugh. "When Lykke Li performed we had fans lined up at the hotel all afternoon waiting to get in. We try and create an exclusive setting where these artists would normally never get to play. We see it as a chance to bring Eastside L.A. music to the Westside."
Down the road at the Standard Hotel, the menu is more eclectic with its Wednesday evening "Desert Nights" series at its cozy lobby bar, the Cactus Lounge. "We like to focus on singer-songwriters in the genres of folk, Americana, bluegrass and country," says Valida Carroll, on-air host of the KCRW-FM show "The Lab," who curates and DJs the evenings. "Not everyone wants to rock out. This really showcases the song and the voice. It's like inviting your fans into your living room."
Three artists are selected to perform each week, and Carroll likes to promote new talent, such as 15-year-old Alaska Reid, a wunderkind from Montana who performed some of her first gigs at the Cactus Lounge and will be performing again in June. "Her new-folk Americana style is the embodiment of what Desert Nights is about — an homage to the sound of the '60s and '70s Laurel Canyon soul culture but still keeping in time with the present," says Carroll.
The Sunset Marquis is opening up its tranquil inner sanctum to the public for the first time with a series of 10 concerts every second Friday night at its exclusive Villa poolside. "We are an iconic music hotel with a rich history, so this is a wonderful opportunity to give emerging artists a chance to shine in a great location under the stars," says Christopher Cope, head of marketing and sales.
"The hotels are great for people who don't want to do the whole club thing," says Adler. "It's like getting a tasty sampler, and if they like what they hear they might go out and see live music again. The more people that come and see the music, the more the Strip will be busy and eventually everyone, the musicians, the clubs and hotels, will benefit from it."