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At the Spare Room, mustaches grow, Manimal bands play

The do-good spirit of Movember meets the indie spirit of an L.A. record label as bands gather for a festive mash-up.

November 09, 2012|By Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times
  • Two bowling lanes in the Spare Room in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.
Two bowling lanes in the Spare Room in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Marc Rose and Med Abrous, owners of Hollywood's the Spare Room bar, like to support L.A. artists and high-minded causes. The Echo Park band Spirit Vine enjoys getting outside its Eastside comfort zone once in a while. And Paul Beahan, owner of the L.A. indie record label Manimal, just loves "freakin' people out."

Fine, you say. But what's any of this got to do with bowling, male facial hair or testicular cancer prevention?

Glad you asked. This month, those mix-and-match imperatives are rubbing shoulders in the "Manimal for Movember" live-music benefit at the Spare Room, the neo-Gilded Age gaming parlor and cocktail lounge that threw open its doors in January 2011 on the mezzanine level of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Starting around 11 on Thursday nights in November (except for Thanksgiving week), Manimal artists perform customized live sets to patrons studiously bent over chess sets, Monopoly and backgammon boards. Between moves, clients will sip bespoke cocktails named for famous mustaches ("The Dali," "The Handlebar," "The Fu Manchu").

If you're feeling slightly sportier, there's also a custom-designed two-lane bowling alley, as stylishly turned out as a Roaring '20s boulevardier with its handsome wood paneling, score-keeping chalkboard and steampunk mechanical technology.

A slice of each night's proceeds will go to support Movember, the global movement to raise awareness and combat prostate and testicular cancer; men are encouraged to show their solidarity by cultivating exotic mustache varietals.

While being do-gooders, Spare Room customers also will experience some of L.A.'s most aggressively nonconformist indie artists, such as Spirit Vine, Baron Von Luxxury and DJ Justin Warfield (Nov. 15) and Jenny O. and Papercranes (Nov. 29). Manimal bands, for their part, get to bring their music to new audiences.

"We wanted to play outside our usual venues," Spirit Vine guitarist Gabriel Pacheco said one recent Thursday night as he and his bandmates — singer-keyboardist Jaquelinne Cingolani, bassist Aaron Bustos and drummer Jalise Woodward — prepared to crank up their Spare Room set.

"We're actually trying to get other shows, like, in the O.C. and the Valley and stuff," he continued. "Just to create some kind of buzz with the band, instead of just doing our usual playing the Echo, the Echoplex, where we're comfortable playing."

"The only thing we're worried about," Woodward said with a knowing smile, "is this is the kind of place where you have to play real quiet. And we're a really loud band."

Rose and Abrous say that "Manimal for Movember" is another way of furthering the Spare Room concept of helping 21st century urbanites connect in ways that go beyond smartphone texting, whether for purposes of flirting or donating to a charitable cause.

"Med and I are really about bringing communal groups back together," said Rose, a rakish Errol Flynn-style whisker extension sprouting from his upper lip. His partner sported a coating of hipster stubble on his cheeks, but a mustache, he lamented, was merely a pipe dream.

"I can barely grow one," Abrous said in mock-despairing tones. "I've tried. It's tragic."

The Spare Room's mission of creating a bar-lounge culture based on face-to-face encounters led to the idea of collaborating on a label residency with Beahan, a San Diego native who founded Manimal in 2006 and has spent the last 14 years in L.A. hunkered down at the intersection of art, fashion and music. Last year, when they hatched their first Movember benefit, Rose and Abrous invited the all-female band Warpaint, a Manimal artist, to play at the bar.

This Movember, Beahan, who's also DJ, is back at the Spare Room with a wide array of Manimal artists, and he's looking forward to what he calls "an experiment."

"I've always had this weird idea of trying to bridge the gap between the Eastside and the central or Westside of L.A., getting bands from the Eastside not to be so afraid or trepidatious to come out to the Westside," he said. "It might be a little bit of a fantasy of mine."

Stick around: It could get hairy this month.

reed.johnson@latimes.com

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