Welcome to the first installment of Lina Lecaro's new biweekly column, featuring candid chats, exclusive news and anecdotal audaciousness only an insider can give you, with the promoters, club owners, DJs, door people and scenesters out there making it happen in L.A. every night.
When most people say something is “so L.A.” they mean it in a derogatory way, often in reference to pretentiousness, plastic surgery or a privileged mentality that makes $20 valet parking and bottle service tables the norm. But my L.A. — the real L.A. — after dark is quite the opposite. It’s defined by people with a passion to throw the perfect party, a night with potent music, cool people seeking to connect (not just hook up), and an electricity in the air that can’t quite be conveyed by words.
Brando Von Badsville throws events like that, so he’s the perfect person to kick off this new column spotlighting nightlife’s influential movers and shakers.
A native of the San Gabriel Valley whose been throwing parties since he was 17 years old in neighborhood backyards, Badsville has made a name for himself in the punk and rockabilly scene, showcasing raucous bands on a national and local level. Part of vintage car and bike club The Rumble Cats, Badsville started out providing a place for greasers, goths and punks in L.A.’s surrounding suburbs to gather and grind when they didn’t feel like making the trek into Hollywood, and giving bands like Three Bad Jacks and Luis & the Wild Fires their first shows.
“My first real big show was with Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats in Pomona,“ Badsville tells me in the office at Spike’s Bar and Billiards, the Rosemead dive where he’s been in charge of booking for the past 14 years. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was having fun, but made no money.”
Badsville credits Tiger Mask promoter Ralph Carrera with teaching him the booking basics. Carrera was a major presence in L.A.’s live music scene in the '90s, throwing shows at now-shuttered venues including Bar Deluxe, Moguls, the Garage and Safari Sam's,
“I learned a lot about the business side of things from Ralph,” he says. That leads us down memory lane, recalling the bigger shows Carrera put together, especially the epic Las Vegas Shakedown events that brought pretty much L.A.’s entire rock community to Sin City for a weekend of debauchery, and were a pre-cursor to Punk Rock Bowling. “I was always just breaking even on my events, but Ralph showed me how to finally turn a profit.”
Carrera was forced to take a break from booking after his L.A. Shakedown event at the Variety Arts Center encountered major problems when some bands didn’t get paid right away. It seems Badsville ultimately ended up learning as much from his friend’s mistakes as he did from his triumphs. He says Carrera wasn’t as involved with that event as he had been in the past, so he trusted the wrong people to take care of certain logistics, and that’s where things went south.
“For my recent big event the Long Beach Psyclone Weekender, I mostly stayed in my room, but I was constantly on the walkie-talkies listening to everything that was going on. You have to be very hands-on in this business until you’re like a Goldenvoice or something. Then you can have people do things for you, but not until then.”
Anyone who's ever thrown a house party knows putting on an event is anything but easy. Will anyone come? Did you buy enough booze, food, décor? Will the music be right? Will everyone have a wild good time, but not too wild? Will the toilet get stopped up? There are a million things to think about, and when promoting in a public setting, there’s more like a billion. The payoff can be huge, but it’s always a risk.
Rev It Up!
Rev It Up, Badsville's signature rockabilly, garage and punk-rock night at Spike's, celebrates its 11-year anniversary this week, and Badsville has taken big risks over the years with the event, showcasing old timers and reunion gigs. They've usually paid off. Other acts like Los Straightjackets, The Lords of Altamont and Supersuckers are low-risk; they just need the right venue, and Spike's has been just that.
To celebrate the anniversary, Badsville booked some great acts this past weekend, and he'll continue the party this Saturday, Jan. 23. His diverse programming reps various styles and sounds, from Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys to Agent Orange.
“It all crosses over because the foundation for all this music is the same,” he says, as the sound of Siouxsie and the Banshees pumps through the office door. Spike's in general showcases a pretty cool cross-pollination of music. Since Badsville took over at Spike's, it’s become a hub for locals who dig both live music and DJ-driven dance nights, especially goth, new wave and '80s nights. On this particular Friday night, we're chatting during one of the bar's more popular parties, Got 80s?, celebrating Siouxsie with DJs and a cover band. The crowd, which is Latino-heavy in ethnic makeup, is a beautiful, black-garbed gaggle of exquisitely applied eyeliner and punk-ish hair-dos.
Badsville doesn’t promote these retro nights, but he’s responsible for making the Rosemead spot the place where they congregate. Though it’s a proper dive bar with old people and boozers by day, rockin’ style is pretty much always on display at night here, even when there’s not a party and it's just the pool tables occupying regulars.
“Things are more mainstream on your side of town,” he says, referring to Hollywood, Silver Lake and all points further west. He doesn’t mean it as an insult. “It’s just more underground on this side of town, still. We like what we like and yet we’re still reaching out and grasping to stay ahead, and not just be hip for the sake of being hip, like some places.”
But “hip,” whatever it means these days, keeps moving east. Gentrification is enveloping and changing things on the outskirts of town, too, and eventually it might make its way to Rosemead — which, by the way, is only a 10-minute drive by freeway from downtown. “I don’t think it will ever come out this far,” he says.
Badsville’s day job with a booking agency (Atomic Music Group) means he has a vast knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, not just in L.A. but across the country. The evolving nightlife landscape is one he knows very well. He acknowledges rock & roll’s decline in popularity in the live setting, but his love is too strong to ever give up on it.
“How do we keep it going?” he tells me he asks himself regularly. “I have to keep it alive for the next generation. I want my kids to know it. The music industry is suffering. Illegal downloading and radio is one thing, but in a live setting, too. And there's such a shortage of venues that want to book rock & roll in L.A. They just book indie. With Loaded's live music gone, I’d say now there’s really just the Redwood and the Viper Room, maybe the Airliner or the Troubadour. But people have to support [rock & roll] or the clubs won’t book it.”
Indeed, Hollywood’s rich rock history and the musicians it continues to inspire mustn’t disappear. It’s still here and it needs to be showcased.
I suggest to Badsville that the pendulum will swing back. Guns N' Roses headlining Coachella this spring will be a catalyst for a cultural shift back to sludgy, sexy, guitar-heavy music, and it will trickle down to the clubs again. He says he really hopes so, for his part of town and for Hollywood.
“I love Hollywood. It’s a big deal for bands to play there and I get it. It’s a higher level. If you have a shitty show in Hollywood, it looks bad, and everybody talks and word spreads. But I love it here at Spike’s. It’s less of a hassle. And we get people from all over L.A. and these people support the music community. It feels like home.”
Rev it Up's anniversary show with Agent Orange and Gamblers Mark is this Sat., Jan. 23, at Spike's Bar & Billiards, 7813 Garvey Ave. Rosemead. More info via Facebook and at www.vonbadsville.com. And like Von Badsville Events on Facebook for more upcoming Rev It Up shows, every Saturday at Spike's.