Jennifer Tefft tells what's ahead for the Satellite
To those concerned over what will become of 1717 Silver Lake Blvd. in its new incarnation as the Satellite, booker Jennifer Tefft would like to reassure you that nothing drastic is in store.
“The Satellite will be the exact same club as it’s always been (as Club Spaceland), just with a new name,” she said. “It’s the same staff, the same vibe, and I’m back booking.”
The venue, which hosted promoter Mitchell Frank’s Club Spaceland for 16 years, has begun transitioning into its new incarnation under the helm of Tefft and the building’s longtime owner, Jeff Wolfram. While Frank continues his plans for a new dance-centric venue on the east-ish side of L.A., the Satellite should stay much as fans remember it from 1999 until 2009, when Tefft separated from Frank’s Spaceland Productions.
For those worried that the indie rock venue might make a drastic change in its bookings as the Satellite, Tefft has no plans to deviate from the genres she established there and during her most recent position booking for the Fold (one, she says, she parted with on "entirely amicable" terms).
“I like everything good,” she said. “My tastes are eclectic and far-reaching, and that’s how it was at Spaceland, that’s how it was at the Bootleg Theater, and that’s how it’s going to be here. I like indie and pop, but we’ll also book metal and rap if there’s a market for it. People still want to play that room, and my ability to book shows is the same there as it always was.”
The Satellite’s first batch of shows booked under the new name include sets from flinty local rockers the Happy Hollows and Giant Drag in December, a week of sludgy proto-metal from Fu Manchu, Sweet Apple and Dead Meadow in January and a residency from the operatic indie poppers Shadow Shadow Shade in February.
Two smaller cosmetic changes are likely, however. Wolfram and Tefft are planning to largely do away with the notoriously hard-to-draw midnight sets most nights, and instead pull a curtain between the stage and bar area at midnight and run it as a small bar with half-price drinks until close. There’s also talk of converting the upstairs bar (lovingly remembered as the "Smoquarium" from its days as a carcinogenic glass bubble for indoor smokers) into an art gallery to showcase local painting and photography. Tefft jokes that she’s trying to talk her friend, producer Daniel Lanois, into donating his wrecked motorcycle as furniture for the space.
“By midnight, the venue is usually pretty empty anyway and most bars don’t get rolling until then,” Tefft said. “On that stretch of Silver Lake Boulevard, there’s nothing else at that hour. I want people to be able to come even if there’s not a show. We might even open the bar in the daytime to show football games. I mean it’s in no way going to be a sports bar, but there’s totally a market for hipster sports fans.”
The streamlining of the Satellite’s new financial structure also means some slight changes in the club’s business side. With in-house booking, Tefft said, there’s now no outside promoter to pay, and the venue doesn’t have to split door and bar revenue, which could lead to fewer expenses and a bigger and more flexible potential well of cash from which to pay bands.
Right now, the biggest struggle is in the more esoteric rebranding of the Satellite. Tefft admits bands are confused as to how best to advertise shows -– are they playing at the Satellite, the old Spaceland or the Satellite (formerly booked by Spaceland Productions)?
Ideally, she hopes that the room is already so fully integrated into music fans’ lives that the new name -– appropriately taken from an Elliott Smith song -- will percolate naturally.
“I eventually want the Satellite to be a lasting name like the Troubadour,” she said. “As Club Spaceland, it had that. My job is to make bands from overseas want to play the Satellite because they read about it in NME.”
Is there room for three marquee local promotion companies (the Fold’s Bootleg Theater, Spaceland Productions’ the Echo and now the Satellite) competing in the sub-300-capacity indie rock market in Silver Lake and Echo Park? Live rock music hasn’t been an especially lucrative line of work in recent years, but the local market has survived better than the mid- to large-sized national act circuit. Maybe this is a turning point in local music -– when bookers have to pare down but can play to their strengths.
“Compared to most cities where everything is Live Nation-dominated, L.A. is really lucky to have three independent promoters in that market,” Tefft said. “There’s always been three rooms for that and there’s enough to go around. People want to go out, but they want free and cheap.”
-- August Brown
(Full disclosure: in my other life as a musician, I've played many of the venues mentioned above, including Spaceland.)
Photo: Carrie Brownstein performs with Wild Flag at Spaceland on Friday. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.