Many music fans get serious about pop through a love affair with a club. Whether it was a legendary spot or just the dive down the street from the dorm, such a place provides more than just loud sound and overpriced beer.
People get attached to the strangest things in clubs -- memorably awful bathrooms, decorously peeling wallpaper, a particular corner where the guitar feedback hits just right. And because these spaces are usually somewhat makeshift, converted from some other identity, like a movie theater, church or old man's bar, their shortcomings become part of their charm.
Club Nokia is the latest venue to open in AEG's "entertainment campus" L.A. Live; it opened Sunday with a double bill of Beck and Jenny Lewis. It might be the dream club for a new generation, but it doesn't exactly adhere to the old rules. This high-end destination is gleamingly new, with none of the endearing seediness of a historic venue. As part of a conglomerate, it can't have the underdog allure of a hole in the wall. It's also huge in clubland terms, with a capacity of 2,300 people -- more than quadruple what the Troubadour can hold.
The positives at this club don't have to do with aura. They're more basic: The sound is very good (though some patrons later expressed the opinion that it was too loud), the sight-lines superb, the bathrooms and bar space plentiful. Then there's the floor plan, which operates on a kind of optical illusion: The main floor is tiered, allowing for folks in the back to feel closer, and a large, extremely steep balcony puts others in a helicopter position above the stage.
The back of the club doesn't feel so bad when it's floating in the air. And the overhang the balcony creates above the dance floor is less oppressive and sound-muffling than some.