Category: Spaceland

Mitchell Frank talks about the end of Club Spaceland and his new dance-focused venue


In March, one of the most crucial clubs on the L.A. music scene for nearly two decades, especially for indie rock, will come to an end. But in a way, it won’t.

Club Spaceland, which promoter Mitchell Frank began as a weekly night in 1993 but which soon began monopolizing the bookings at 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., will officially cut ties with the venue next spring.  Frank plans to open a new venue that caters to electronica audiences. It will join a music, dining and nightlife stable at Spaceland Productions that also includes the Echo, the Echoplex, the Echo Park bar El Prado, the nouveau-Mexican restaurant Malo and the forthcoming Mas Malo downtown.

Meanwhile, at 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., owner Jeff Wolfram is making plans for a new club at the site, to be called the Satellite, including hiring Jennifer Tefft, Spaceland’s former music booker.

For those whose 20s and 30s were defined by watching or performing in local indie bands in the more-easterly climes of L.A., the change looks less drastic than one might expect. But the split still heralds the end of one particular moment in music in one of America’s most indie-centric neighborhoods, and may hint at what the next one entails.  We talked with Frank about what led to this split, what the new venue will offer and Spaceland’s legacy of moving weirdo music into the limelight and making mainstream rock a little stranger.

How long has this untethering between Spaceland Productions and the venue been planned?

It’s been on my mind for a while. I don’t own the venue, there were creative differences, and it was just time.  We were being told what to do, and I’m not one for being told what to book. I book what I like. It came to a head --  nothing major happened , but it just hit a boiling point. I couldn’t operate it as I wanted to.

In terms of the Spaceland Productions business model, how had that venue’s role changed for you over the last few years?

We had a wall between our venues. We’d make dueling offers and let the agents pick, and it just wasn’t as artist-friendly over there. It was growing difficult for us to do shows there.

You run the building that houses the Echo and the Echoplex. Did the fact that you didn’t run the venue that housed Spaceland affect this decision?

I cut a bad deal there when I was much more of a novice, and it never changed even after I made them millions of dollars. It’s going to be tough having to compete against it -– I’m now competing against my old talent buyer and against the club that I put on the map. I love Spaceland. I loved all the years I spent there. I just never had a good deal.

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Fledgling Silver Lake Chorus gets original songs from Bon Iver, Aimee Mann, Beck, Of Montreal, others

Silver Lake Chorus 
In the mood for some new music from Aimee Mann, Sia, Bon Iver and Of Montreal? Consider heading over to Spaceland in Silver Lake on Friday.

There’s one hitch: It won’t be Mann, Sia, Bon Iver and Of Montreal on stage singing that new material, but the Silver Lake Chorus, an ensemble of 22 area musicians who share a deep affinity for vocal harmonizing.

The fledgling choral group has won fans in the indie music world, thus the new songs written for the Chorus’ forthcoming debut album by those and other notable singers and songwriters. On the set list for Friday’s show, alongside covers of material by Radiohead, Muse, Phoenix and John Gold, are Mann’s “It’s So Easy to Die,” Sia’s “Salted Wound,” Bon Iver’s “From the Snow Tipped Hills” and Of Montreal’s “Slave Translator.”

The list of Chorus fans doesn’t stop there: Beck, the Bird and the Bee, Tegan and Sara and Jenny Lewis also are contributing original songs to the group’s album, which Ben Lee is producing, says chorus director Samantha Rader.

“Each artist submitted their song to us in demo format, then our genius arranger -- Heather Ogilvy, who is also a soprano in the chorus -- creates killer choral arrangements of these sick, never-before-heard indie tracks,” Rader says. Her arrangement of “It’s So Easy To Die,” for instance, “features all gorgeous male-female duets — six pairs of duets; 12 singers -- that showcase some of the incredible individual voices in the chorus.”

The Silver Lake Chorus, which formed earlier this year, is scheduled to hit the stage Friday at 8:30 p.m. for what will be only its third public performance.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of The Silver Lake Chorus. Credit: Levi Walker

The Power of the Riff Festival: A promotional quest in the name of metal

POWER_OF_THE_RIFF Think of Sunday's all-day Power of the Riff Festival at the Echo and the Echoplex as less of a celebration of heavy metal and more of a mission statement. The objective: Raise respectability for the perennially underground hard rock genre.

"I’ve been a fan of heavy music for as long as I can remember," said Night Horse singer Sam James Velde, who organized Riff Fest with Southern Lord head Greg Anderson. "I hope this will increase awareness and opportunity for bands of this nature to be able to play. You look at bigger festivals like Coachella, and you have a token heavy band. There’s Dillinger Escape Plan, or there’s Mastodon. But there’s no tent dedicated to that music. Yet metal, hardcore and true rock ‘n’ roll has an incredible fan base.This is something to try and make a strong impact."

Spaceland Productions, which runs the two Riff Fest venues, has long been a champion of hard rock. Independent acts such as stoner rockers High on Fire, instrumentalists Russian Circles and Southern Lord artists as Boris and Sun O))), who represent the genre at its more experimental, are a few who have been regulars at Spaceland, the Echo and the Echoplex. Riff Fest carries some big names, including a return of Nashville hardcore act From Ashes Rise, locals Goatsnake and recently reunited vets Corrosion of Conformity, but much of the bill, Anderson and Velda said, is about highlighting the acts who may not normally appear at the respected Echo Park venues. 

"Spaceland books really good stuff, and quite a few Southern Lord bands," Anderson said. "They’re into heavy music, but I was surprised they wanted to do something of this scale. I was pleasantly surprised."

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Your Friday night: Record shopping with a Swedish pop princess and Bay Area hippie metal

So here's some bad news for the late planners among the Pop & Hiss readership: Friday night's concert featuring the effervescent and snappy pop of Sweden's Robyn is sold-out. Thankfully, Hollywood's Amoeba Music is coming to the rescue of those who didn't snare tickets to Robyn's gig at the Music Box @ Fonda. The artist will bring her jubilant synth-pop to the shop for a 7 p.m. in-store, appearing here in the States in advance of her September album "Body Talk Pt. 2."

That gives thee, dear reader, plenty of time to snare some dinner and head to Spaceland for a headlining set from the Bay Area's Sleepy Sun, an indie band that incorporates psychedelic jamming and hypnotic harmonies into its metal backbone. 

The act just released its second album for ATP Recordings, "Fever," and it's a Black Sabbath for the modern Flower Child. But this is sludge riffing at its most pretty, as singer Rachel Fannan has pipes. She could easily be fronting a soul band, bring a bluesy undercurrent to her vocal turns, and adding an enticing contrast to the stoner drawl of Bret Constantino and acid-rock guitar of Matt Holliman. The act's "Open Eyes" is embedded above.

Robyn at Amoeba Hollywood, 6400 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, at 7 p.m. Free. And be sure to check out the store's video with Robyn, where she talks about some of her favorite artists, including Janet Jackson and Laurie Anderson. Sleepy Sun at Spaceland, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, and $12 at the door.

-- Todd Martens 

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Rumor: Eagles of Death Metal to nest at Spaceland on Monday [UPDATED]

Word is that Spaceland will get a major Palm Desert infusion on Monday. Pop & Hiss has it on good authority that the hard rockers the Eagles of Death Metal will help celebrate the final night of Sweethead's free residency, performing the closing set of the evening. 

UPDATE [MAY 21, 6:15 P.M.]: The following bad news was sent to the Pop & Hiss HQ via the comments section from the band's management: "Unfortunately EODM had to pull off the bill and will not be performing Monday night. But the other bands are and they are all equally amazing!" While it has been confirmed that the comment did indeed come from the band's management at Dangerbird, there were no further details available.

Sweethead, of course, is the band from Queens of the Stone Age regular Troy Van Leeuwen, an act that takes a more sultry and vampy course than the desert-scorched rock of Queens. That slant comes courtesy of arresting frontwoman Serrina Sims. Sweethead's "The Great Disruptors" is embedded above. 

Eagles of Death Metal has been doing the surprise gig thing of late, so this is not totally unexpected. They recently performed as a two-piece in Toronto, but Jesse Hughes and Dave Catching should be backed by a full band at Spaceland. 

As of Thursday morning, Pop & Hiss is still being told that Josh Homme will indeed be performing with the band on Monday. Homme has been on tour with Them Crooked Vultures of late, but a look at the Spaceland bill reveals that Alain Johannes is also slated to appear -- another Queens vet and a member of the Vultures. 

But wait, there's more! Trippy pop band Hello=Fire is unbilled but expected to appear. Hello=Fire is the solo project of Dean Fertita, another name that's familiar to Queens fans. Fertita is also a member of the Dead Weather. Producer/Raconteurs member Brendan Benson is expected to join him. Last but not least, Mini Mansions, led by Michael Shuman, another member of -- you guessed it -- Queens is officially announced as appearing.  

Based on the number of Queens family members announced on the bill, Pop & Hiss feels confident in publicizing this rumor, but if things change, we'll give an update. 

-- Todd Martens

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger raises concerns for Spaceland, indie promoters


With concert giants Live Nation and AEG based in Los Angeles, there's little room for an independent promoter to maneuver. Yet Mitchell Frank and his Spaceland Productions have managed to thrive.

Putting on shows under the Spaceland brand since March 1995, Frank hosts concerts at just three Silver Lake and Echo Park venues -- Spaceland, the Echo and the Echoplex. That would seem to put Frank below the radar of most major operations, but in the wake of the Department of Justice giving the green light, albeit with concessions, to a merger between promoter/venue owner Live Nation and ticketing agency/management firm Ticketmaster Entertainment, Frank suddenly finds himself in the unenviable position of making money for the competitor. 

Spaceland Productions has 15 months, Frank said, remaining on an exclusive contract with TicketWeb, the once-indie ticket seller now owned by Ticketmaster. "To make money for that behemoth, it turns my stomach," Frank said. "I’m an indie promoter, and that’s what I do. So it’s kind of tough to give money to the mother ship."

Frank hasn't been as vocal as some of his peers in the independent promotion community, such as Jerry Mickelson at Chicago's Jam Productions or Seth Hurwitz with I.M.P., which owns Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club and operates the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. But Frank was interviewed by the Justice Department and expressed concerns that he said appear to have gone unheard, largely that an approved partnership would have him working -- and potentially providing information for -- his competitor.

The newly formed Live Nation Entertainment is an instant, one-stop shop for artists and promoters, and the Justice Department is calling for a "firewall" to prevent the sharing of information between departments. The new firm has the ability to book concerts, sell tickets and merchandise, and, with management company Front Line, direct access to such name acts as the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Neil Diamond, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac, Christina Aguilera and more. 

"That’s where the concern is," said Jordan Kurland, whose Zeitgeist Management represents Death Cab for Cutie, She & Him, Grizzly Bear and more. "When you look at the intersection of Ticketmaster, Live Nation and Front Line? Information is power, and they will have a lot of it."

Live Nation controls more than just mega-venues such as Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. In Los Angeles, the Wiltern, the Hollywood Palladium and the House of Blues fall under the Live Nation banner. The company has been more aggressive in entering the club market in New York, booking at such key venues as the intimate Gramercy Theatre, the Fillmore and Roseland Ballroom, the former two falling at capacities of about 1,000 and under. 

"I made it very clear to TicketWeb that I wasn't going to go along for the ride," Frank said. "I’m sure they’re going to make me stay a year. The Department of Justice should have had an out for guys like me, guys who don’t want to give all of their money to their competitor and don’t want our competitor to have all of our competitive information at their fingertips. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll look the other direction when you pull up that report.’ ”

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