There are many scenes in Hollywood from zootsuits to hipsters, and all the way from hippies to “gangstas”. Inside each scene you have 3 types of people: Locals, Suburbanites, and Tourists. In this article, I am going to describe the different cultures in an observational anthropological manner. My credibility lies in the fact that I’ve participated as a DJ, Roadie, Plus-1 (Guest of performers), fan, driver, promoter, and artist in many of the areas I’ll be speaking about.
The hipsters are mainly made of locals, who have moved to Hollywood to be some sort of performer. Some suburban kids dress like hipsters, but are only weekend warrior hipsters. These folks are made up of 18 to 25 year olds, sometimes older. They concentrate on concerts and shows rather than dance clubs. Hippies are just hipsters, who smoke a lot of pot, and either never made it to San Francisco, or they have their medicinal recommendation to smoke marijuana, which is easily obtained in West Hollywood. They can be found walking, more like wandering the streets, and are some of the nicest guys, as long as they aren’t short on their next gram bag. Despite the decline of popularity there are still swing dance clubs, the home of the zootsuit. Finally, a small, but sustaining scene of industrial electronic, European, and 80’s clubs exists on the edges of Hollywood.
I’ve been in and around all the scenes in Hollywood. As a DJ, and the friends of DJs, I’ve been to hip-hop clubs. The best part of being friends of the entertainment or part of the show is the fact that most rap clubs have bottle service. Last call in H-wood is 2:00am. If you time your drinking perfectly you can be served a bottle at 1:59, and drink for another hour or so before you leave. The Rap clubs have a very diverse crowd. Hip-hop is the standard dance music of today, but since the artists are mostly non-whites, you have a more diverse crowd than at some of the other scenes. Women, usually locals, know when guys come in for bottle service, they have enough cash, or are one of the aspiring artists, or can get them close to the artist, so they actually will ask you to dance, and can be quite forward. The music is very loud, and the rhythms are always funky. There is a lot of drinking at these clubs, and some club hoppers take drugs like Ecstasy, a designer drug, usually made in Europe that’s usually a small pill with some sort of imprinted logo to notify you of its brand name. Suburban club hoppers tend to either try for the nicest hip-hop club, or they will attend specific events or underground scenes. Tourists never really know about any underground scenes in Hollywood, and that means the most violence that occurs tends to be against them because like the kids from the suburbs, they tend to go to the fanciest, newest, most prestigious clubs. The standard treatment of most artists at the ‘dazzling spectacle rap clubs’ is that they drink for free (and their girls as well). From my own eyes, I can tell you that there is a lot more than dancing going on in the VIP areas also.
Being with the band on the Sunset strip is a completely different event. There is no parking anywhere near the strip unless you are willing to pay from 15 to 25 dollars to park for the night. First you have to unload the gear at the club. This doesn’t take very long, and most bands playing clubs on Sunset don’t have their own roadies unless they are playing a nicer venue near the strip like the House of Blues on Hollywood blvd. Once they’ve unloaded, they stack their equipment on stage in front of the band that performs after they do, or in the very back if they are headlining the show. Tickets to these shows range from seven dollars to twenty to get in, assuming that it isn’t sold out. A lot of locals go to these shows to see one or two bands only, and leave, which allows the club to sell more tickets. These clubs can get packed, and there is usually no “moshing” (a type of dancing, where you hit other dancers) allowed in these clubs, even at metal rock shows. You get a lot of hippies in this area. West Hollywood is very lenient with the marijuana dispensaries. The city council has even told the police not to stop people for only smoking pot, and to focus their attention on other crimes in the city. When you’re backstage at a place like the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, you’re probably going to see some joints, pipes, beer, whiskey, drugs, and bongs in extravagant padded cases. One of my initial reactions was wondering what kind of musical instrument could fit into a small case, and wondered if someone played the trumpet, but was shocked to see what I was told was a six hundred dollar “Roor Bong” (pronounced ‘roar’), a very rare and expensive smoking devise from Germany.
I’ve been in the same room as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and many other amazing artists had been, and I tried to enjoy those moments as much as I could. The walls are covered in graffiti, and the only room that has never been painted over is a loft area above one of the dressing rooms that is dark and has nothing but mattresses and pillows. There is usually a bucket of the bands favorite domestic beer in each “dressing room” and sometimes bands have to share, two bands to one room, but the bucket gets refilled when you run out as many times as needed. The bands play and usually get some pizza and beer afterwards. They load up their equipment, and head back to wherever they are staying that night for an after-party. These are not to be confused with After-hour clubs, which I will now begin to describe in relation to the niche underground scenes in and around Hollywood.
Industrial, 80’s, and Brit-pop are just a few of the underground scenes in Hollywood. Industrial has been the most outlandish and most entertaining, and has influences from the hip-hop, 80’s, and old techno scene. First of all, everyone but myself was wearing nothing but black, and blacker than black. There were gasmasks, surgical masks, and painted faces. There were bandana wearing kids, and girls dressed like some crazy “Mad Max” style rubber and fake leather plastic fabrics. There are those that some would think of as “gothic”, and others that are wearing only electrical tape in the most critical places. Body paint is also part of the scene, and though everything is either black or white, there are different types of music within the same scene. The music there is all bass heavy, and made mostly for kids on ecstasy, with static and classic industrial metal combinations mixed with rhythmic, melodic harmonies, and mostly vocals that scream about emotional pain and lots of songs about the world being like hell. Some rooms are more melodic, and some are literally called “noise rooms”. These songs, like the hip-hop scene, also refer to many drugs. There seems to be a lot less fighting in these clubs because people are not into judging each other like you find at the club scene. There is no dress code at all and the smoking area in the back can be a healthy reprieve when you’ve been dancing to music at one hundred twenty beats per minute. There are a lot of different people there, but mostly kids who have come from out of town, knowing that this club was an industrial club one night a week. There is a sprinkle of tourists, but usually they arrive with a local or suburban Californian. There are some gay and bi-sexual people there, which can lead to an interesting conversation starter.
This type of place is a blast to spend your Friday night with or without your friends around you. I was dancing with one woman when she kissed me, pulled on my Winnie the Pooh tie, and dragged me to a place to sit down. She told me about her sexuality, and said she wanted to kiss her friend and me at the same time, but then my fantasy turned tragic as her “other friend” turned out to be another guy strolling up towards us. I told her that I had nothing against her or him, but that I couldn’t indulge her and apologized. I tried to disappear into the crowd, and kept dancing. It was hard for me to blend in because I was wearing a baby blue shirt with brown pants. The underground clubs are usually eighteen and over, rather than 21, so underage girls typically come and ask you to buy them drinks, so proceed with caution. After the club shuts down around 1:30, the doors close completely at 3:00am, so many of the patrons go to the after hour clubs.
These after-hour clubs play trance, and trip hop music. It is illegal to buy alcohol past two in the morning, but most after hour clubs charge a cover fee, and allow you to bring your own liquor in. These clubs are made almost exclusively for suburbanites by locals who are looking to make rent. Tourists sometimes end up at these places when they can get a tip from someone at a club. Many of these clubs are unlicensed and illegally operated. You can run into virtually every and anyone at these clubs. They have couches and tables rather than a huge dance floor, and there is no VIP area. People smoke inside and completely flaunt the law. Usually it is in a basement, and is not much bigger than the average Southern California rental space. You can imagine when these clubs are open, popular, and it is 80 degrees outside in the middle of the summer, how hot can it get inside? The answer is very hot, but nothing that a cold beer at 3:00am won’t fix. Don’t drink and drive. This is a mantra of after-hour promoters.