A handful of bars, clubs and even local congregations set the stage for talented local musicians, well-known rocker guests
The Los Angeles music scene can resemble a labyrinth of battered clubs, second-rate indie rock bands and sold-out stadium shows. However, there’s a way to separate the Ticketmaster surcharge from a night of really good music. Whether it’s every week or once a month, a handful of bars, clubs and even local congregations set the stage for talented local musicians, not to mention well-known rocker guests, all without the nosebleed or convenience charge. Enjoy.Where: Largo 432 N. Fairfax Ave. (323) 852-1073
Who: Jon Brion, L.A.’s original best-kept/worst-kept secret. Half mad scientist, half musical genius, he creates songs according to his whim. Has worked in the studio with Tom Petty as well as fellow Largo regulars Aimee Mann and Michael Penn.
What you’ll hear: Everything from the standard guitar/bass/drums set to tiny percussion instruments to keyboards that Brion blows into to create sound. He might recreate note-for-note renditions of Beatles classics like “Don’t Let Me Down,” play through songs he’s written for “Punch-Drunk Love” and “I Heart Huckabees” or rewrite the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” as a Les Paul-style guitar-only instrumental.
When: Fridays, 8:30 p.m., two sets. Make reservations 3 weeks in advance.
How much: $10
Who could show up: Beck, Jack Black Where: Key Club 9039 Sunset Blvd. (310) 274-5800
Who: Metal Skool, the heavy-metal cover band that’s only half kidding. Led by leather-pants, ripped-shirt, long-haired front man Ralph Saenz (stage name Michael Star), Metal Skool previously packed them in at the Viper Room and the Roxy before moving to the 600-capacity Key Club.
What you’ll hear: Metal Skool’s versions of hair-whipping songs from the ’70s and ’80s, including Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and the lighter-waving Poison ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” But what really sets them apart is that the covers sometimes eclipse the originals. So does the debauchery; an onstage stripper pole is just one of the sexed-up props.
When: Mondays, midnight
How much: $12
Who could show up: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, “American Idol” runner-up Bo Bice Where: Burbank First Christian Church 221 S. 6th St., Burbank (818) 845-7459
Who: Murry Hammond, bassist for alt-country icons the Old 97s, interspersed with casual Bible talk by Minister Steven E. Borgard.
What you’ll hear: From Hammond: songs ranging from Hank Williams classics to Civil War hymns played on harmonium and a slew of acoustic guitars. From Borgard: Well, it’s a church service.
Neither Hammond nor Borgard has a problem with nonbelievers who come only to see Hammond play. “People go to Al Green’s church for the music,” Borgard says. “Why should this be different?”
When: Wednesdays, 7 p.m.
How much: Free
Who could show up: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Where: Molly Malone’s 575 S. Fairfax Ave. (323) 935-1577
Who: The monthly Sweethearts of the Rodeo is a revolving door of session musicians known as the Sin City Allstars who can include Dwight Yoakam sideman Dusty Wakeman and the Snakehandlers’ Bryson Jones. Last year, the Allstars’ core group backed a revue that included Norah Jones and Keith Richards at a tribute for late, great country-rocker Gram Parsons. The Allstars also play a mellower alt-country night at the Mint on the third Friday of every month.
What you’ll hear: Possibly L.A.’s most vibrant underground scene, Sweethearts features unrehearsed classics from the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash. But with so many musicians coming and going, it’s anyone’s bet. It’s so unpredictable, in fact, that Jones calls it “a barfight onstage.”
When: First Wednesday of every month, 9:30 p.m.
How much: $5
Who could show up: Roots-music heroes Lucinda Williams, Mike Stinson and the Blasters’ Dave Alvin