Influential New York rockers Television have been around for an impressive 42 years, but sounded as groundbreaking as ever in their first night playing at Los Angeles’ new mid-sized venue the Teragram Ballroom.
Located on Seventh Street just south of downtown, the 600-capacity room opened just a month ago with Spoon as its first act, and has an impressive slate of off-kilter vets (Gary Numan, Lydia Lunch, Psychic TV) lined up for the next few months, along with newer indie acts (Ariel Pink and Black Lips, Wavves).
Teragram is a collaboration between New York promoter Michael Swier, founder of the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge, and Joe Baxley of downtown L.A.’s Broadway Bar. The former silent movie theater aims to fill the gap between smaller spaces like the Echo and large venues such as the El Rey.
The shiny new Teragram (it’s Margaret backwards, in memory of Swier’s late wife) sports mirror-image bars on either side of the historic lobby, offering a light menu and plenty of room to grab drinks before or during the show. The auditorium retains century-old details like a curved ceiling and arched stage, with another bar at the rear for patrons who don’t want to miss any of the action.
Founder Tom Verlaine, drummer Billy Ficca and longtime bass player Fred Smith remain with the band, while early guitarist Richard Lloyd left the lineup eight years ago. His replacement, Jimmy Rip, sounds like he has decades of experience playing the complex, jazz-influenced sounds of the seminal group that grew out of the New York CBGB’s scene that spawned Patti Smith, Blondie and the Ramones.
The band’s sophisticated and spiky jams influenced a generation of musicians from Talking Heads to Sonic Youth, Pavement, REM and U2. With a hard-to-characterize sound and Verlaine’s distinctive high-pitched warble, Television never had any big hits, resulting in a show that seemed much fresher than many of the touring heritage acts whose songs are on constant rotation in movies and supermarkets.
The Teragram is a welcome complement to DTLA’s larger venues in a neighborhood that’s just starting to see some action with restaurants like Plan Check and the Lethal Amounts art gallery. Taking an Uber or Metro is recommended — parking in the area is extremely tight and the scarce pay lots are expensive.