By Josh Herwitt //
Say what you will about Los Angeles — maybe the traffic, the pollution and the people aren’t your cup of tea — but the city where the Kim Kardashians and the Justin Biebers of the world happen to roam is still one of America’s most important music cities.
With its ties to the film and entertainment industries, LA continues to be a hotbed for young, emerging artists and well-established stars across all genres, whether it’s hip-hop, electronic, punk or rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe it’s why we have more music venues than we know what to do with here. Sporting music venues of all shapes and sizes, LA has no shortage of options, particularly between Hollywood and downtown.
But it is downtown where LA continues to thrive at an exponential rate these days, marking one of the most exciting times in the city’s history, certainly when you consider what downtown LA looked like 20 years ago. One of the latest examples of the gentrification process downtown comes along Main Street, where sought-after, forward-thinking restaurants like Bäco Mercat and Pete’s are now calling home.
Yet, the facelift Main Street has been undergoing over the past five years wasn’t completely solidified until last month’s official opening of The Regent Theater, a 1,100-capacity venue with a gourmet pizza joint (Prufrock Pizzeria) and trendy watering hole (The Lovesong Bar) right next door.
While it’s not as if Main Street was completely missing a music venue prior to The Regent’s opening, the new space provides a much different dynamic than what came before it. Just a few blocks up the street and tucked away in an adjacent alleyway, The Smell has long catered to underground punk and weird, experimental electronic acts as one of the few all-ages spots left in LA. But with no bar inside, it boasts an attitude unlike most music venues today, dating back to a time when punk was sweeping the nation for the first time.
You won’t find those anti-establishment vibes at The Regent, where local promoter Mitchell Frank, who also operates The Echo and Echoplex, and his company Spaceland Presents have already sold out shows for Death from Above 1979, Cold War Kids and FKA twigs (two nights). And although there are other suitable options nearby with historical movie palaces like The Orpheum Theatre, The Tower Theater and the newly renovated Theatre at Ace Hotel all lining Broadway within a block of each other, The Regent has quickly found its place amid the crowded, yet booming confines of downtown LA.
At first glance, the venue has everything to make it a successful addition to LA’s live music scene. Once a grindhouse and adult movie theater before more recently serving as a pop-up store/venue for Jack White’s label Third Man Records and his band The Dead Weather, The Regent fits in quite nicely with its immediate surroundings, evoking a feeling of “old downtown” (the building celebrated its 100th birthday this year, in fact) despite it still bearing that brand-new look and smell. Its sloped dance floor, perfect for any vertically-challenged music fan, is a refreshing change to the club-style venues that dominate LA’s scene. Though the floor area can become difficult to maneuver throughout when shows sell out — as I found out for myself during Cold War Kids’ headlining gig one night — the horseshoe-shaped balcony provides some respite while offering a close view of the stage. There are even a few high-top tables near the stairs for those needing to take some weight off their feet. No need to worry, though. The Regent’s custom-fitted sound system makes it plenty easy to hear the performance from the very back of the room.
If there’s one thing The Regent has going for it, it’s that there aren’t many “bad seats” in the house. Yes, the bar downstairs can easily become inundated with thirsty patrons (quick tip: you’re better off going to the bar upstairs) and the lack of air conditioning at times can make things uncomfortable for some, but with any new music venue nowadays, there are always pluses and minuses. Instead, it will come down to how The Regent resolves these smaller — however, noteworthy — grievances that will determine whether or not it becomes a favorite among LA music fans.