Echo Park is a little hipster neighborhood on the east side of Hollywood, rich with artsy culture, but not without the cost of your car possibly being broken into. With a little persistence, you may be able to get the best parking in L.A. for only $.50 an hour, but there’s really no guarantee that it’s any safer than street parking: whether it’s on Sunset Boulevard, or crammed alongside townhouses’ driveways. My best friend, her boyfriend, and I were lucky enough to secure a spot in a alley-like parking lot for only $2 for the night. We walked on our way to a famous, yet humble little venue, the Echo.
Concert promoter Mitchell Frank founded this gem when he bought and renovated a Mexican restaurant and turned it into a two-story local nightclub. The company, Spaceland Productions, also manages another venue, the Regent Theater in Downtown L.A., known for its versatile showings of live theater and music; also hosting dance nights and other special events/festivals. The Echo, too, takes pride in being a hot venue as well- kicking off the careers of bands like Green Day and Nine Inch Nails. It’s notable as an indie artist hub; it has shed some spotlight on the underrepresented genre for years.
Upon making our way out of alley ways, and onto Sunset, I could see the former glory that Echo Park once was. We didn’t see the extravagant, lavish parts of the neighborhood, only the filth. It oddly still felt like home to me, “This is a cute little neigborhood,” I remember saying. My friends disagreed and told me about how much nicer Burbank is. Yet, somehow the whole layout of the stores, endless tattoo parlors and murals felt like rich history to me. The walls were consistently being painted over, a sign of artistic evolution- it is a living, breathing neigborhood.
At the arrival of the Echo, it seemed to blend in with the shops surrounding it. We wearily announced to the guard at the door that we were here to see SOAK, though all we heard through the wall was heavy bass and drums, not SOAK’s melancholy indie-pop. The guard directed us downstairs, as she was playing at the Echoplex, the lower level of the venue.
We had to travel down the street once again, and take a nasty staircase down along a street bridge, passing several homeless people’s tents, then to an assuming alley. Yes, the lower, backside of the Echoplex. We were scanned, examined, and told to leave our bottled drinks at the exit.
Inside, as I was approached for the scanning of my ticket, I was excited to hear SOAK’s voice muffled through the hall. It sounds exactly how I hear it on recording. We shuffled into a darkened room with colorful lights, and a medium sized crowd gathered close to the stage. She seemed surreal, like a hologram, the music perfectly loud enough for a venue of that size. In the corner was a darkened, inactive bar- this was an all ages event. We were late, and an hour of SOAK’s set seem to fly by. Aside from her song “Sea Creatures”, she performed all her work from the new album, Grim Town” “Fall Asleep/Backseat”, “Missed Calls”, “Crying Your Eyes Out”, “Everybody Loves You” and “Valentine Shmalentine”. She has such a unique voice, and such catchy, emotional tunes, it was impossible for me not to fall in love with Grim Town.
On our way out of the club, it was starting to get dark so my friend held my hand, and she held her boyfriend’s hand. A homeless man, roughly 20 feet away from the exit of the venue, began talking to himself very close to us. “You’re gonna die a terrible death” he said with conviction. A multitude of curse words escaped his mouth, and we scurried along the sidewalk; non-confrontational…and walking over an old mattress.
I mainly loved how this performance felt like a safe haven, a perfected atmosphere of creativity that Echo Park seems to emanate, but it’s tainted with homelessness and class divide. I can only hope that the Echo remains alive and healthy for generations to come.