She was sitting in a cross-legged lotus position on the cold cement floor of an old dilapidated building watching a band play noise music. I couldn’t help but be transfixed by her supple white skin whose softness traversed the dim lit room. The chiaroscuro ambiance enhanced the outline of the dimples that formed on her lower back. She was sitting next to a dude that looked liked he had just come off of a conveyor belt whose function was to spit out newly minted hipster doofuses. She was way too cute to be with him, but resigning myself and consigning it as another lost cause, I made my way to the adjacent room that featured another performer; a one-man show. Surrounded by another multitude of people, he let out a loud and brutal primal scream as if a hammer had just come down and destroyed his big toe. After a brief silence…the performance was over. That was it. Everyone clapped.
Vegan brownies and green tea were flowing like wine and semen at a Greek orgy; however, this Bacchanalia was comprised mainly of underage self-righteous teens who spoke disinterestedly of literature they had already read and about Reaganomics as if they had lived it firsthand. A step outside this hovel of a building greeted you with a first rate view of the amazing Downtown LA nighttime skyline and the scent of foodstuff putrefaction, cigarette smoke and hobo urine. I guess that’s where this place got its name, The Smell.
The Smell was the place to be on any given night as indie bands from different parts of the world would stop by to perform. My band at the time really wanted to play there, but the booking process was nebulous and as secretive as an Illuminati-meets-the-Knights-of-the-Templar order. This secrecy had to do with the desire of the owners to keep the club low key and indie. The simplest way to play there was to become a viable member of the Smell community; so I volunteered to be the doorman a few times and we finally were allowed to play there.
This underground indie music club is only a few blocks away from Skid Row, LA’s premier and preferred spot to sweep all of its most undesirable citizens under the rug. Naturally, you would think that this part of town wouldn’t be coveted real estate. Well, it is. The city of LA is trying to push out all of its help-starved constituents and replace their shanties with High rises, overpriced lofts, and trendy restaurants and bars. The Smell’s proximity to the area may inherit it a similar fate; however, having been priced out of and forced to move from North Hollywood (another LA seedy-turned-trendy-Cinderella-story) once before, I’m confident that The Smell will rise from the smoke and ashes of gentrification like a triumphant phoenix tattooed on the forearm of a fedora-wearing bearded fellow.
It seems certain that 2017 may be to The Smell what 2006 was to New York’s CBGB; in a few words, the end of an era. In an age where our youth is overprotected, over-assessed, over-analyzed, and constantly barraged with tech, places like The Smell don’t have a place. This small rinky dink hole-in-the-wall underage hipster playground will be missed for all the things that it was, that it represented, and that it stood for. The scent of spoiled food, cigarette smoke, and urine that use to fill the night air will no longer fill our noses, but The Smell will always linger.