The Historic El Rey Theatre: Standing Room Only

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


It’s almost embarrassing to say it here, but I’m old.

I tried last night, I really did. I wore my sensible shoes. I made sure, against the pleas of the reasonable voices in my head that would say otherwise, to drank a double espresso at 6pm to ensure that I wouldn’t need to slump against the floor of the venue sooner than later.

I mean really, who, at my age, drinks a double espresso after oh, say 10 am?

The caffeine didn’t even touch it. Not at all.

We drove up from Orange County at a sensible seven pm after dropping the kids off with the babysitter. The doors opened at eight so we made it perfectly. I know what you’re thinking: pre game it by taking a nap at 8, driving up at 9, arriving by 10 just in time for the main act. I know. I know how you’re supposed to do it. But I’m 39, y’all. If I go to sleep at 8, I won’t wake up until the next morning.

So we push through, friends. We push through.

The Historic El Rey Theatre, for many shows, is General Admission, which in my language means I’ll be standing up crowded against strangers for four hours. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I’m no alien to standing room only venues, in fact, some of the best shows I’ve ever seen have been at places like that (insert Troubadour reference here). Plus if I had been sitting down, say, at the Wiltern or similar I would have fallen asleep into my gin and tonic at 10 pm.

It was built in 1936 as a single screen movie theatre and showed movies for 50 years. In the eighties it became a night club and then in 1994 it was refurbished to become a live music venue. If it feels historic it’s because it is. It still retains some of it’s “Streamline Modern” style and was originally designed by Clifford Balch. Balch designed a ton of art deco movie theatres during that time including the Regency Lido in Newport Beach and the Fox Theatre in Pomona. Many of Balch’s theatres have been demolished or are serving other purposes, like the El Rey.

It’s really a beautiful and fun small venue to see pretty much anything, I would think. Even the back of the theatre feels close to the front. The drinks are good and not overpriced.

Last night the headliner was Shakey Graves, who, if you have never heard of him, don’t beat yourself up. But you will. Actually, you just did. Just say you heard it here first. He’s an up and coming blues/rock singer-songwriter whose real name is actually Alejandro Rose-Garcia. He’s energetic and fun and got his start as a one-man-band (please don’t envision Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins here --- think more dark, brooding and sinewy in a cowboy hat) by making a drum kit out of a suitcase.

The only thing I regret is that he didn’t play his one song off of And the War Came that everyone wanted him to. Or maybe he did, but this 39 year old mom of 2 had to make it home, I’m guessing, by the time he got to “Dearly Departed.” I’m sure he played it and I’m sure it brought the Streamline Modern house down, but I was well on my way to In and Out by then.

But what I did hear? So so good.

Another one to watch is one of the opening acts, Rayland Baxter. On the stage was simply Baxter with only his impressive beard and guitar to accompany him. And the guy whistles. Again, don’t get caught up in the fact that yes, whistling could be corny or strange. Here it seems like when, years ago, Jewel made yodeling cool. Yes, that. Baxter has made whistling way cooler than I ever thought possible.

So, yes to the El Rey. I’ll be back. I promise.

And yes to Mr. Graves, or Mr. Rose-Garcia. But please put your best song sooner in the set next time, for all of us almost-forties. Deal?

Details: 
The El Rey Theatre is located at 5515 Wilshire Blvd in West LA. Parking is either valet or at a safe, covered garage at the corner of Cochran and Wilshire. Last night parking was $10 but it may vary for different shows/days of the week.

For their calendar of upcoming shows click here. 

Also, Shakey Graves is playing one more time tonight. If tickets aren't sold out then you can buy them at the door starting at 8 pm.

2 comments:

  1. There's something immediately dignified about this venue - it is beautifully designed, tasteful, and understated. Went to this comfy place for events in NYC recently, just the right temperature, good food and great experience.

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