It’s time! We’re taking our Venue Profile series bi-coastal, and what’s a better introduction to the Los Angeles music scene than the stalwart Echo/Echoplex. Situated squarely in the hip east side Echo Park neighborhood, the Echo and the Echoplex are conjoined sister venues (one upstairs, one downstairs) that have served as local launching grounds for some of the biggest musical acts touring today.
Opened by promoter Mitchell Frank of Spaceland Presents (who still operate and book the venue) in 2001, the Echo will be celebrating its 15thbirthday this December—no small feat for a music venue—and the Echoplex opened only a few years later, in 2006. Since opening, the complex has managed to remain a vital part of the Los Angeles music community. Spaceland Presents credits this longevity to the venue team’s dedication to up-and-coming artists and fostering the local music scene. The Echo/Echoplex prides itself in having a reputation as a venue that gives artists a stage on which to cut their teeth—most of the bands that have their first LA play at the complex go on to play Coachella and other major American festivals.
The upstairs portion of the complex houses the Echo, a 350-cap room that feels like the quintessential rock club, though they book a wide range of genres. It’s decidedly no-frills: black walls, ceilings, and pillars are offset only by some hanging disco balls. A long bar flanks the left side of the room, and the back walls are lined with booths. A lack of photo pit means attendees can get as up-close-and-personal to a band as they’d live, provided they’re ok with being shoved up against the stage in the event of dancing or moshing. Don’t come here if you’re the type who prefers their venues on the plus side, this room is all about the music.
Head outside and around the block, and you’ll find the entrance to the downstairs Echoplex, a considerably bigger room, with a 680-person capacity. The Echoplex boasts two bars, and the walls are lined with comfortable, plush booths. As Spaceland notes, “The Echoplex is the next play after The Echo. Once a band has cut their teeth at The Echo and can sell it out, naturally they progress to the larger room.” Plus, the room is perfect for underplays (for anyone that doesn’t speaker “promoter”, and underplay is when a big band decides to play a considerably smaller room than they could sell out, just for the fun of it). Recent underplays have included Nine Inch Nails, Beck, and St. Vincent, just to name a few. In fact, Spaceland told us that Beck usually pulls a surprise show in one of the two rooms nearly every time he launches a tour. So if you’re a fan, keep an eye out!
Other than arena-sized acts attempting to re-live the energy of their early club shows, you’re probably wondering what type of music you can expect to see in the Echo/Echoplex. The answer, friends, is “all of it.” On a recent Friday night, a sold-out crowd of 350 moshed upstairs to punk band Royal Headache, while downstairs a largely bespectacled crow danced to local indie electro group De Lux. Generally speaking, Spaceland Presents tries to book different types of bands in each room on any given night. But an indoor staircase does connect the two rooms, offering full access to the complex for certain special shows with a more festival-like feel.
The complex keeps a packed, varied show schedule. You could show up to the front doors nearly any night of the week, and chances are somethingwould be happening. When the next-big-thing isn’t making a tour stop inside its doors, both the Echo and Echoplex play host to a number of weekly and monthly show series highlighting local talent and smaller acts. Some of these include Funky Sole, a weekly Funk and Soul party featuring all-vinyl sets by both resident and guest DJ’s; Grand Ole Echo, a monthly daytime concert featuring up-and-coming country and folk acts; and Dub Club, a weekly Reggae party. Suffice to say, any kind of genre or vibe you could hope to experience live, you can find at the Echo/Echoplex.