Al’s Bar  (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Downtown in Los Angeles. Feeling the underground culture of Los Angeles in a dangerously smelling place. 

This Club was located at the south part of downtown in Los Angeles, CA, USA. Nirvana had played here. In the 90’s, I heard that there is a popular grunge and underground rock-based club near Los Angeles downtown area, and visited.

There were many stories about Los Angeles downtown area, how it is danger, in the 80’s to 90’s. Among the young traveler, it was very famous that east side of Los Angeles is the place where “you should not go”. Especially, it was told that you should not go to the south direction from the ‘Little Tokyo”. In case walking around at Greyhound Bus terminal area, you will be hit and assaulted by the street people. Greyhound bus was requisite for the young low-cost traveler, I had to utilize Greyhound bus. I have selected the bus to be arrived at Los Angeles in the morning time, then when arriving at Greyhound bus terminal in Los Angeles downtown, from San Francisco, I walked to the direction to the center of Los Angeles downtown without any attention to the surrounding area.

I have visited “Al’s Bar” in 1996. It is in the warehouses area, difficult to find, and not so good atmosphere, I have visited to check the place in a daytime. However, it was still difficult to find its location.

Having a closer look, I found the street people, and wondering whether I come here or not at night time. However, when reading the introduction message of “Al’s Bar” described in “LA Weekly” free paper, there was no choice not to go, and therefore, I was there with a risk.

It is normal that the first gig play to start after 9 pm in Los Angeles Club, I was there after 9 pm. Surrounding area at “Al’s Bar” was dark and its place has limited street light and therefore, it has taken times to select the suitable place to park, then walking fast to “Al’s Bar” after parking a car, praying for, “I do not meet anyone on the street”. At the entrance, big and strong security man was standing, however, door is still closed and he said to me, “it is early, the gig to start at 10 pm, come back later”. I went back to my motel stayed, then came back to “Al’s Bar” after 10 pm. It was already opened, and I have just got inside after having a body check.

Entrance door was long and narrow. After getting into the Club, there is a bar counter on the right-hand side, billiard table at the center, then a couple of people was playing at that pool table. I have just asked to have a beer at the counter, then walking around the Club. Its atmosphere is far from the word “sophisticated”, it is like running down and decayed room where I could see the Sci-Fi movie, and may feel something cool, however, it could be just “dirty” for some people. It was the same kind of Club like “CBGB” in New York City. It is sure that it is different from “Whisky a Go Go” and “The Roxy” at Sunset Strip.

The place playing a music is neighborhood room and it will be packed if 30 people is there. Stage is small and low height. I have seen three bands, however, all of them was terrible. Guitar player was like “I can have only three coding”. Drum player was rough. Vocal just shouted. Final band, vocalist wearing the white wedding dress and shouting and going mad to the audiences. I was watching the play by sitting down at the chair, located at the back side of the space, then having a groundless excitement with this atmosphere and its crazy band playing. Audiences are just 10 people, then those audiences are starting to act violently and vocalist wearing white wedding dress is stepped down from the stage, singing with audiences, go crazy together with them, then finally, some audiences rushing and hitting to me. I have felt dangerous and getting out from the music room.

It was shocked to me that Los Angeles has a Club like this, totally different from the Club at Sunset. Other favorite Club, “Anti-Club” and “FM Station” were closed before the year of 2000, then Al’s Bar was still running somehow, however, this “Al’s Bar” was also closed in 2001, unfortunately.

I visited the site in 2018, but the place was turned into a boutique, and the upper floors of the building became a hotel. The upper floors used to look like shelter-like dwellings, but they became neat and clean. The area where the “Al’s bar” is located may have been affected by the redevelopment as “Arts District”, and the danger level has dropped considerably compared to the 80’s and 90’s.

It seems that there is a story of reopen and hoping to be realized. Changes in the surroundings may not be able to create the once-suspicious atmosphere, but this area still has a place where heresy smells, so it could form a new culture.

(*) Greyhound Bus Terminal used to be on 208 East, 6th Street. This place was in the place known for its poor security area called “Skid Row”. The current location is 1716 East, 7th Street, outside of “Skid Row”.

Visited in 1996

Basic Information

■ Name of Place:Al’s Bar
■ Address : 303 S Hewitt St, Los Angeles, CA USA
​■ Performed Musician
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Bad Religion, Beck, NOFX, Nirvana, Sonic Youth
​■ Homepage :