But it's one thing to be known worldwide for 50 years of rock history and one festival weekend. It's another to be known among the savvy twentysomething, three-shows-a-week locals who'll keep your nightclub in business.
The Key Club is a lesson in how hard it can be for a venue on the Strip to reverse its course. Few contemporary fans called the Key Club a home base — it had a full calendar, but it wasn't known as a local hangout, a home for a particular genre nor a destination point for essential new acts. Plus, the Key Club's Shepp said, its larger 500-capacity size (compared to the 300- to 400-capacity Troubadour and the 250-capacity Viper Room and Whisky) was its own challenge.
"It's a tough size — it's right between the kind of acts that would fill it but who we couldn't afford, and acts that we could afford but that wouldn't sell out," Shepp admits. He's pursuing a venue in Hollywood that will emphasize those lessons learned. "We were trying new ways of booking, with five talent buyers in specific genres they were passionate about. It was getting better, but not fast enough."
- Sunset Strip
- Sunset Strip Music Festival 2012
- Sunset Strip Music Festival 2011: Motley Crue, back on the Boulevard
Sunset Music Festival
Address for the now-closing Key Club -- soon to be 1OAK
9039 West Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA
9081 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA
Successful clubs in West Hollywood have been looking east for inspiration. Adler's Roxy was one of the first rock clubs to recognize the coming EDM wave, booking crossover acts such as Crystal Castles and Aoki in the late '00s that would go on to become superstars. The nearby Standard Hotel in West Hollywood has booked edgy music-centric events from the likes of the popular roving dance-music party A Club Called Rhonda and the French record label and fashion house Kitsune.
The Troubadour, less than a mile south of the Strip and inseparable from the neighborhood's music history, recently hired Alexandra Maxwell, the young talent buyer for the Bootleg Bar and Silver Lake's Club Los Globos, and has hosted sets from up-and-coming acts such as hard-core revivalists Metz and the electro-pop trio Chvrches along with intimate shows from legends Depeche Mode and Rod Stewart. In May, the Whisky — no stranger to the booking issues that plagued the Key Club — tapped a rich vein of its own classic L.A. punk history when it hosted the hard-core supergroup Off! (fronted by Back Flag and Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris) and the rowdy young garage punks Fidlar.
The venue taking over the Key Club's space, 1OAK, is something else entirely — a bottle service-inclined megaclub whose Las Vegas branch has lately hosted parties and concerts by Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and rising Atlanta rapper Future. Mötley Crüe might not feel at home there, but 1OAK is an expensive bet that the Strip still has major night-life cachet, and a potential future that may not be beholden to its past.
But even if no venue owner or talent buyer knows quite what that future looks like, everyone in WeHo is glad something is changing.
"We're finally getting to tell our own story again," Adler said. "Since the '90s, it's been stuck in this old story about rock and hair metal, and social media is letting us listen to fans and tell a new story that we think is more truthful — that we don't think we're better than anyone else, and that we're part of a much bigger local music scene in L.A."
[CORRECTION: 10:15 a.m. Fri., June 7. This post originally misidentified the CEO and executive director of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, Todd Steadman.]