OWNERS TO PULL PLUG ON POWER TOOLS
“Andy Warhol was there . . . so were Andy Summers, Malcolm McLaren, Annie Lennox,” said Jon Sidel, reminiscing about the opening of the Power Tools dance and art club two years ago. “There were only 100 people, but Warhol was (one of them). That’s why everybody started talking about us.”
That word of mouth enabled Power Tools to evolve into the hippest after-hours rock spot in town. At its peak, the club occupied several large rooms of the Park View Hotel, across from MacArthur Park. Among its lures: alternative music (live acts and records) plus drinking and dancing until 4 a.m.
But that era comes to an end Saturday night. Sidel and partner Matt Dike are pulling the plug on Power Tools.
“We’re bored and want to get on to something new,” Sidel said recently. “The club isn’t what it once was. We started playing a certain kind of music and now everyone’s started doing they’re own version of it, so it’s on to something else.”
During its glory days, the club inspired a host of imitators, including Dirtbox, Glam-Slam, Lunch and even Sidel and Dike’s own spinoff, Seventh Grade. On a good night--such as when the Beastie Boys appeared last August--Power Tools attracted 2,000 people.
Recently, though, its appeal was outdistanced by two such downtown rivals: the borderline punk club Scream and the trendy disco Vertigo.
“People jumped on the bandwagon doing the same thing,” Dike said. “There weren’t enough people to go around. . . . Everyone’s attention span has been used up and the club scene has gotten so saturated. We’re also burnt out. We felt we did everything we had to do.”
In the beginning, Power Tools grew out of a succession of movable parties held in lofts, rented halls and warehouses. The journey began in a Crenshaw-area storefront that bore the sign “Power Tools Sales Service”--hence the club’s name. More a private party than a club at that point, Power Tools’ popularity grew steadily.
“I don’t know how people found out about those parties,” Dike admitted. “I’m assuming it was word of mouth. I believe it was fulfilling a need for people to go out late at night. The success of the whole thing was completely unexpected.”
After Sidel joined him, the pair turned the informal gatherings into a formal nightclub concept.
But he explained that the idea was always to be more than just another rock club or pickup joint.
“We always were going for something offbeat,” Sidel said. “If we booked well-known acts, we’d have them do an acoustic thing.”
The most distinguishing characteristic of Power Tools, though, has been Sidel’s “installations”--kitschy performance tableaux and participation pieces centered around such bizarre themes as “History’s Most Hated” (which included a housewife cooking and serving fried chicken livers and onions to scores of club-goers) and “Drug Night” (featuring talks by representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous). For one installation, Sidel dumped a wrecked car in the Park View patio next to the dance room and cut it into pieces with an acetylene torch.
Saturday’s closing doesn’t mean Dike and Sidel are sidelined. They oversee a Power Tools sister club in Houston, and they promise to resurface soon in Hollywood. But this time, they suggest, things will be kept on a smaller scale.
It's a date
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