Gabah, a year-old nightclub on Melrose Avenue's eastern edge, was born out of the rubble of the Northridge quake. Its owner, a Palestinian emigre named Adnan, had been searching for a new venue since Jan. 17, 1994, the date that effectively put an end to Raji's, his divey live music spot that functioned as a sort of Al's Bar for Hollywood.
While Gabah hasn't yet matched Raji's on the Richter scale of live entertainment, it's off to a promising start, offering a wide range of local urban sounds. As manager of Raji's, Adnan had an inroad with promoters on the alternative music scene. Although Raji's had been little more than a stage and a concession stand, it had managed to attract memorable early '90s shows by the likes of Nirvana and Wax (whose lead singer spent a good part of one show breaking beer bottles against a wall, earning him loads of new fans).
Numerous new clubs tried to fill the hole in the alt-rock scene in the intervening years. Even Adnan's former partner, Pola, bought another Hollywood dive called the Ski Room and renamed it Raji's. But it took Adnan nearly four years to find his own replacement venue.
Finally, in 1998, he found just the dive he was looking for: the Anti-Club. A longtime supporter of Hollywood's punk scene, Anti-Club was a nice and nasty nightspot, with just enough greasy rock 'n' roll spirit. A bit of priming was necessary, though. "It was filthy," says Adnan.
Choosing the name Gabah, which means jungle in Arabic, Adnan painted the walls with leopard spots and gave the place a modest face lift.
Its location, on Melrose Avenue near Normandie Avenue, suggested leaving well enough alone. This is a burly part of lower Hollywood; if you want to see your car when you get back, opting for the $4 valet parking or tossing on the Club couldn't hurt. But the location also means Gabah can make some noise without getting harassed.
Currently, the noise comes in all kinds of youth-oriented genres, starting with the Thursday night promotion, the Root Down, a funky soulful collective offering live music by such popular artists as the Breakestra, a groovy acid jazz crew, and deejays spinning hip-hop, '60s soul and mod-flavored beats. Saturday nights offer a reggae bash, with guest deejays from Jamaica, as well as live bands. Fridays are mixing it up with rock, metal and noise pop. Tuesday's Gabah Gabah Hey promotion invites local punk and rock en espanol bands to perform, and starting in a couple of weeks, Wednesdays will highlight live flamenco music.
Considering how unassuming the space is, they make good use of it. Gabah has a main room and bar area, a partially covered outdoor patio, a raised performance stage and dance area, another separate bar and seating room and a spot adjacent to the main bar with a pool table.
There's nothing glamorous here, but Gabah is a good nightclub where young promoters can cut their teeth and showcase the variety of urban music L.A.'s got to offer.
Gabah, 4658 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. 21 and older. Cover varies. (323) 664-8913.