A howl in the woods

Times Staff Writer

A log cabin is probably one of the last places on the planet you'd expect to see and hear mod punk rockers, but once a month the Bigfoot Lodge in Atwater becomes just the place for neighborhood regulars to mingle with retro girls, greaser boys, mods and punk rock kids.

In its second year, Club 66/77 -- the party that combines 1966 garage music and 1977 punk in a ski lodge environment -- attracts popular local bands including the Controllers and the Dogs, and such regulars as Kendra Fleharty, who has an assigned stool at the front of the bar.

Lee Joseph, a DJ and promoter, said, "I was in here one night talking to bartender Al about how '60s garage and mod and '70s punk are so related. Almost all of the '70s punk bands had covers from '66. I thought it would be a fun thing to try, a night just for bubblegum, garage and punk music, and he agreed."

For the first year, Joseph, the founder of an indie label called Dionysus Records who had never spun records for a living, played resident DJ to an average crowd of 160. A year later, the novelty was gone and Joseph was considering closing the club night when he had another idea. He booked Davie Allen & the Arrows for a monthlong residency, and Bigfoot became a destination for live music.

"I started booking live bands, and they injected a new life into it," said Joseph, who now also acts as Bigfoot's booking agent. "It's the bar's best Thursday night. The vibe here is a cabin in Big Bear. Don't ask me how or why, but it works."

Bigfoot Lodge is designed to make you smile. A life-size Smokey Bear and a mechanical raccoon peeking out from a tree stump are among the owner's inside jokes. The gigantic Sasquatch National Forest sign and log-covered walls add to the cabin's warm, comical feel.

Fleharty, a record collector who designs DVD menus, thinks of Bigfoot as her own "Cheers"-style bar. She tries not to miss a 66/77 night because she gets to listen to music with other savvy record collectors.

"There's really not too many places where you can hear the lesser-known punk bands," said Fleharty, of Burbank, who especially enjoyed the music of the Checkers at a recent 66/77. "They may be lesser-known bands, but if you're into this music, you know who they are. I also like the fact that there's a good mixture of people here -- but they're all from around here. It doesn't have that feel of a scene."

Mark Easter, a guitarist who happened to walk by the bar with his friends and dropped in for a drink, found the flagstone fireplace relaxing, even amid the loud, aggressive sounds of the Checkers' 45-minute set. The crowd of about 200 listened and drank but didn't shake it up until later, when the Controllers took the stage.

"This is a mellow scene," said Easter, another Burbank resident. "Because you feel like you're in a cabin somewhere, it has a relaxing effect. And it's an interesting concept, to bring those two eras of music together."

Spike, one of the original members of the Controllers, said he enjoys playing at Bigfoot because of its smoky, old bar feel. "After we play we get to stay and listen to Lee," Spike said after his hourlong set. "He plays the best records."

Joseph, who also spins at the bar on Saturday nights, takes over in the DJ booth after his guest bands perform.

"I didn't expect to become a DJ in my 40s, but it makes sense, having been a record collector since I was a child," Joseph said. "I never thought this club night would last this long, but people are still coming out, so here we are."


Club 66/77

Where: Bigfoot Lodge, 3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater Village.

When: Last Thursday of the month.

Cost: Cover is $3.

Tonight's bands: The Boldies and the Cheap Lays.

Info: (323) 662-9227

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