Put Monday on hold

Special to The Times

FOR many, Sunday nights are a time to decompress from weekend debauchery in preparation for Monday’s looming return to the grind. For others, there is the darkened room of the Echo, the scruffy Echo Park nightclub that hosts the true weekend-ender, Part Time Punks.

It’s the kind of place the angular sounds of late-'70s and early-'80s underground music inspire shameless herky-jerky dance maneuvers among young partyers who seemingly have no Monday morning wake-up call.

Head Punks Michael Stock and Benjamin White are joined weekly by a couple of live bands and frequently a guest DJ, digging deep into their multifarious record crates to play the best of what they describe as “post-punk, mutant disco and indie-pop.”

“I love that PTP is a show, a bar and a dance party, all rolled into one,” says longtime clubgoer Richmond Tan. “It fills a void in the Sunday night market.”

A typical evening might find the crowd pogoing to Gang of Four, the Long Blondes and the Clean, before getting completely unhinged to local bands such as Indian Jewelry or out-of-towners like San Francisco’s Tussle, while avant-garde films are projected on the walls. Recent guest DJ appearances have found indie-rock mainstays Calvin Johnson and Ian Svenonius behind the decks, while the legendary Creation Records honcho Alan McGee has also made several appearances.


On a recent Sunday, the crowd mills about in the darkened venue, awaiting performances from England’s Tunng and local residents Big Search. A first-time attendee who gives her name only as Nina sips her drink as a Psychic Ills record drones over the PA. “I like the atmosphere,” she says as the music’s taut energy charges the air.

Stock, a former aspiring screenwriter, and White, a member of the late band Gogogo Airheart, met about two years ago, drawn together by their eclectic musical tastes and feverish penchant for hunting down obscure vinyl. “The guiding principle is just [finding] something good,” Stock explains. “The philosophy behind the club is that all these tracks we play could have been hits.”

Some were, in fact, semi-hits, like New Order’s “Temptation,” a PTP standard. Many songs, however, leave patrons scratching their heads as to just whom they’re hearing, although it doesn’t seem to matter much to most who show up. “They’ll spin some old seven-inch that is amazing, but impossible to dance to,” says regular attendee Sam Farfsing. “But everyone in the club just gets so into it. It’s moments like that that make it feel timeless.”

STOCK and White, whose talents have earned them record-spinning gigs (including appearances last summer at the Museum of Contemporary Art) outside the night they sponsor, employ a tag-team DJ style. They jokingly refer to themselves as “the two-headed monster known as PTP.” While the flow of the mix definitely matters, they’re not afraid to take a chance with their selection, usually to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd. “Playing Sonic Youth’s ‘Catholic Block’ back-to-back with Fugazi’s ‘Waiting Room’ -- in mid-dance party,” Stock says. “I guarantee no one in town, maybe the country, would dare even drop Fugazi on the dance floor.”

Slowly, but surely, Part Time Punks (named after the Television Personalities song played at the end of every night) has increased in popularity and attendance. A good night finds a line heavy on Eastside hipsters snaking down Sunset Boulevard.

Yet the scene is really not a scene at all. “Ian Svenonius said, and I’ve heard this a lot, that there’s no attitude,” White says. “The vibe is nonpretentious. Everyone feels included.”

Live bands have been and continue to be an integral part of the night. Over the last few months, local faves Mika Miko and New York’s Cause Co-Motion have lighted up the dance floor. Upcoming nights include a Silver Daggers record release party, another edition of the popular Smiths/Morrissey night, which features bands covering the esteemed group, and what’s being touted as a Velvet Underground reunion show -- on April Fools’ Day, mind you.

“It’s perverse,” Stock says with a laugh. “Every week, it’s like, ‘I can’t believe people are here.’ ”


Part Time Punks

Where: The Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd., L.A.

When: 10 p.m. Sundays until close

Price: $5 cover; free before 10:30