LOOKING for the gritty ambience of dearly departed L.A. rock dives such as Al's Bar and the Garage in Silver Lake? Dig out the earplugs and throw on a leather jacket, because your new favorite hangout lies to the east.
Yes, Spike's Bar and Billiards is in Rosemead, but that only sounds like a distant land. From Silver Lake, it's about a 15-minute jaunt -- a shorter trek than, say, the Sunset Strip. And on Friday nights, when Spike's hosts a night called Rev It Up, it seems like a trip to the corner store, with spiffily groomed greasers, goths and garagers gathering to see bands such as the Chelsea Smiles, Los Creepers, Lords of Altamont and Calavera. The unofficial dress code? Black, black and more black.
But before this wood-paneled, vintage-movie-poster-covered room became a fave with East L.A. car culture vultures and San Gabriel Valley's crimson-lipped vamps and tattooed types, it was a WWII-era hangout called the Dew Drop, then a topless bar in the '60s. More recently, it was a watering hole called Patrick's, and after the 1987 Whittier earthquake, the pool table area was added. Ten years ago, the owners changed the name to Spike's.
It wasn't the tough new name that brought in the 30-and-younger set, though. That happened after Brandon Terrazas, better known as club promoter Brando Von Badsville, came in. "They were sitting on a gold mine and they didn't even know it," says the local rockabilly scenester. "I liked how the raised counters surrounded the center floor, and thought it'd be cool to put bands in there."
It's a unique setup, and the performers -- including the likes of all-girl Misfits cover band the Bitchfits, the glam-ish Experiment Perilous, melodic punkabilly boys Deadbeat Sinatra and the Crystelles (featuring Christian Death alum Gitane Demone) -- use it to dramatic effect, roaming below the crowd and enticing pals to dance on the floor in front of them.
The loud music, no-frills booze selection and helpful help -- the door guys keep track of the cars in the lot, allowing patrons to double park and making announcements when a vehicle needs to be moved -- keep the vibe more house party than nightclub.
"I was recently at a show in Hollywood and some of the same bands who perform at Spike's were playing," says Deadbeat's Adrian Misquez. "It was a completely different vibe. Maybe it's the less expensive drinks or the pool tables that get the people more loose and grooving. Also, other clubs usually have people hanging out outside conversing. At Spike's people stay inside. It's more intimate."
Badsville's other nights, "Rhythm N' Booze" (rockabilly on Mondays) and "The Breakfast Klub" ('80s dance on Wednesdays), have been going strong for six years. "This has become the hub of San Gabriel Valley," Terrazas says.
Rev It Up Fridays (which celebrates three years on Jan. 11) is Spike's most gregarious grab bag, and worth the drive. Besides, the real ride happens inside.
WHERE: 7813 Garvey Ave., Rosemead
WHEN: Rev It Up, every Friday of the month (except the last), 9 p.m.-2 a.m.
PRICE: $10; 21 and older
INFO: (626) 288-4366; www.spikes-bar.com