A music reviewer’s fixes for the Forum
The news that Madison Square Garden’s parent corporation is buying and renovating the Forum in Inglewood should prompt cheers from L.A. music fans. Those who have been around a while remember it as the marquee concert venue in the area for much of rock and roll’s heyday, hosting concerts from the big names of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s -- Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones, among them. Downtown venues such as Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex have stolen much of the venue’s musical thunder in recent years, but this investment is a watershed in the venue’s history and a major transition back into the local spotlight.
We’ll leave the job of assessing future architectural and structural upgrades to more qualified voices around here. But from the standpoint of a fan who goes to see live music at least three nights a week, here are a few preliminary suggestions for fixes at the new Forum.
1. Longer alcohol sale times.
Maybe we tipped our hand starting with this one. But whether its permitting issues or temperance regarding alcohol by the former owner, Inglewood’s nearby Faithful Central Bible Church, every time I’ve been to the Forum it’s been impossible to buy a beer after the opening act, and that’s just incompatible with running a concert business -- both fiscally and for fan-enjoyment purposes. We can get through a concert review without booze, we promise. But its absence only makes it more conspicuous. And sometimes, when your Guns ‘N Roses set just entered its third hour, a beer is truly more of a need than a want.
2. Public transit access.
Say what you will about the LED assault of L.A. Live -- at least the place is easy to get to on a variety of Metro systems. Not so the Forum, and that’s a major obstacle for non-Westsiders and those dipping toes into a less car-dependent L.A. culture. Obviously, a dedicated rail stop is an impossibility, but perhaps MSG could use its clout (and the promise of a massive economic injection into Inglewood) to at least increase bus service on big concert nights. Maybe lobby for a nonstop transfer from the new Expo line a couple hours before and after showtime? If the first suggestion on this list goes through, any car-free options will be extra appreciated.
3. Own rock and roll.
Even without any publicly stated booking philosophy, the Forum has carved a niche as the place for marquee shows from high-charting rock bands -- Green Day, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden et al have all done well there recently. MSG should take note -- Staples has the pop sphere; the Hollywood Bowl is its own programming animal. There’s a legacy and an opportunity for the Forum to set itself apart in making big venues safe for guitars again.
4. Keep the structural integrity for the 99%.
Yes, luxury boxes are the venue equivalent of the business-class cabin on an airplane -- it’s where the real money is. But there’s an egalitarian charm to the Forum where every sightline is decent, and if it’s possible to describe an arena as “intimate,” you could do so here. None of L.A.'s big sports teams are moving back, and for music fans used to the sensory leviathan of the AEG arenas, the Forum’s antiquated design actually helps keep the focus on the music and every fan feeling like they’re in on the action.
5. Follow Prince’s lead.
This is good advice for anyone in all conceivable life situations. But the Purple One’s 21-night run at the Forum last year might have set an interesting new model for habituating fans to think of the venue again. Residencies have become a staple for club-sized L.A. venues. Why not for arenas too? What if, say, the Forum could get a week of Green Day playing all three of its proposed new albums and some ‘90s classics? Foo Fighters curating a run with some of its big influences, such as Bob Mould and younger acolytes such as Cage the Elephant? The Forum’s schedule is wide open, and some unconventional big event bookings could steer the spotlight back to Inglewood.
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