Although Russian Circles is a band I have never listened to – but I am going to discover them on Friday – I had read their name before. They played at the Troubadour last year, and I am sure a friend of mine told me he saw them at the Satellite a few years ago. Does it mean they are moving up, playing bigger venues and so becoming a bigger band? Probably, as it is the case for many groups which started in small Silver Lake-Echo Park venues.
For a band on the road to success, it seems there is a natural progression, from these small clubs to bigger, larger places once it becomes more successful and attracts a larger crowd. Think about it, the Satellite is the place which has hosted the debuts of bands such as The Decemberists, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Arctic Monkeys, My Morning Jacket, the Killers, the Shins, Arcade Fire and the Black Keys! At this time, it was still called Spaceland and it has been the starting point of many famous indie acts who are now filling the Greek theater, the Gibson Amphitheater, or even the Hollywood Bowl.
The LA music scene seems to be pretty much happening in this Silver Lake-Echo Park area – sorry west side, but have you read the list above? – and the next step for a band has to be a local festival, a tour with a famous band before exploding even bigger. Take Dangerbird-Records-signed artists Fitz and the Tantrums, they are the perfect example, as they started at an even smaller place, the Hotel Café in Hollywood, then played lots of shows at Spaceland in 2009-2010, then they appeared in this concert summer series hosted by KCRW, and managed to tour with Flogging Molly, Maroon 5. They did a few TV shows, secured a spot at the Sunset Junction Fair, and they are now very big. They played a sold-out show at the El Rey in 2010 and this year, they are about to play a 18,000-seat place, the legendary Hollywood Bowl, with Ben Harper and Vieux Farke Touré on July 1! But not all bands progress that fast obviously.
Saint Motel, another band we follow closely, will have their first show at the El Rey on July 14 this year, after several theme-shows at the Roxy these last years. And if you need another example, and another Dangerbird Records success, the Silversun Pickups started their career at the Silverlake lounge and Spaceland, toured with Wolfmother, OK Go and Snow Patrol in 2006-7, and even opened for the Foo Fighters and Kaiser Chiefs later. They are now very successful with a Grammy Awards nomination and a tour with British titan-group Muse in 2010! Should I also mention Grouplove? With a residency at the Bootleg a few years ago, they were headlining Make Music Pasadena a few weeks ago after a long world tour, and are about to play the US Open of Surfing in August with TV On the Radio.
A show, or even better a residency at the Satellite or the Echo, a few shows on the West side, may be at the Troubadour or the Roxy, then the El Rey or the Fonda Theater seems to be the desirable progression toward success for a LA band, but, with the amount of bands playing around, it is sad to think that many will never go beyond the first step.