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A Guide: Taking Pictures In Los Angeles Night Clubs And Music Venues


Taking pics at Subliminal Studios


There are a lot of places to listen to music in Los Angeles, a lot of clubs, theaters and other venues but when it comes to taking pictures they are not all equal, by far. Why do they have such different policies? It still baffles me there is such discrepancy between what is accepted at a venue and totally out of question at another one. Here is a list from best to worst, if you are a photographer like me, meaning operating most of the time without an official photo pass (although it happens).

The Echo and the Echoplex: The Silverlake clubs are under Spaceland management, and they are my favorite venues, I never had any problem and they have always let me use my camera at any occasion.. shows, residencies and festivals. They are the coolest. I should also add the Regent in this group, because the new downtown venue is also under Spaceland productions management, and every time I have been there, they had let me use my camera freely. Plus, they often have the best shows in town.

The Satellite: It comes in a close second position as they practice the same camera-allowed policy, and even when they had special guest the Strokes’ Nikolai Fraiture, they did not care about my camera. Now I wonder what was allowed during that recent Lady Gaga secret show.

The Teragram Ballroom: I love that place too! I saw Bob Mould, Television, QOTSA and they did not have any problem with me taking pictures. Before the surprise Queens Of The Stone Age show a few years ago, I asked a security guard about my camera, showed it to him and he said ‘That should be alright’… I couldn’t believe it!

The Silverlake Lounge: Although I rarely go there, they also have no problem with cameras.

The Bootleg is also cool most of the time.. I only have one time when one of the security guards told me to stop shooting a video.. And it sounded so absurd when everyone had his iPhone in the air.

The Hotel Café, The Mint, El Cid, the Smell, Los Globos have always been cool with cameras but I rarely go there… too many venues, too little time.

Hollywood Forever (the big lawn) and its Masonic Lodge: they always have been fantastic too. I shot Tame Impala on the lawn, Bright Eyes and the Framing Lips, but also Stephin Merritt inside the mysterious lodge

Bardot with its weekly it’s A School Night is a great place too, I take my camera each time and I never had a problem. On the contrary, they usually retweet or like my pics on Twitter.

I should also give a special mention to Amoeba, the last standing record store that I consider a real venue. I have seen and shot there too many bands to count, Amoeba is my second home.

Subliminal Studios (Shepard Fairey studio) can also be regarded as an occasional venue, where super groups form for one single night! And I am talking Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, Billy Idol, Blondie’s Clem Burke, Bad Brains’ Daryl Jennifer, Moby, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl! So it had been exceptional… should I mention I met Neil Young there and even took pics??? Fairey is a street artist and a punk, he will always allow cameras.

Then come the ‘bad’ places… which are almost all located on the west side! Of course I am not really talking about the big places like the Wiltern, the Henry Fonda Theater, the El Rey, the Greek, the Theater at Ace Hotel, the Orpheus, or even the bigger ones like the Forum, the Shrine, the Palladium, the Hollywood Bowl, the Glass House, the Fox Theater, the Observatory… forget about all these, they will never allow me to use my camera unless I have a photo pass. However, I am talking about small club-size venues, which want to play it hard for photographers and think they are bigger than they really are.

One of my worst experiences has to be at the Mayan last weekend, I had a photo pass, and there was no real pit or easy access to the stage, they prevented photographers to get in the tiny space between the stage and the barricade, so my task wasn’t very easy. But it got worst, one of the security guards told me to stop taking pictures suddenly,… I showed him my photo pass but he didn’t want to know anything, ‘Taking pictures is a privilege’ he told me, ‘no, it’s work’, I replied, this guy had visibly never had any experience in taking pictures during a show, I continued to take pictures of course, but he threatened me several times,…‘do you want to talk about this outside?’ I never understood what was his problem since I had a photo pass, but I moved around a lot, and since he was morbidly obese, he didn’t even try to follow me.

The Troubadour can be a tough place, and they have never allowed me to bring my camera inside, unless I had a photo pass. The security guards are ridiculous, I tried to cheat a few times and reused an old pass but it didn’t work. They were mad. Why? They know I review shows, I am gonna make some publicity to the place… which is not in good shape by the way. Have you visited these bathrooms? How old is that paint? The Troubadour is resting on its legend status and I just wonder why they don’t want me to use a good picture instead of some shitty one taken with a phone.

I could say the same thing about The Roxy, they were horrible when I tried to take pictures during a Titus Andronicus’ show, they threatened to expel me and this couldn’t have been more uncomfortable.

I never go to The Whisky a-Go-Go, but it’s exactly the same story, all these west side clubs still think they are the big deal, but the old days of the Sunset trip are long over, the hip kids have now moved to the east side, and it’s time these oldies get in line with LA’s eastside coolness.

1 Comment

  1. Chuck on May 22, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Heading to a show at the echoplex. Thanks for the info. Crossing my fingers they let me in with my DSLR tonight.

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