The Hell Rey
There may still be value to an upper-midsized venue too far west to ever be cool, in terms of packing hordes in and lining the pockets of established bands and Goldenvoice, but the El Rey's got to be the worst-sounding music hall for a hundred miles in any direction. We caught Ted Leo's set at the cavernous, rectangular space last week. It was a wreckage of the great communicator's brilliant licks and juxtapositions crushed into a piercing high-end jumble of garbage. We'd hyped it previously in another publication as possibly the best show of the year. But it was ruined by the acoustics of the setting. When we told the sound guy at the El Rey to "turn up the bass" in hopes of salvaging the experience, all we got was the finger. For once it was possible to blame an LA audience's lack of energy on something other than typical postmodern apathy. We wanted our money back. Now: We go to a hell of a lot of shows around town, always at smaller venues. Bands that play the larger places can mostly blow us. But the last time we caught Ted Leo was with his old band Chisel at the Jabbberjaw in '95. And at least there was bass. Is it so much to ask of a venue that they don't flick you off for buying a ticket and then suggesting they do something about the sound quality for a band you really care about? Or is this just the natural landing place of music in a fascist city that shuts down its best venues (read: Jabberjaw) on the thinnest of pretexts while letting big-time greasy criminals like Ticketmaster monopolize booking at its larger spaces?